Ben Kennedy Leads Laps, Earns Top-15 Finish in Pocono Debut
Ben Kennedy had an impressive first outing at the Tricky Triangle, leading laps and running in the front of the field for much of the Pocono Mountains 150. After two very strong practice sessions and a fourth-place starting spot, Kennedy was in the top 10 for much of the 150-mile event, leading six laps and ultimately bringing home a 13th-place finish at Pocono Raceway, earning Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors for the seventh time in 2014.
After running fourth in both of the weekend's practice sessions, Kennedy and his Heater.com team showed consistency when they earned the fourth starting spot in knockout qualifying. After taking the green flag, Kennedy quickly advanced to the third position, holding onto the spot for the opening eight laps of the 60-lap event. Initially reporting to crew chief Michael Shelton that his Chevy Silverado was a little loose into the turns and tight in the exit of Turn 3, by the time Kennedy would have the opportunity to pit under yellow on lap 18, he was in the fourth position and claimed that his truck was really good in clean air. Visiting the pits while several of the leaders opted to stay out, Kennedy received right-side tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment to help his exit, putting him in the seventh position when racing resumed on lap 22. A wild restart put Kennedy in the middle of a four-wide pack in Turn 1, initially forcing him as far back as the 16th spot. However, Kennedy was back in the top 10 by lap 30, and after green-flag pit stops began to cycle through on lap 35 for the trucks that had opted not to pit, he had worked his way up into the top five. Kennedy's Heater.com Chevrolet took over the lead on lap 40, holding the point position until he was required to pit for fuel six laps later. As his truck pulled into the pits, Kennedy keyed the radio and asked his team not to change the handling of the truck because the balance was so good. The No. 31 team complied, and after making a fuel-only stop, Kennedy was scored in the 14th position when the caution flag waved on lap 48. With very few positions to lose, Kennedy returned to the pits for two right-side tires and a final splash of fuel. Restarting from the 12th position on lap 53, two more cautions for multi-truck crashes took the race into NASCAR's version of overtime. Restarting 13th in the second attempt at a green/white/checkered finish on lap 63, Kennedy endured a frantic and crowded restart, defending his position until the checkered flag waved.
Ben Kennedy on Pocono Raceway
"I really wish we'd been able to pull off a top 10, but I'm really proud of the way we ran today. My Heater.com Chevy was so good on long runs and in clean air, it just took a little time to get up to speed. Those last few restarts were really crazy; I was three and four wide going into Turn 1. [Crew chief Michael] Shelton and the guys did such a great job at giving me a truck that was fast right off the hauler, and we really nailed race trim. I really wish we raced in Pocono again this year, because with as good as we were and everything I learned in this race, I have no doubt we could come back and go to victory lane. Taking stock at the halfway point of the season, I couldn't be happier with how this team has performed. We've had some races that didn't go our way, but we have been extremely competitive week after week; I know our first win is coming soon."
Kennedy is seventh in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings, just 13 points out of the top five. The series next heads to Michigan International Speedway for race 12 of 22. The Careers for Veterans 200 will air live on Saturday, August 16 at 12:30 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1.
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