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Rains delayed the start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday, but Ben Kennedy, son of NASCAR’s Lesa France Kennedy, brought the No. 33 GMS Racing Chevrolet to Victory Lane. Brett Moffitt finished second, followed by Daniel Hemric.
With Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez leading the field to green, Reddick assumed the early advantage on the field. Reddick’s time at the front was short lived, as he fell to third after being passed by Suarez for the lead. Trucks began falling into line around the bottom of the track, which has been the desire of many a race fan since the reconfiguration to the racing surface in 2012.
Caution flew for the first time for a light rain on lap 27. An early pit stop for a handful of competitors set up the first restart on lap 36. Daniel Suarez gained the advantage on the restart, but Christopher Bell had his sights set on the lead. The 40th circuit gave Bell just that opportunity, as Suarez slipped out of turn four. Bell drove the inside, taking the lead, and assuming control of the race until the caution flew again, just one lap later.
After the lap 47 restart, caution flew again on lap 51 for a spin by Cole Custer. Kennedy and Custer made contact fighting for the bottom groove in turns one and two, but luckily neither truck was damaged.
As the field took the restart on lap 62 and Cameron Hayley quickly assumed second position as Bell jumped out to an early lead. However, caution flew yet again for Tommy Joe Martin’s spin. During the caution period, Matt Crafton, former series champion, began a long string of bad luck that hit the Thorsport team, as his engine let go, forcing Crafton to retire from competition.
Cameron Hayley began to show strength as the field approached halfway, moving into second place on the restart. As the field crossed the 100 lap mark, Bell continued to lead the field, but the rest of the top five was in doubt as Hayley fell back through the top five, being passed by both Brett Moffitt and a strong running Caleb Holman. Hayley would spin, bringing yellow back on the speedway with just over 60 laps remaining.
As the field circulated under yellow, the front running teams decided now was the time for the key round of pit stops, as Bell, Byron, Kennedy, Suarez and Brandon Jones all took the opportunity for new tires, fuel and adjustments.
Ben Rhodes found himself in the same boar as team mate Matt Crafton, as his truck experienced mechanical woes which ended his night just as the field restarted with 52 laps to go. It didn’t take very long for the yellow flag to once again wave over there field, as Bell looped his No. 4 JBL Audio Tundra off turn two, as he and team mate Suarez battled for the top spot. Luckily Bell’s truck was unharmed and was able to continue.
Bell restarted 12th as the field once again went back to racing, but Bryce Napier’s spin after contact while racing three wide again forced the yellow flag to fly. During the caution period, it was found that Hayley’s No. 13 had a broken upper control arm, essentially ruining his chances at a good finish, and ending a tough night for the ThorSport team.
After yet another caution for the spinning Jordan Anderson, the field restarted with just over 30 laps remaining, and the action suddenly got amped up as the laps began to wane. Byron moved his truck to parts unused so far in the race, as he passed Suarez on the outside for the lead with 21 laps remaining. It looked as if Byron had found the hot ticket on the outside and may well be on his way to his sixth win in 2016.
That was not to be the case though, as just two laps later Byron also slipped up, giving Kennedy just the opportunity he needed. Sneaking by on the inside line, Kennedy seized the lead. It was anything but a cake walk for Kennedy from here on out.Moffitt moved himself into second place, and with limited seat time in 2016, looked to capitalize on a rare opportunity for a race victory.
Before Moffitt could get the chance to make a move, the caution flew for the final time, as Suarez lost a right front tire, slamming his No. 51 machine into the wall and ending his night. This set up a six lap shootout for the win.
The green flew over the field for the final time, and Moffitt quickly began to pressure Kennedy for the lead. running in the tire tracks of Kennedy. With just two laps to go, Moffitt got to the back bumper in turns three and four, giving Kennedy one final shot to the rear end.
Kennedy held off the hard charge of Moffitt to win his first ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. Moffitt held on for second, with Hemric climbing to a third place finish in the final laps.
The first victory for Ben Kennedy, means he is now a Chase eligible driver for the Camping World Truck Series Championship, and also marks the first time in history a France family member has visited victory lane in one of NASCAR’s top three series .
UNOH 200 Results: http://www.jayski.com/cts/next/2016/pdfs/cts_13bristol2016results.pdf
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