Ben Kennedy earns first Xfinity top five in just second career start
Ben Kennedy’s NASCAR season got off to a late start but it turned out to be well worth the wait.
Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., doesn’t have a full-time ride this season but put together a pair of deals with Richard Childress Racing and GMS Racing that will give him near two dozen starts in the Xfinity Series this season.
Kennedy, 25, had to wait until Saturday to make his first start of 2017, driving the No. 2 Chevrolet for RCR, and ended up with a fourth-place finish in the Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Kennedy led five laps in the race and ran mostly up front but had to rebound from a penalty in Stage 1 for removing equipment from his pit box.
Asked what it has been like waiting for his first start this season, Kennedy said, “Long. Really long. It kills you sitting on the sidelines watching Truck and Xfinity races but at the same time in the back of my head I knew good things were to come.
“I’ve been really looking forward to the season. It’s been tough but I’ve been doing some random stuff but it’s good to be back at the race track for a reason.”
Even though he’s been using simulators preparing for his season debut, Kennedy said there was nothing like sitting in the actual race car.
“It did feel a little rusty but at the same time I knew this was a brand new car, these things drive so differently (from trucks) and have a lot of downforce on them,” he said. “They are a lot more sensitive on the wheel.
“I’m just trying to learn things here and there and communicate to my guys and my other teammates. I may feel ‘this’ but I don’t know if it’s right, wrong or indifferent. Thankfully, I have good teammates on the RCR side that have been helpful.”
Kennedy earned his first NASCAR national series victory last season, winning the Truck race at Bristol, Tenn., with GMS Racing and finished seventh in the series standings. He made one Xfinity series start last season, finishing 10th at Iowa with RCR.
Kennedy said he was pleased with how his 2017 schedule turned out, which includes nine races with RCR and at least 12 with GMS Racing.
“I’m looking forward to all the races,” he said. “We had a decent test the other day (at Charlotte with GMS Racing) and we learned a lot out of it. We’re going to change some stuff before going back (for the May 27 race).
“I’m just looking to be competitive. Weighing the options over the offseason, my goal was to be competitive and be in something that we could win races in, no matter what series.
“These deals came together and I feel we’re good.”
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