2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Stylized Portraits

Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder, making his own path behind the wheel

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie Ben Kennedy hasn’t taken the usual path of a young driver. But perhaps that was to be expected.

The great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy received a thorough education in the sport by working jobs at Daytona International Speedway – everything from cooking hot dogs and hamburgers for track employees to creating signs for events at “The World Center of Racing.”

Kennedy, 21, also just completed a more formal education as well, receiving his diploma in sports management from the University of Florida – which included a final semester internship at NBC Sports Group during the Sochi Olympics.

But instead of parlaying it all into a job somewhere within the sanctioning body or with a race team or even some ISC track, Kennedy is focusing on a dream that precious few are able to realize: Becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.

Thus, the backup plan in case he doesn’t turn out to be the next Jimmie Johnson.

“Having [a degree] in your back pocket in case this racing thing doesn’t work out – I think some people say the odds of being a pro athlete nowadays are less than you winning the lottery, so if this racing thing doesn’t work, you have that degree in your back pocket and work somewhere in the motorsports industry or some other business,” he said recently to MotorSportsTalk.

“I’ll come to that road if I come to it, and if not, I’m gonna keep digging on this racing stuff.”

While time will tell if Kennedy makes it to the Cup Series, it’s clear by his ascension to the Trucks that he is indeed a talented wheelman.

He won multiple championships at Florida short tracks such as New Smyrna Speedway and the Orlando Speedworld, and made the jump to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2011. In 2012, he scored his first NASCAR-sanctioned win in a Whelen Euro Series event in France. Last year, he broke through for his first K&N East triumph at Five Flags Speedway in Florida.

He would go on to add one more win at Winston-Salem en route to a fourth-place finish overall in the standings. But his 2013 campaign was also notable for him getting his first taste of the Trucks by running in five races (Bristol, Iowa, Chicago, Martinsville, and Homestead-Miami).

Three of those races had Kennedy drive for Turner Scott Motorsports and post a strong fourth-place result at Martinsville. The TSM group obviously liked what they saw; Kennedy is now one of their full-time drivers.

“It’s been really cool working for TSM and racing for them for the past five races last year and now [full-time] this year as well,” Kennedy said. “I know we have a great crew together – it’s something that [team owners] Steve Turner and Harry Scott have worked on, and I think they have an awesome team going right now. It’s got a little bit of everything and we’ve got Mike Shelton as our crew chief, who [helped] James Buescher to his 2012 [Truck Series] championship.

“They’re definitely race-winning trucks, and there’s definitely a race-winning crew behind it.”

Heading into the third Truck race of the year tonight at Kansas Speedway, Kennedy’s already had some cool moments. He sat on the pole and led 52 laps at his beloved Daytona in the season-opening race (in which he finished 15th).

Most recently at Martinsville, he earned his best Truck result yet with a third-place finish. Kennedy now sits sixth in the championship, just 10 points behind current co-leaders Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters.

While Kennedy figures his best chances of winning will come on the short tracks with which he’s more familiar, he’s looking forward to mastering the art of racing on the bigger ovals.

“I’m starting to learn [aerodynamics] and how the Trucks go around the corner with other Trucks around them, and how they get aero-tight and aero-loose, all that stuff,” he explained.

“Another big jump for me was the difference of the tires that we run – going from a more flexible, bias-ply tire that’s more forgiving to a radial tire that’s much less forgiving and kind of on edge all the time.”

It’s a lot to take in for any young racer, even one with a pedigree. But put the family ties to the back burner and that’s what you have with Kennedy: An evolving young racer.

It will be a tough process. But while he admits there’s a little bit more pressure on him to succeed, his family’s behind him at every turn.

“They’re really supportive of whatever I want to do, which is really cool,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, when we all get in our race cars and strap in and put the helmets on, there’s always pressure to win on every one of us coming up through this.

“We all want to make it up to the Cup Series, and there’s pressure on us to win, to be a great spokesperson for the sponsors that we work with. And there’s definitely pressure to make it up to the Cup Series one day, which I know is, for most of us, our hopes and dreams.”

