Ben Kennedy Earns Top-10 Finish in Charlotte Debut Takes Sunoco Rookie of the Race Honors

Ben Kennedy overcame early handling issues and impressively avoided multiple on-track incidents to earn a top-10 finish in his first-career race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After laying down the 11th-fastest lap time in the weekend's only practice session, Kennedy qualified his No. 31 ALS Association Chevrolet on the third row for the start of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. Taking the green flag from the sixth position, Kennedy immediately expressed to crew chief Michael Shelton that his Silverado started off too free from entry to exit, but grew increasingly tight as the laps wore on and traffic spread out. When the first caution flag waved on lap 21, Kennedy was in the seventh position and visited pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. The cycle repeated itself through multiple pit stops, with the truck ranging from loose to tight over the course of a run. On lap 87, Kennedy made what could have been his final pit stop of the night and was running just within the top 15. However, on lap 115, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender had worked his way up to the seventh position and had momentum on his side to continue his march to the front, but a competitor failed to clear Kennedy's nose when making a pass, causing the other truck to spin and slide into the outside wall, collecting several other trucks. Fortunately, Kennedy was able to maintain control of his ALS Association machine, but Shelton called his driver down pit road to inspect the truck to ensure there wasn't any damage from the front-end contact. Unscathed from the incident aside from cosmetic damage, the team provided Kennedy with four fresh tires and tape on his nose for the final 13 laps of competition. Restarting 16th, the fresher tires and tweaked handling gave Kennedy what he needed to firmly break into the top 10, taking over the eighth position and skillfully avoiding a three-truck incident which ended the race on the white-flag lap.

 

Ben Kennedy on Charlotte Motor Speedway:

"This wasn't a bad night, that's for sure. We struggled with the handling a little at the beginning; the truck had to go from one extreme to another over the course of a run. We'd start off so loose and just get tighter and tighter with every lap. I have to thank [crew chief] Michael Shelton and everyone on my Turner Scott Motorsports team. They kept working with me to make the right adjustments and put us on a strategy that would work out in the end. We had a few close calls during the race, but I'll take an eight-place finish any day. I can't wait to get to Dover: that's one track I really feel owes me a win after my experience there in the K&N Series, and there's literally no trophy I'd rather have on my shelf."

 

Kennedy now sits sixth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Driver Point Standings, just five points outside of the top five. Kennedy's finish also earned him Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors, extending his points lead in the rookie race. The NCWTS returns to action in two weeks as the series takes on the Monster Mile. The Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway airs at 5:30 p.m. EDT on May 30.

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Steven B. Wilson

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