The old adage “racing is in his blood” perfectly describes 29-year-old Ben Kennedy, a fourth-generation member of the France family. Much like his famed great grandfather, Bill France, Kennedy is a visionary with a driver’s passion.
Kennedy, a former Super Late Model competitor at Orlando Speedworld, worked his way up to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in which he was a consistent top-10 points finisher from 2014 to ’16.
Earning his only Truck Series victory at Bristol in 2016, Kennedy also competed in several NASCAR Xfinity Series races with a strong fourth-place finish at Talladega in 2017.
While Kennedy was talented behind the wheel, his path in NASCAR took him from the driver’s seat to an executive role starting in 2018.
Named general manager of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Jan. 30, 2018, Kennedy oversaw the commercial and competition aspects of the division for two years. Utilizing his years of experience to help guide the Truck Series’ growth with fans and its competitors, Kennedy was eventually promoted to vice president of racing development.
In Kennedy’s current role, he supervises initiatives involving strategic racing development for the top three divisions, including the development of future schedules and potential expansion overseas.
Kennedy’s insights and contributions can be seen in this year’s schedules for the top three NASCAR series with new stops at Circuit of The Americas, Nashville Superspeedway, Road America and Knoxville Raceway.
“When we set out to build this ’21 schedule, we want to make sure whatever we’re doing, it’s done with a very measured approach. I think that’s what you’ve seen in this schedule we put together,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy’s connection to NASCAR’s past will be beneficial to the sport’s long-term prospects.
While 21-year-old Zane Smith may be one of NASCAR’s young guns with his confident swagger and demeanor, he’s got a distinct, old-school driver’s mentality.
The native of Huntington Beach, California, doesn’t care for podium finishes. Instead, the standout NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racer has his sights set on victories on any given weekend.
Perhaps that intensity and edge stems from his valuable experiences in BMX, go-kart, Legend Car and Late Model racing. After all, Smith had a good reason to be aggressive on the track during his formative years.
“I knew from go-karts on; I knew my family wasn’t going to be able to fund me or back me,” Smith said. “I’ve always had a lot on my plate but somehow, I keep my cool. I’m not really a high-strung person.”
Despite the pressure to succeed as he worked his way up the racing ladder, Smith graduated to ARCA competition before a solid, 10-race audition with JR Motorsports’ NASCAR Xfinity Series team in 2019 netted him a full-time Truck Series ride with GMS Racing last year.
Logging wins at Michigan and Dover, Smith was in the fight for the Truck Series title before coming up one position short of teammate Sheldon Creed, the series’ champion, at Phoenix last fall.
Still, Smith carries his head high as he returns to GMS Racing for another year.
“I’ve never known what I’d be doing the next year before,” Smith said. “It’s never been my case. It’s super nice to have that and to work with a team like GMS, which is pretty special to chase wins every single weekend. The end goal is to win the championship. It’s another opportunity and I feel like now that I’ve had a year in trucks and been to these places, it’ll come a lot easier.”