And so, with an open mind, humble attitude, and heavy right foot, Kennedy – representing a new generation of one of American sports’ most influential families – charges into the future that neither he nor anyone else can predict.

But somehow, you figure he’s going to leave his mark, whether it’s in the boardroom or behind the wheel.

source: Getty Images
Ben Kennedy and his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, earlier in the season at Daytona. Credit: Getty Images.

Here are your TV times for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

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The Verizon IndyCar Series rolls into Mid-Ohio this weekend for the Honda Indy 200.

Simon Pagenaud heads into the weekend as the championship leader, but with Penske teammate Will Power gaining ground after three wins in the past four races, the title race continues to heat up.

Here are all of your TV and stream times for this weekend on CNBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

NBC Sports Group continues its exclusive cable coverage of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend with live comprehensive coverage from Mid-Ohio, as Will Power (Penske) continues his pursuit of teammate Simon Pagenaud atop the championship standings. Pagenaud sits in first place with 432 points, 47 points ahead of Power, who has won three of the past four races, including the Honda Indy Toronto event on July 17.

Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi) has been dominant at Mid-Ohio in the past decade, recording five wins since 2007. Ohio native Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan) took the checkered flag at his home race last season.

Coverage begins on NBCSN with practice on Friday at 2 p.m. ET, and continues Saturday with live qualifying at 2 p.m. ET. CNBC presents live race coverage on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, and NBCSN will air an encore presentation Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, immediately following live NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage from Pocono.

Brian Till (play-by-play) will call the action alongside analysts and drivers Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Reporters Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Robin Miller and Kevin Lee will report from the pits.

Date

Coverage

Time (ET)

Network

Fri., July 29 

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Practice

2 p.m.

NBCSN

Sat., July 30

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Qualifying

2 p.m.

NBCSN

Sun., July 31

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

2 p.m.

CNBC

IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Encore)

5:30 p.m.

NBCSN

Here are your TV times for the German GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 20:  The drivers go round the first cornerat the start of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring on July 20, 2014 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 returns to Germany this weekend after a two-year absence as Hockenheim hosts the final grand prix before the summer break.

Lewis Hamilton arrives in Germany leading the drivers’ championship for the first time in 2016 after taking a fifth win in six races last time out in Hungary.

Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg will be looking to regain his advantage on home soil by taking a second German Grand Prix in victory, his first coming in 2014.

The German Grand Prix is live across NBCSN and the NBC Sports app this weekend. Here are all your times and channels:

The Formula One season drives into Germany this Sunday on NBCSN with a new points leader, as Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) now sits atop the drivers’ championship for the first time in 2016 following a dominant win in Hungary on Sunday. Hamilton passed teammate and rival Nico Rosberg on the first lap of the race and never looked back. The win marked Hamilton’s fifth career Hungarian Grand Prix victory and his fifth win in the last six races overall. Hamilton (192 points) now holds a six-point lead over Rosberg (186 points), followed by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (115 points). Hamilton is a two-time winner of the German Grand Prix (2011 and 2008), while Rosberg won the most recent running of the event in 2014 at Hockenheimring.

Coverage begins Friday on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app at 4 a.m. ET with Practice 1, followed by Practice 2 at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN. NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app will stream coverage of Practice 3 on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET, prior to NBCSN’s live coverage of qualifying at 8 a.m. ET. Live race coverage from Hockenheimring begins Sunday at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN. NBCSN will air an encore presentation of the German Grand Prix on Sunday evening at 8 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports Group’s lead F1 broadcast team of Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett will call the action. F1 insider Will Buxton will report on-site from Germany.

NBCSN will also air a brand new episode of Off The Grid on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET, immediately following German GP qualifying. Off The Grid takes fans off the track and into sights and sounds of the culture that surrounds motorsports. Hosted by Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales, this week’s episode visits Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix

Date

Coverage

Time (ET)

Network

Fri., July 29

F1 German Grand Prix – Practice 1

4 a.m.

Streaming

F1 German Grand Prix – Practice 2

8 a.m.

