AUDIO/RECAP: Putting The Pressure To Rest; Kennedy Takes Truck Win At Bristol

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Ben Kennedy celebrates his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win on Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. (CSP/Brent Seelman photo)

Ben Kennedy celebrates his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win on Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. (CSP/Brent Seelman photo)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ben Kennedy put all the pressure of his family’s heritage in NASCAR racing to rest Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, using a spirited drive in the final 20 laps to notch the biggest win of his young career.

The great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. drove around five-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner and series points leader William Byron with 20 laps to go and then held off the furious advances of Brett Moffitt following a final restart with six laps left to score his first-ever series victory and catapult himself into championship contention.

“I can’t put it into words,” Kennedy admitted, emotion in his voice as he celebrated in victory lane. “To win here, this is so cool. I’m speechless. The guys gave me an awesome truck. This is the coolest day of my life. I don’t know how to say it any other way.”

Kennedy admitted he was nervous in the final laps, but put all of that behind him to drive home to the historic triumph in his 63rd career start.

“I was thinking, I need to go as fast as possible in this last lap. I knew Brett was putting pressure on me from behind. I appreciate him racing me clean, though. We put this deal together a couple months ago and I never would have imagined going into this race that we would be here today. I mean, I thought we were a top-15 truck or a top-10 truck, but to be here in Victory Lane, it means the world to me.”

Tyler Reddick started from the pole, but only led the opening lap before Daniel Suarez overhauled him on the outside for the top spot at the second round and took off, with Ben Rhodes giving chase.

By lap 10, the frontrunners were already in traffic, but Suarez deftly maneuvered through the early chaos and held Rhodes at bay until the first caution of the race flew at lap 28 for rain off of turn two. Under the yellow, several teams back in the pack pitted to change tires early on, but it was still Suarez pacing the way when the green flag returned on lap 36.

A four lap dash to the competition caution saw Christopher Bell take the top spot away from his teammate moments before the lap 40 yellow and hold it as multiple trucks pitted under the yellow, staying out in an effort to conserve track position and turn the race into a one-stop affair.

Bell jetted away from Suarez on the next restart, but the caution would again fly on lap 53 when Cole Custer went around in turn two after making contact with Ben Kennedy. The leaders would remain on the race track and Bell would return to a quick half second advantage once the green flag flew again.

Another caution for problems in turn two would surface on lap 63, when Tommy Joe Martins spun on that end of the race track to slow the pace, and during the yellow Matt Crafton ran into mechanical issues on his No. 88 Toyota and had to pull to the garage area for repairs.

Bell led all the way through the halfway point of the race over Suarez, Brett Moffitt, Caleb Holman and Cameron Hayley, but Suarez slowly and methodically began closing the gap to his teammate as the second half wore on – lowering it to two car lengths at lap 120 as the leaders worked in and out of traffic.

Ben Rhodes ran into motor trouble at lap 126, but the real game-changer was back-to-back cautions on with 66 and 57 laps to go, respectively.

The first of those yellows was for a flat left front tire on Hayley’s machine, while the second was on the ensuing restart when Bell spun off the exit of turn two from the lead of the race, battling with teammate Suarez for the top spot.

Bell would remain on the lead lap but drop outside the top 10, while Suarez would assume the point as the race wound into its final corner. Suarez would get a good restart with 53 to go and run away quickly from the battle for second, but Byron would finally make his presence known for the first time as he rose to the runner-up spot behind Suarez with 40 laps remaining.

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