E.A. Sports Today

Recreating history

Great grandson recreates iconic France photo to promote Talladega racing program (Updates with weekend schedule, additional comments)

Truck racer Ben Kennedy (R) hands some race tickets to Mack Huckaby in Thursday's recreation of an iconic picture of Kennedy's great grandfather Bill France Sr. selling tickets (on cover) at Talladega's main gate 45 years ago.

Truck racer Ben Kennedy (R) hands some race tickets to Mack Huckaby in Thursday’s recreation of an iconic picture of Kennedy’s great grandfather Bill France Sr. selling tickets (on cover) at Talladega’s main gate 45 years ago.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – Ben Kennedy leaned into the motorcycle rider, handed him a couple tickets for this weekend’s racing program at Talladega Superspeedway and suddenly the hairs on his arm stood up on end.

It was as if he had done this before. Well, at least he had seen it.

Kennedy was standing at almost the exact location at the main gate – at least as close as race promoters could make it Thursday – to recreate an iconic photo of his great grandfather, Bill France Sr., nearly a half-century ago.

The picture was of France, the founder of NASCAR and creator of Talladega Superspeedway, selling tickets to the first Talladega race 45 years ago.

“I think it’s been cool to be able to recreate that,” Kennedy said after the photo shoot that followed his press availability for Saturday’s Fred’s 250 truck race. “I don’t think you can get much closer to recreating that photo. I can’t wait to see the pictures side by side. It’s so cool that where we’re standing right now is where he did that, I guess, 45 years ago.

“It’s awesome to do it here. I sold tickets in Daytona, too, so it’s kind of cool to keep it all in the family.”

Kennedy had seen the picture a million times, but learned only Thursday it was taken the first year of the track’s operation. The part of the motorcycle rider was played by Anniston’s Mack Huckaby.

The 22-year-old truck rookie doesn’t remember the first year he was ever on the grounds, but says he feels like he’s been here his whole life, often coming up on Friday and staying through the weekend in the motor home.

About the only places at the 3,000-acre facility he hasn’t visited are Victory Lane as a driver – a situation he hopes to rectify Saturday – and the Turn 3 suites where they hold the weekend’s unruliest of patrons.

He does remember the years of running the EA Sports 500 Sprint Cup race because he used to play the video game. One of his fondest memories is riding his bicycle up the steep banks of the track and sliding back down to the bottom.

“One thing I remember as a kid was taking a golf cart around on the weekend and your eyes itching from all the campfires,” he said.

Kennedy was only 6 months old when his great grandfather died in June 1992 so he didn’t really know him, but he is keenly aware of the family legacy and all the stories it has produced. Furthering the legacy of one of NASCAR’s great and founding families is important to him.

His mother Lesa France Kennedy is CEO of International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and his uncle Brian France is CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, so he sees the sport from both sides. The dinner table conversation is from the track side and he gets the competition side on the weekend.

Family ties aside, his ambition is to drive in the Sprint Cup series.

“It definitely means a lot to me having them behind me and supporting me,” he said. “I think I really started realizing it at Daytona when we ran there.

“We did the ‘Battle of the Beach’ on the backstretch, but it’s different once you go around the entire racetrack. I think the first couple laps I went around I came in and had the biggest smile on my face; I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

“Going out there and leading at Daytona the first couple laps is absolutely amazing and jaw-dropping. To come around off Turn 4 and see everyone in the stands with their flash (bulbs) and cameras going off.”

He started that race on the pole and led the first 52 laps, but finished 15th after getting caught up in a late 16-car melee in Turn 2. He’s looking for a better finish this weekend – with the same truck he ran at Daytona. He hasn’t won yet in his first full season in the series, but he does have seven top 10 finishes and two career top 5s.

“They say if you win at Talladega you’ve pretty much made it,” Kennedy said. “You think back to the Dale Earnhardt days and him coming here and winning, and Jeff Gordon winning in that Pepsi car and everyone throwing bottles at him. There are a lot of historic moments behind this race track and definitely a lot of history here. Definitely it would mean a lot to come here and get a win.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer for East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story or pitch a story idea, contact him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and he can be followed on Twitter at Al Muskewitz@easportstoday1.


Friday’s Schedule
8:30 a.m. – Final Truck practice
1:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup practice
3:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup final practice
4:45 p.m. – Fred’s 250 qualifying
6:30 p.m. – Infield Talladega Blvd.

Saturday’s Schedule
Noon – Fred’s 250 truck race
3:40 p.m. – Sprint Cup qualifying
7 p.m. – Infield concert

Sunday’s Schedule
12:30 p.m. – Driver introductions
1 p.m. – GEICO 500

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