NASCAR Media Conference
April 15, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody, welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference that features some young names that you're quickly beginning to know. We're going to open with Ben Kennedy, driver of the No. 96 Ben Kennedy Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series. Ben is the great grandson, of course, of NASCAR founder, Bill France Sr., and he won his first series race at 5 Flags Speedway over the weekend. That was on Saturday. And Ben will be making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in August at Bristol Motor Speedway. Speaking of the Camping World Truck Series, immediately followed by Ben, we'll be joined by Kyle Larson, another young driver who had a big weekend with his first national series win, which was in the trucks at Rockingham.
So Ben, congratulations. Thanks for joining us today. We really appreciate it. Listen, growing up around the sport of NASCAR and living in Daytona Beach, just tell us how excited are you to get your first K&N Pro Series East win so close to home?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, first off, thank you guys for having me today. It was definitely a really special win. Of course, to win in Florida and at the inaugural event at 5 Flags Speedway, there is so much prestige and history at that racetrack and of course with the Snowball Derby and a bunch of really cool race that's they put on at that racetrack. It was really cool to win there.
Of course, to have the race in Florida, it's the first time I've ever raced in Florida in a NASCAR sanctioned series, so it was something really special, and I guess you could consider it my home track for the K&N Series.
THE MODERATOR: That's great. Again, we're all very proud of you, and congratulations to you for such a big, big win for, again, one of our young drivers making your way up the NASCAR ladder.
Q. You've been doing K&N for two years before this, I believe. So how antsy were you getting about getting that first win in a series?
BEN KENNEDY: I definitely was. Going into that race, it was the second time we've ever sat on the pole, and we sort of had the same situation last year with Cale Conley. We were sitting on the pole one and two, and he went on to lead every lap of that race. I wanted to switch a tire at that time, and I knew it was going to be tough with the field and everything.
But the guys with the team had the car spot‑on with the set‑up. I could not complain one bit at the halfway break. You know, just running the series for three years, and just going through that learning curve with me and the team and everything, it's certainly been a lengthy one. But we've definitely come far in the past couple years. It's finally starting to show and it's finally starting to pay off a little bit.
Q. That car that you won in is prepared at the Daytona shop, right?
BEN KENNEDY: Uh‑huh, yes.
Q. So now you have a banner to hang in the Daytona shop?
BEN KENNEDY: That's correct. We have two banners, one for the pole and one for the win there.
Q. I just wanted to ask how are you balancing school and racing at the same time? How difficult has your schedule been?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, it definitely is difficult. I really think it's all about time management. I'm taking a full course load right now, and I'll have pretty close to a full course load for the fall semester as well. I'll be graduating in spring 2014, but it's definitely tough. Whenever I'm at school, I'm pretty much focused on school and my exams and knocking all that stuff out as best as I can, so when it comes to racing and the weekend, I can put those aside and focus on the car and the set‑up and what I can do better 110% on race day.
So just basically scheduling everything and being prepared for all the unexpected.
Q. I remember in your younger years, your mother used to put you with certain people in the garage so you could watch what they did from both sides of it. I remember I guess it was at Daytona one summer, you were shadowing Robbie Loomis and his crew chief role. I was wondering how many other opportunities did you have like that to learn the inside of the business before you got into racing yourself on a regular basis?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, Robbie is a great friend of mine right now. He's a really cool guy. I love it and I'm blessed to have experiences like that. Of course, with Robbie Loomis, and last year‑‑ I think it was two years ago. It was probably 2010 somewhere in there that I did an internship at Hendrick Motorsports, and a couple years before that I worked around the Speedway at Daytona. I was there at the Daytona 500 Experience and Daytona USA and all that stuff. Did a couple jobs around there. Then they had me running around the track and doing a bunch of different jobs from cleaning up cars and cooking up hot dogs to selling programs, and a bunch of different really cool, unique stuff. I got to see a little bit of the business side and a little bit of the competition side as well.
Q. Did it give you a well‑rounded view of the sport as a whole?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, it really does. It really sort of opens your eyes to how diverse the sport is and how much of a family sport it is. How everyone sort of has each other's back. It really sort of opened my eyes, because I had always been around Daytona. We traveled to a bunch of races back then. But it really opened my eyes to see what all goes on during the race weekend both at the track and off the track. Just sort of the whole broad aspect of it.