NBCSN

Sat., July 30

F1 German Grand Prix – Practice 3

5 a.m.

Streaming

F1 German Grand Prix – Qualifying

8 a.m.

NBCSN

Off The Grid – Montreal

9:30 a.m.

NBCSN

Sun., July 31

GP2 – Germany

6 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 Countdown

7 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 German Grand Prix

7:30 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 Extra

10 a.m.

NBCSN

F1 German Grand Prix (Encore)

8 p.m.

NBCSN

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Formula E confirms pre-season testing dates at Donington Park

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 3:  In this handout image supplied by Formula E Sam Bird (GBR), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01  during the London Formula E race on JULY 3, 2016 in Battersea Park, London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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Formula E has confirmed the dates for collective testing at Donington Park in England ahead of its third season.

The new campaign is due to start in Hong Kong on October 9, but teams have already been extensively testing their season three powertrains for many months.

Besides the 15 days of private testing, all 10 teams are able to take part in the two collective tests at Donington Park over the summer.

The first three-day test will take place from August 23-25, with the second and third days being open to the public.

The second test is scheduled to be held from September 5-7. Details regarding access for fans will be released at a later date.

Testing at Donington will offer the Formula E paddock a first chance to check out its rivals ahead of the new season, including the new Jaguar team.

Sebastien Buemi enters the new Formula E season as the defending champion after defeating rival Lucas di Grassi at the London ePrix finale earlier this month.

Red Bull GRC: Washington, D.C. set to kick off second half of year

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After six action-packed races to kick off the first half of the 2016 season, Red Bull Global Rallycross heads to the Northeast for another returning event, at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

The championship has about five realistic contenders with now five races remaining in the 11-race season, following the official cancellation of the second MCAS New River race.

Tanner Foust of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross leads the way from Chip Ganassi Rallycross’ Steve Arpin and defending series champion Scott Speed, Foust’s teammate.

Those three are at 295, 286 and 279 points, and the three clear front runners. Brian Deegan (Ganassi) and Patrik Sandell (Bryan Herta Rallysport) have 248 and 243 points and could capitalize if the three top drivers hit a rough patch.

It gets tougher from there on back, for the pair of Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE Civic drivers (Sebastian Eriksson and Joni Wiman) and SH Rallycross/DRR, the latter team of which provides one of the weekend’s most interesting stories with the return of Nelson Piquet Jr. in the team’s No. 07 MET-Rx Ford Fiesta ST.

Piquet won last year at Washington, D.C., and his presence this weekend will provide a good baseline whether SH Rallycross’ tough 2016 season is more setup or driver-related. Jeff Ward hasn’t forgotten how to wheel it by any stretch, but Ward has only one top-five finish in the first six races of the year for the James “Sulli” Sullivan-led team.

“I’ve missed competing in Red Bull GRC with SH Rallycross/DRR,” said Piquet Jr. “I had such a great couple of seasons with the team and I love rallycross. Sulli and I are friends and have kept in touch. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to race again with the team that helped me get my first GRC victory.”

Behind Piquet at this race last year, Patrik Sandell and Ken Block completed the podium – a Ford podium sweep. Arpin made it a top-four sweep with Foust and Speed in fifth and seventh, respectively.

Only once since that race have the pair of Volkswagens been off the podium (Daytona 1, 2016), and that race saw both drivers in win and podium positions before both fell out in the final stages of the race.

Deegan and either Honda driver is still in search of their first win this year, with Deegan having been the closest to breaking through thus far this year. The “General” of Metal Mulisha came a hard-luck second at MCAS New River, having lost the win on the final lap by way of taking the Joker while Speed took the standard course to the inside, and moved ahead.

The D.C. course, a 10-turn, 0.899-mile course, switches to a clockwise direction from counterclockwise last year. Even more notable, the jump is right before the finish line.

There’s also a new fantasy game Red Bull GRC has introduced; details of which are linked here.

You can watch the action LIVE this Saturday, July 30, at 2 p.m. ET on NBC. Toby Moody, Townsend Bell and Kristen Kenney have the call from RFK Stadium.