In his first-career race at Kentucky Speedway, Ben Kennedy put forth a solid qualifying effort and fought hard for the duration of the UNOH 225, overcoming multiple handling challenges to bring home the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado in the 10th position. Kennedy's finish also earned the 22-year-old Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors, extending his lead in the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) rookie battle.
After laying down the fourth-fastest lap in knockout qualifying, Kennedy keyed his radio and thanked his Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) team for building him a fast hot rod before the drop of the green flag. Shortly after the race began, Kennedy relayed to his crew that he was loose on exit in both corners and that his tires were chattering. After holding onto his top-five position for the first handful of laps, by the time the caution flag waved on lap 10, Kennedy had dropped back to seventh. Expressing that he was now loose on entry as well, the rookie did not have a chance to bring his Silverado to pit road until more than 40 laps later. Having dropped as far back as 10th, Kennedy advanced into the third spot as green-flag pit stops began, finally bringing his Chevrolet to his pit crew on lap 54. The No. 31 team supplied him with four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, which temporarily improved his entry. However, his struggles with entry returned soon after, and remained with him for much of the remainder of the race. When the caution flag waved for a wreck just after the race's halfway point, crew chief Michael Shelton took the opportunity to call Kennedy into the pits to top off with fuel while his team made a track-bar adjustment. However, his handling struggles continued, as the No. 31 Silverado remained "wrecking loose" on entry, forcing him as far back as the 14th spot. The TSM team made one final attempt to adjust their machine when the yellow waved on lap 100, providing Kennedy with four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Despite entering pit road scored in the 14th spot, Kennedy emerged in seventh following fast work by the TSM crew. Through wild, three-wide racing and increasing tightness, Kennedy maintained a spot in the top 10, ultimately crossing the finish line in the 10th position and earning Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors.
Ben Kennedy on Kentucky Speedway
"Tonight was an up-and-down night. I struggled with entry a lot; most of the race I was wrecking loose, and then at the end I started to get too tight. There was one run that I couldn't get into Turn 3 at all. We did a lot of things right and, in general, it was a good night if we combined all of our runs together. We were super-fast in qualifying and had some moments with a lot of speed. We were fast on pit road, as always. There were some hairy restarts and there was a learning curve for me, for sure. I think the more I go to these mile-and-a-half tracks, the better I get, but it just takes some time. Regardless, there's nothing to be ashamed of in a top-10 finish, and we've been the strongest rookie team this year and we have a lot to be proud of. We just have to keep up the good work and put together all the pieces to make it to victory lane."
Kennedy is now seventh in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings, nine points behind sixth place. The NCWTS takes a short break before returning to action in two weeks at Iowa Speedway. The American Ethanol 200 will air live on Friday, July 11 at 8:30 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1.