Q. I've got a couple of questions. One, you touched on this in your opening statement just how special it was to win in your home state at such an historic track. How does this compare to winning for the first time in Europe and you had that there, but was anybody around to even celebrate with you? How does it compare?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, the Europe race was definitely something special. Having the first oval race in Europe, and sort of the all the prestige behind it. And of course, NASCAR just sort of coming over there and putting their footprint down in that area. That was a really cool event.
This one was really special with the team, because I had been around these guys for years. We've had guys that had just come on this year. We've had guys that have been around with me since I started my racing career. So it was really cool to sort of see our own team develop throughout the years and sort of finally come together and finally get out there and be able to get a pole and dominate the race. Just having everyone around me at that point was definitely something special.
Q. Secondly, I guess with the handful of races for Turner Scott Motorsports coming up later in the Truck Series, how excited have you been to see the success that that team has had, and specifically Kyle Larson just yesterday winning in one of those trucks? What's that mean to you to be joining such a powerful team?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, it means a ton. My crew chief Mike Fritts was over there crew chiefing Ricky Carmichael when he was there, and I've heard nothing but good stuff about Turner Scott Motorsports and everything they do. Of course, their performance on the track is absolutely phenomenal. Kyle does an awesome job. He's a great race car driver and James and all those guys.
I'm really excited to get out there and race. We tested in New Smyrna in a truck in probably mid‑December of last year, and really cool to be around the guys. Great bunch of people. I know they have awesome equipment and I'm looking forward to Bristol.
Q. Ben, do you believe in‑‑ you've been around racing long enough, even though you've gotten your first win, you've obviously seen a lot of wins in racing. But do you believe in momentum? What do you think this win‑‑ you mentioned your team‑‑ what do you think this win is going to do for you and your team going forward?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, I definitely think it's a source of motivation moving forward. We've had our ups and downs, more downs than ups, I guess. But you know that's all part of racing and that's all part of the sport. This will definitely motivate all the guys and hopefully get us determined to go out there and win more of these races and eventually run for the championship at the end of the year.
We got off to a sour start in Greenville and Bristol, but I think we can push through that and really make some headway here as far as the points and everything goes. But having a win like that behind us and having everyone in the shop all fired up is something really cool for everyone.
Q. If I could talk a little about just the legendary aura of Daytona. So many people when they come there even for the first time, they're struck by it. You grew up around it. Could you talk about Daytona and what it's like for you to go through those tunnels?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, of course. I've always been around Daytona, whether it's the business side or there for the races, whether it's bike week or the 500 or 400. It's really, really a special place. It takes a little while to sort of realize that and appreciate that.
I feel like throughout the years I've appreciated it more and more, especially with my family and always being around it and hearing the stories, going through the beach race, and putting it all together at the hotel and seeing the places and being around it is definitely something special. Being able to run there, even though it's on the super stretch was definitely a really special night for both me and my family.
Q. Ben, I want to ask you, now that you've won a race, what is your next goal you'd like to accomplish in your NASCAR racing career?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, just to keep, right now, I think at this point is to go out and win the K&N East Championship and get as many wins under our belt as we possibly can. We were running in three truck races this year, and everything is still sort of up in the air as far as next year goes with sponsorship and all that stuff.
But time will come and time will tell. Our ultimate goal right now is really focusing on our K&N efforts and holding that trophy above our head at the end of the year.
Q. Do you know what the other truck races you're going to be doing are?
BEN KENNEDY: Yes, it will be Bristol, Iowa, and Homestead at the end of the year.
Q. So was there any‑‑ why did you pick Bristol for your first truck race?
BEN KENNEDY: I wanted to start at a short track, because I've been around Bristol. We raced there last year in the can K&N series, and we raced there this year as well. I felt like it would be a comfortable place to start at. It is definitely an intimidating place, but I'm looking forward to it.
I've had laps around Iowa as well. Sort of moving to Homestead to try to advance my NASCAR license to have the opportunity to run full‑time trucks in 2014.
Q. Bristol, Iowa, and Homestead, the tracks get longer in that progression there. Is that kind of your game plan there?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, definitely. I definitely wanted to try to get a little bit of everything under my belt. Aerodynamics are coming into play in the mile‑and‑a‑half tracks and stuff like that. So I definitely wanted to get something like Homestead or a mile‑and‑a‑half or something under my belt to have that experience beneath me going into next year.
THE MODERATOR: Ben, thank you so very much for joining us today. I know you said you're a little under the weather, but I know the excitement's still there as far as that victory for you. We want to wish you the best of luck throughout the remainder of the season with K&N, especially when you get to that first truck race at Bristol, and your few others after that.
BEN KENNEDY: Thank you very much.
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