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(Photo: Russell LaBounty / NKP)

Tracking the Trucks: Ben Kennedy Outlasts Bristol for First Career Win

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In a Nutshell: Ben Kennedy took the checkered flag 0.274 seconds ahead of Brett Moffitt to win Wednesday night’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kennedy outlasted a hard-charging Moffitt on the restart with six laps remaining to score his first career win. Daniel Hemric, William Byron and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez combined to lead 179 of 200 laps and looked to be the drivers to beat. Bell spun from the lead on late a restart, and Suarez suffered a cut tire that saw him bring out the ninth and final caution. But it was Ben Kennedy who took advantage of a small mistake by Byron with 20 laps remaining to take the top spot and hold on to the checkered.

 

ThorSport Struggles

One of the series’ powerhouse teams, ThorSport Racing, suffered a tough night at Bristol Motor Speedway. All four of the organization’s teams finished outside the top 20.

Matt Crafton, who struggled in qualifying slowed suddenly for a loss of fuel pressure under the fourth caution and was left to pull behind the wall where the problems proved terminal. He was the first truck retired from the race and finished 32nd. During the green flag run that followed, teammate Ben Rhodes, who ran inside the top 5 for a good chunk of the first half of the race, slowed on the track with what looked like an empty fuel tank, but he too ended up behind the wall with an unknown motor issue.

“We had a really fast Regal Cinemas Tundra. It’s just a shame we weren’t able to get a finish that reflected it,” Rhodes said. “Something happened with the engine, not really sure, but it just suddenly lost power. We brought it in here to diagnose the problem, to see what it may be. It’s a shame – these guys worked really hard on the truck all month long, getting this thing ready for Bristol, and I really feel like we had a shot to win it tonight.”

Meanwhile, Rico Abreu was forced to a backup truck after crashing in qualifying. After starting dead last, he methodically tried to work his way through the field, fell a lap down early and received a free pass. But midway through the race, he lost power in the motor and the track position that came along with it. By the time the checkered flag flew, Abreu was 26th, six laps down.

“This just wasn’t our day. The guys worked so hard to get this back-up truck ready after the incident in qualifying, and I can’t thank them enough for that,” Abreu said after the race. “We had to start at the rear of the field, and were just biding our time, being patient working our way through traffic. I just hate it for my guys, Toyota, and all the Safelite guests that came out to support us tonight. Hopefully, I can have some solid runs for them moving forward.”

And if that weren’t enough, Cameron Hayley, who also flirted with the top 5 for much of the race radioed to his team on lap 135 that “something broke” in his truck. Initially thought to be a broken trackbar, Hayley brought his truck down pit road multiple times for service. The problem turned out to be a broken upper control arm. He finished 24th, three laps down.

Quick Hits:

  • Austin Cindric returned to Brad Keselowski Racing with another three races on his schedule. After spinning twice in qualifying, he started 27th and went a lap down early. The rest of the race didn’t turn out all that well for the driver who attempted to race at Dover earlier this year before qualifying was rained out. He ended up finishing 18th, one lap down.
  • Brett Moffitt, who drove the No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota at Kentucky Speedway (engine failure) and Pocono Raceway (finished third), signed on to pilot the truck for three more races, including Wednesday night’s showdown at Bristol. After starting eighth, Moffitt remained inside the top 10 for much of the race and was even able to challenge eventual winner Ben Kennedy for the lead late in the going. Though he was left to settle for a runner-up finish, he surpassed his career best Truck Series finish.
  • Daniel Hemric crashed his primary truck in the first practice session, leaving his team to scramble to pull out the backup truck. After making the second round in qualifying, Hemric started 12th but struggled a bit with handling early. By the time the checkered flag flew, though, the driver of the No. 19 Ford found himself third.

Truck Rookie Report
2016 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 00 Cole Custer
No. 4 Christopher Bell
No. 9 William Byron
No. 18 Cody Coughlin
No. 22 Austin Wayne Self
No. 33 Grant Enfinger|
No. 41 Ben Rhodes
No. 98 Rico Abreu

No. of Rookies in the Race: 16 (add Brandon Brown, Austin Cindric, Stewart Friesen, Kaz Grala, Austin Hill, Brandon Jones, Jesse Little, Matt Mills, Brett Moffitt and Bryce Napier)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 6; Brett Moffitt, finished second; William Byron, finished fourth; Cole Custer, finished sixth; Christopher Bell, finished seventh; Brandon Jones, finished ninth

Rookie of the Race: William Byron

2016 Chase Qualifiers:

Johnny Sauter (Daytona)
John Hunter Nemechek (Atlanta)
William Byron (Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Kentucky, Pocono)
Matt Crafton (Dover & Charlotte)
Christopher Bell (Gateway)
Ben Kennedy (Bristol)

Tweetable:

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 27. Coverage for the Careers for Veterans 200 begins at 1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 13-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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