Ben Kennedy’s season debut for Richard Childress Racing kicks off this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, one of nine NASCAR XFINITY Series races the 25-year-old driver will enter in the No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet Camaro.
Kennedy is known to many NASCAR fans for his success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR K&N East Series – Kennedy notched his first Truck Series victory last August at Bristol Motor Speedway and was a Chase contender in its inaugural season.
What some fans may not know is Kennedy’s life off the track. Native to Daytona Beach, Florida, Ben’s a fitness fanatic, a Florida Gators football fan and a family man.
He uses his Instagram page (@benkennedy) to showcase most of his off-the-track endeavors and recently discussed some of his favorite photos in detail.
Kennedy is a graduate of University of Florida and was a regular at Gator football games during his time as a student
“I went to school at Florida and had a lot of opportunities to go to sporting events. Any chance that I get, even after I had left, I try to get down to Gainesville. I love that place. The stadium is so awesome and has so much energy. Anytime you can fit 60,000 people in a stadium that size – it’s pretty unreal. I was a big Tim Tebow fan while I was there – he graduated a year before I started at UF.”
Ben has a 10-year-old Plott hound dog, Slater, which lives in Florida
“Slater – he’s my boy. We got him in August of 2007. He’s my buddy back home in Florida. Anytime I get a chance to go back down to Florida I spend a lot of time with him. He’s such a cool dog. Actually, Plott hounds are bred to hunt bear. He doesn’t do any hunting but I think he could probably be a pretty fierce dog.
“I came up with his name on our way to pick him up from the pound. At the time, I was really into surfing and was a fan of Kelly Slater [world champion American surfer]. Kelly was sort of my childhood hero when I was growing up and his name sort of stuck when we were coming up with ideas.”
Ben and his girlfriend, Chelsea, have been together for three years
“Chelsea is employed with NASCAR and is one of the hardest workers that I know. She works her tail off, but comes out to the races every now and then. She spends most of her time in Charlotte working and sometimes it can get a little tough with our race schedule and whatnot. I think this year she’ll come to some of the closer racetracks like Bristol, Darlington, Charlotte, and maybe to Iowa. But sometimes a nine-to-five job means having to take a few days off to travel.”
In September 2015, Ben completed his first half ironman – a 70.3-mile run, swim and cycle
“I sort of train for ironman competition year-round, but for this one, I really trained hard for six months. The two months leading up to the race it was four or five hours per day of training. There were definitely a lot of long days and hard work leading up to the race. But this particular ironman, I did in Augusta, Georgia. I remember I had to race in New Hampshire the day before. We finished the race and I caught a flight late that night into Augusta and didn’t land until about 10 p.m. I got a quick bite to eat and fell asleep for maybe a few hours. Trying to race in New Hampshire, hydrate and get sleep definitely made it challenging, but it was totally worth it in the end. It’s very rewarding and I enjoy doing these types of competitions. Swimming is probably my least favorite of the three stages, and recently I’ve really started to enjoy running.”
Ben and his mother, Lesa France-Kennedy, during Christmas time
“We normally spend Christmas Eve together as a family and invite a bunch of extended family and friends over. It can be a pretty fun time. We’ll go over to my grandmother’s house and visit with her. But on Christmas Day, it’s honestly pretty relaxing and not a whole lot going on. We open presents in the morning and then my mom always makes homemade biscuits. After that, we typically hang out. For the past 10 years or so, we’ve gone to see an afternoon movie with some friends and family.”
In Season 9 of NBC’s hit TV show ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ Ben competed in the obstacle course set up at Daytona International Speedway. The episode is set to air June 26.
“It all came together to be on the show about two weeks before they started filming. I’ve always been a fan of the show, but never really thought about actually being on it. I tried to apply, but I missed the deadline. They followed up and said, ‘You actually have a chance to make it.’ I had about two weeks to train and prepare, but during that time I got pretty sick with the flu. That made it pretty rough. I’m not a big upper-body strength guy, so I started training my tail off with upper body workouts and finding obstacle courses to practice.
“You definitely need to be able to do pull-ups. At the time, I could only do like two pull-ups, but now I can maybe do eight or nine. Being able to do pull-ups and dead hangs are important. A lot of it is upper body strength, foot agility, and honestly a lot of it is luck. A lot of the obstacles are so tough and if you mess up on one little thing, you’re going to fall into the water. It was tough. You’ve got the lights in your face and a crowd. For me, I’m used to competing as a driver with my firesuit on, helmet over my head, but this is in shorts and a t-shirt which is a different form of competition.”