By Martha Sullivan
Ben Kennedy was one of 12 NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers who came to Philly yesterday to raise awareness of NASCAR racing on the East Coast — but not through a traditional media blitz with in-studio appearances on television and radio.
Instead, through the coordination of Pocono Raceway and Dover International Speedway, the series entitlement sponsor – XFINITY – and the sanctioning body, the drivers were making stops that are representative of the fabric of Philly life.
There was a STEM-focused question-and-answer session at the Franklin Institute, followed by a meet-and-greet autograph session with fans at the Comcast Center Front Plaza. Then came the parade through downtown Philly, featuring pit stops at City Hall followed by burnouts on Market Street.
Several drivers, including Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., took part in a cook-off featuring Pat’s and Geno’s.
Wallace answered the question that has occupied Philadelphians for decades, though he didn’t have a real basis for comparison.
“Geno’s,” Wallace said. “I had a Philly cheese steak there. I didn’t have one at Pat’s, so Geno’s is No. 1 in my book. I was hungry, and it was really good.”
After landing in Philly, Wallace had to work up an appetite.
“We were at the Franklin Institute, passing out tickets to families and kids to get them to Pocono and Dover events,” Wallace said. “That was a lot of fun.”
Wallace was happy to spend the day helping to promote his sport.
“You get a lot of weird looks when you’ve got a bunch of guys walking around in firesuits,” he said. “Everybody was wondering what’s up. And they definitely stopped to ask questions. We had a lot of tickets to hand out, and it’ll be cool to get some new faces out there in the stands.
“It’s all about promotion these days and getting the word out there. We’re continuing to try to get new faces and a new demographic and keep pushing those efforts. NASCAR has been doing everything they can to make that happen, using the young guns and XFINITY Series regulars.”
More appearances followed, as drivers were scheduled to fan out to Thomas Edison High School, the Reading Terminal Market, an XFINITY Store grand opening at King of Prussia, an XFINITY live stint and, finally, the Phillies game against the Seattle Mariners.
NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report.