Ben Kennedy and the No. 31 Heater.com team overcame an unlucky qualifying draw and a heat race spin to earn a top-15 finish in the Daytona Beach native's dirt track debut. After taking the green flag from the 21st position, Kennedy learned quickly over the course of the challenging race, bringing home a 13th-place finish in the second annual Mudsummer Classic.
After working hard to quickly learn the 0.5-mile dirt oval, Kennedy unfortunately was the last truck to make a qualifying run as a result of a random draw. The qualifying order affected the Heater.com Silverado, given that 33 trucks had taken to the track since the dirt surface had been tended. As the 21st-fastest truck in the single-truck qualifying session, Kennedy earned a fifth-place starting spot in the first heat of the night, and a last-lap spin in the qualifying race put the 22-year-old 21st on the starting grid for the 150-lap main event. Taking the green flag after a four-wide fan salute, Kennedy reported that his Heater.com machine was good on entry but lacking rear grip getting back on the throttle. Only permitted to make changes under the two competition cautions, Kennedy was forced to wait out the 60 laps of the opening segment before bringing his truck to pit road in the 13th position. After taking four sticker tires and fuel, Kennedy was 14th when the final competition caution came after 110 laps of racing. Crew chief Michael Shelton made the call to keep Kennedy out of the pits under the yellow flag, a strategy which gained him two spots on the racetrack for a 40-lap sprint to the finish. With tempers flaring and bold moves abounding on the track, Kennedy managed to keep his Silverado relatively damage-free in the closing laps. Scored in the 15th position on the final restart of the night on lap 133, Kennedy had fewer than 20 short laps to march to the front. Kennedy managed to pick up two more positions before the checkered flag waved, crossing the finish line in 13th.
Ben Kennedy on Eldora Speedway
"That was a blast. It was absolutely crazy out there, but so much fun. There obviously wasn't a whole lot of grip out there, but by the end I found a line that was working for me and I was able to control a lot with the throttle. I would have liked to have gotten the Heater.com Chevy into the top 10, but considering that was my first time ever racing on dirt, I don't think that 13th is too bad. Heading to Pocono next week is going to be a huge switch, but that's a track I've looked forward to racing at for a long time. I had a chance to test an ARCA [Racing Series] car there earlier this year, so I'm hoping to get up to speed in the truck pretty fast."
Kennedy is seventh in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings, only 11 points outside of the top five. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next heads to Pocono Raceway for the 11th race of the 2014 season. The Pocono Mountains 150 will air live on Saturday, August 2 at 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1.