Ben Kennedy just received probably the best Christmas and birthday (Dec. 26) present he’s ever gotten.
The 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the Camping World Truck Series has signed on with one of the sport’s preeminent teams, Red Horse Racing.
The team announced Wednesday that Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and grandson of Bill France Jr., has signed and will drive the No. 11 Toyota Tundra in 2015.
“I am very excited to return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015 and to be driving for Red Horse Racing,” Kennedy said in a team media release announcing his signing. “The team has a solid foundation in the Camping World Truck Series, celebrating their 10th year in 2015. It will be an honor to drive the No. 11 Toyota Tundra, the winningest number in NASCAR history.”
Kennedy drove for Turner-Scott Motorsports in 2014 (plus three other races late in the 2013 season). In 22 starts last season, while he did not reach victory lane, Kennedy earned one top-five (third place in spring race at Martinsville) and seven top-10 finishes. He also started from the pole in the season-opening race at Daytona, his home track.
“We are thrilled to have Ben (Kennedy) join us at Red Horse Racing,” team owner Tom DeLoach said. “Ben is a very talented young driver, and I think he is going to fit right into our Red Horse family.”
Kennedy, whose mother is Lesa France-Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corporation, joins new teammates Timothy Peters and German Quiroga Jr.
“We consider ourselves one team with multiple trucks, and I expect to see a lot of success from this organization in 2015,” DeLoach added.
The CWTS kicks off with the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Feb. 20.
Kennedy turns 23 next week, and has had a rather successful career to date. After starting his racing career in quarter-midgets in his native Florida, he moved up to full-size stock trucks.
A resident of Daytona Beach, he won the Pro-Truck championship in 2009, as well as a Super Late Model championship and Rookie of the Year honors in 2010.
In 2012, he won the first NASCAR-sanctioned Euro Racecar Series oval track event at Tours Speedway in France. In 2013, he finished fourth in the K&N Pro Series East with two wins, one pole award, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes, and was crowned the series’ Most Popular Driver.
Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.
The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.
“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”
“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.
“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”
Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.
That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.
Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.
The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.
The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.
Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.
“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.
“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.
“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.
“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”
The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.
“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.
“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.
“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”