BROOKLYN, Mich. — Ben Kennedy was never guaranteed a career as a NASCAR driver.
Yes, Kennedy has connections. He is the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France, the nephew of NASCAR chairman Brian France and the son of Lesa France Kennedy, the CEO of International Speedway Corp.
But before Ben Kennedy could drive a NASCAR national series vehicle — a Chevy Silverado in the truck series — he had an educational obligation to fulfill.
"My family said, in order for me to keep racing and to stay involved in the competitive side of the sport, that I had to first get a college degree," Kennedy said. "So that's what I did. And it was the best four years of my life, without a doubt."
After earning a degree in sports management at Florida in 2014, Kennedy has made an impact in trucks, winning last week's UNOH 200 at Bristol (in his 63rd start) and clinching a spot in the series' inaugural Chase for the Championship. He'll go for two straight in today's Careers For Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
Kennedy, 24, wasn't entirely away from racing during his time in Gainesville. He kept his hand in the game by competing in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series East.
It wasn't always easy, knowing that other young drivers were racing full time and gaining valuable experience while Kennedy concentrated on his studies.
"It kind of runs in the back of your mind a little bit," Kennedy said. "You look back at it as anybody else who becomes successful: Would I rather be in their shoes? My answer was always no. I think I'm in the coolest position in life."
Kennedy, a Daytona Beach native, did odd jobs around Daytona International Speedway, the centerpiece of the corporation his mother runs, as he was growing up. He also has been an intern with NBC Sports Network.
Watching last week's victory back in Florida was his mom.
"We were glued to the TV," Lesa France Kennedy told the Florida Times Union. "It was the most nerve-racking thing. I was excited, to say the least."
Sprint Cup: Joey Logano earned the pole for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400, his third pole in 16 Cup races at Michigan International Speedway. The previous two times he got the pole, he won the race. His lap of 201.698 mph around the 2-mile track edged Jimmie Johnson (201.523).
Xfinity: Former IndyCar regular Alex Tagliani earned the pole for today's Road America 180 on the road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis., with a lap of 109.866 mph.