Ben Kennedy Starts From Pole and Leads First NCWTS Laps at Daytona, Finishes 15th
Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., sat on the pole and made his first laps of competition around Daytona International Speedway, ultimately finishing 15th in the 100-lap NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) event. The NextEra Energy Resources 250 was the culmination of a journey which began with Kennedy leading the first session of pre-season testing and continued with the 22-year-old driver pacing the first practice session and starting from the pole before leading 52 laps in an impressive Daytona debut, effectively becoming the first France descendant to compete in a top-three NASCAR series event at the famed speedway.
Kennedy came into Daytona International Speedway with confidence on his side after running the fastest lap in the season's first test session in January. The young driver picked up where he left off when he returned to Daytona in the Florida Lottery/Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Chevrolet Silverado for the first event of the 2014 season, running the fastest lap in the first practice session of the weekend. That practice lap would prove crucial later in the weekend when NCWTS qualifying was rained out on Friday afternoon. With the field set by the rulebook, Kennedy would start from the point position as a result of running the fastest lap of all three of the weekend's practices.
Starting the race from the pole position, Kennedy led an uninterrupted 52 laps with what he called a "perfect" and "stable" Silverado, leading his first laps ever in the NCWTS and securing the bonus points for most laps led in the event. Kennedy appeared to be on his way to leading the remaining laps as well, but he experienced an issue on pit road after entering his pit stall with the lead on lap 53. After an extremely fast fuel-only pit stop, Kennedy was the first to complete his service, but a stall exiting pit road would take him off the pace under caution. Despite being scored as the leader, Kennedy was dropped to ninth in the running order for the lap-57 restart as a result of not maintaining his speed under yellow.
Without clean air, Kennedy and his drafting partners were unable to make a charge for the lead. Dropping back as far as 14th, Kennedy had worked his way up to seventh when a massive wreck erupted just beside him, wiping out nearly half the field but leaving him virtually undamaged. Visiting pit road for the final stop of the night, Kennedy was provided with fuel only before the Florida Lottery/Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Chevrolet returned to the track in fourth.
Taking the green flag with 20 laps to go, the field would see the night's final caution five laps later with Kennedy scored in the seventh spot. On the final restart, Kennedy took the green flag from the more-desirable inside line, but the outside was the strongest it had been all night. Mired back in a two-by-two pack, Kennedy ultimately crossed the finish line in the 15th position.
"Tonight was really special," said Kennedy after emerging from his Silverado. "Being out there in front of the field for so long was really cool. It's amazing how quiet it is on the racetrack when you're at the front of the pack. I can't even express how amazing it was to lead my first laps ever in the Truck Series at a track that is so important to my family's history. It was today's date in 1948 that this sport was founded, so it's extra special to feel like I'm a part of history here. My Turner Scott Motorsports team built me a really fast truck, and we've been proving that we were dominant since we first hit the track back in January for testing. I'm really not sure what happened with the stall on pit road; I'm going to review the race footage and go over the details with my crew chief Michael Shelton to be sure that I don't have an issue like that again. Ultimately, this wasn't the finish we wanted, but we had a great night and a great weekend overall."
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