Ben Kennedy was looking to follow up last weekend's top-10 finish with another solid run in the Heater.com Chevrolet, but his momentum was stalled by a broken stud in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' (NCWTS) return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. After working his way into the top 10 with a fast truck and a solid fuel strategy, Kennedy and the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports team appeared to be on the verge of another successful run. However, the young driver was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop late in the race due to a severe vibration, costing him track position and ultimately resulting in a 13th-place finish.
After setting top-15 times in the weekend's three practice sessions, Kennedy missed transferring into the final round of qualifying by just one one-thousandth of a second, earning him a 13th-place starting spot for the UNOH 175. With a truck that was loose on entry in clean air but aero tight in traffic, Kennedy was forced to wait until lap 63 to bring his Heater.com Chevy down pit road for service under green-flag conditions. Entering the pits in the 12th position, he emerged with four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment, putting him in the 10th position when green-flag pit stops had cycled through. Kennedy held his top-10 spot until lap 102 when the first caution flag of the day was finally displayed. Crew chief Doug George took a risk in favor of track position, calling for just two tires and fuel, and Kennedy returned to the track in the third spot.
With enough fuel to make it to the end of the race, Kennedy and the team felt confident as the Heater.com Chevrolet was making consistently fast laps. However, the first sign of trouble occurred on lap 127 when Kennedy reported seeing a small amount of tire smoke coming from the right front of his truck. Within a few laps, Kennedy's Silverado developed a progressively worsening vibration, and the Rookie of the Year candidate keyed his radio to say that he believed he had a tire coming apart. Not wanting to risk a tire blowout, Kennedy pitted for four tires under green, which cost him a lap and dropped him into the 15th position. Initially finding no issues with the right-front tire following their pit stop, the No. 31 team ultimately determined that Kennedy's vibration was caused by a broken wheel stud. It was not until a caution on lap 161 that Kennedy earned his lap back by virtue of the free pass, putting him in the 14th spot for the lap 165 restart. Battling the trucks around him as well as his own, Kennedy was able to gain one position before the wave of the checkered flag, crossing the finish line in 13th.
Ben Kennedy on New Hampshire Motor Speedway:
"This was a rough day; we broke a stud and it gave me such a bad vibration that I thought I had a tire going down. Fortunately, we were able to get back onto the lead lap and still salvage a top-15 finish. We had a really fast truck before that, and in a situation where we had track position, we could have had a top five without a doubt. I've never had a lot of luck at this track, but I'm grateful to all the fans that came out today; we had a great crowd. At least now we get to head to Las Vegas, which is always a fun place to visit."
Kennedy remains seventh in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings and continues to lead the Rookie of the Year battle. Next week, the NCWTS heads to Sin City to take on Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Rhino Linings 350 will air live on Saturday, September 27 at 10:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1.