Losing her father and husband within several weeks made 2007 the "toughest year" of her life, NASCAR vice chairperson and International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy told Michelle Miller, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday, May 10, on CBS' "Sunday Morning."
Kennedy is part of a stock car racing dynasty. The granddaughter of NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., she is also the daughter of Bill France, Jr., who was vice chairman of NASCAR when he died after a long illness in 2007. Then, a month later, her husband, Dr. Bruce Kennedy, died in a small plane crash not far from the family's Florida home.
Kennedy tells Miller that "2007 was the toughest year of our life," noting her father had been ill for some time. "But even though it was expected, not easy. Then a month later, unexpected, my husband died in a plane crash. It was a beautiful day and we were going on a trip later that day. I told him not to be late and we laughed. And it didn't work out that way."
In a wide-ranging interview, Kennedy opens up about rebuilding her life after losing her husband; guiding her son, Ben Kennedy, on his NASCAR driving career; efforts to broaden the reach of stock car racing across the country; and the future of the International Speedway Corporation's Daytona International Speedway.
In an extended excerpt available at www.cbsnews.com, Kennedy tells Miller that she got through the tragedy of losing her husband by staying close with her son.
"I think, really, that first year, the most special moments I had were when he and I would learn something new together," Kennedy said "And we would look back and laugh and say, 'Well, your dad knew how to start the boat and I don't. So you know, get the manual out.' And there were just maybe some things like that that would help bring back the memory and we'd have a lighthearted moment about it. But those were some of the special times that we had."
Also on Sunday, Ben Kennedy talks with Miller about his racing career, and growing up in the family business. His mother, he says, had him doing a variety of jobs around Daytona, from parking cars to cleaning up. "I was on trash patrol," he says. "I was in the sewage truck that goes through the driver-owner lot."
Today, however, he's an up-and-coming driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which sets up the possibility of him someday winning at Daytona, the track founded by his great grandfather.
"You couldn't write it any better than that," Lesa France Kennedy said. "There's no doubt about it. That would really carry it into the next generation."
"Sunday Morning," hosted by Charles Osgood, is broadcast Sundays (9:00-10:30 a.m. ET) on CBS. Rand Morrison is the executive producer.