NEWTON, Iowa — Two weeks ago, when Richard Childress Racing and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Ben Kennedy announced they would be teaming up for Kennedy’s NASCAR XFINITY Series debut at Iowa Speedway, their gameplan was simple: log laps, keep the race car clean, and finish inside the top 10.
At the conclusion of the Sunday’s American Ethanol E15 250, the No. 2 Ruud Heating & Cooling Chevrolet came home without a scratch, on the lead lap and in the 10th position — all three goals achieved without incident.
“Man, this was a blast. I had so much fun,” Kennedy explained. “We had a fast Ruud Chevrolet. My goal at the beginning of the weekend was to finish in the top 10 and we achieved that. We were just a little too tight there at the end.”
Kennedy, a 24-year-old, Daytona Beach, Fla. native and fourth-generation NASCAR family member, started the Father’s Day race from sixth after topping both practice sessions on Friday night — making a statement quickly in his young XFINITY career.
Once the race began, Kennedy quickly found a groove, bouncing back half of the top 10 and having a scrappy three-wide battle with teammates Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones at times. Later in the going, he duked it out with Roush Fenway Racing drivers Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed before ending up 10th at the checkered flag.
For the rookie, however, the rapid learning curve was his main concern. Following a 250-lap race, Kennedy felt like he had gained knowledge about restarts, experimenting with two different grooves in the later stages of the event.
“I learned a ton on those restarts, what to expect throughout the run and how the lines change during the race,” Kennedy expressed. “We could really utilize that top line as the run went on. I think we were one of the first teams to make that work. Overall, it was a great learning experience and I’m happy to go home with a top 10 finish.”
Along with it being a learning experience, Sunday was also Kennedy’s return to a full-bodied stock car. The past two seasons, he has competed in the Truck ranks with the now-defunct Turner Scott Motorsports and Red Horse Racing, and is currently with GMS Racing, where he sits eighth in the championship standings after eight races
In fact, this weekend at the .875-mile Iowa track, he completed his first-career double duty weekend — running the Camping World Trucks Series race on Saturday in addition to Sunday’s XFINITY race.
He finished seventh in the Speediatrics 200 for the Truck Series, and spoke candidly on the differences between the two vehicles.
“You just got to attack the corner differently, different mindset,” Kennedy said of the differences between driving both vehicles. “I did the XFINITY car and kind of got used to that pretty quick, I felt like. They just don’t have more side force to lean on so you got to close up your entries, close up your exits, drive it a little bit straighter and then the bumps are a little bit different seeing how the package underneath is and anything.”
“You get in the truck and I messed up and I forgot how deep I drove in the truck when I went from XFINITY to the truck and I was a half a second off. I realized that I was driving 10 truck lengths deeper into the corner than I was in the XFINITY car.”
Despite contesting 450 laps of racing competition, Kennedy said he was ready for more after climbing from his car at the conclusion of the day on Sunday.
“I would have kept going if we could have,” Kennedy said. “That was a blast. I just had fun running this car. These things are so much fun to drive. It really puts it in the driver’s hands, in my opinion. I enjoyed running up there with those guys.”
“I can’t thank everyone at Richard Childress Racing and Ruud enough for this opportunity. It’s been a great weekend.”
Kennedy will return to the race track on Saturday, June 25 with GMS Racing in the NCWTS Drivin’ for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park.