Ben Kennedy overcame an early pit-road penalty to earn a seventh-place finish in his Las Vegas Motor Speedway debut. After being sent to the tail of the field as penalty for crewmembers going over the wall too soon, Kennedy was forced to rally from the back of the pack and endure an 84-lap green-flag run to earn his sixth top 10 of the season and receive Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors for the eighth time in 2014.
After running impressive 10th and fourth-fastest lap times in the weekend's two practice sessions, Kennedy laid down the ninth-fastest qualifying lap for a solid top-10 start to the Rhino Linings 350. Leading up to a scheduled competition caution on lap 32, Kennedy's Heater.com Chevrolet transitioned from extremely tight to extremely loose, and the young rookie faded back to 16th. However, just prior to the mandatory trip to pit road, the handling of No. 31 Silverado came to Kennedy, and he informed crew chief Doug George that the truck was great at the end of the run. George called for four tires, fuel and only a slight air-pressure adjustment. Unfortunately, Kennedy's pit crew was cited for going over the wall too soon before the truck entered the pit box for service, and he was sent to the tail of the field for the lap 36 restart. Mired in the 22nd position for the green flag, the slight air-pressure adjustment was all Kennedy needed to be quick at the restart, and with extremely fast lap times, he fought his way into the 10th position before what would ultimately be the last caution flag of the night on lap 57. Kennedy once again received four tires and fuel under yellow, gaining one spot in the pits for the green flag on lap 62. In the final 84 laps, the field remained green until the checkered flag, so the team's final pit stop was made under green-flag conditions on lap 108. With the track temperature cooling dramatically in the desert night, the Heater.com Chevy became tight in the center and loose on entry and exit, so Kennedy's last stop included a track-bar adjustment in addition to four tires and Sunoco race fuel. Kennedy was ninth on the board when he emerged from pit road, but he quickly gained two more positions with lightning-fast lap times. With the field vastly spread out by the long green-flag run, Kennedy was unable to hunt down any more of his competitors by the end of the 146-lap event. The 22-year-old crossed the finish line in the seventh position, making him the top-finishing rookie contender in the race.
Ben Kennedy on Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
"Today had its ups and downs, but we had a good finish in the end. We had a really fast truck at the end there, but we were so spread out over that long green-flag run that we never had the track position to get all the way to the front. I learned a lot in tonight's race, especially about tire wear. I appreciate the hard work my Turner Scott Motorsports team put in this weekend; today was a very long day, schedule wise. We can feel good going into this two-week break and focus on heading to Talladega. Once we get there, anything can happen."
Kennedy is eighth in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings and continues to lead the Rookie of the Year battle. The NCWTS enjoys two off weekends before heading to the biggest track on the circuit, Talladega Superspeedway. The Fred's 250 powered by Coca-Cola will air live on Saturday, October 18 at 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX.