The UNOH 200 turned out to be one of the most pleasant and surprising finishes of the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck season, observing Ben Kennedy passing William Byron with 20 laps to go to earn his very first NASCAR Truck victory of his young career at one of the most unlikely of places, the Bristol Motor Speedway.
It might have been the 24-year old Kennedy’s first victory, but his racing legacy is deep-rooted being the great-grandson of NASCAR Founder, William H.G. (Big Bill) France and son of current International Speedway Corporation CEO, Lesa France Kennedy. It signified the first France family member to win a NASCAR national series race in the sport they founded over six decades ago.
It wasn’t an easy win for Kennedy battling with the charge of Brett Moffitt right on his bumper in the final two circuits catching him once in his ‘bump and run’ shot that came up short allowing Kennedy to pull away seeing his first checkered flag.
“I can’t put it into words,” said Kennedy, who refused to be rattled, winning by 0.274 of a second. “Someone asked me earlier today what it’s like going to Bristol for your first time and to win here is just so cool. I’m speechless.
“I was just thinking go as fast as possible on this last lap. I knew Brett was putting pressure on me from behind. I appreciate him racing me clean. This is just so cool. These guys deserve it. They work so hard.”
With only three races to go in the regular season before the Truck Chase Round of 8 starts in New Hampshire, Kennedy’s victory puts his GMS Racing No. 33 team into the hunt for the title.
“We put this deal together (with GMS Racing) a couple months ago and I never imagined – I never would have imagined going into this race that we would be here today,” Kennedy said. “I thought we were a top-15 truck or a top-10 truck, but to actually be here in Victory Lane means the world to me.”
It was Moffitt’s career best finish in the series and after the race was pleased with the way the race fell out in his favor.
“We had a good truck, a strong truck all day,” said Moffitt, substituting for Matt Tifft, who is still recovering from recent brain surgery. “We ran top-five, top-10 most of it. He had just enough to get away from us on that last restart. After that, we got to him once but couldn’t get around.”
Daniel Hemric rebounded from being a lap down to finish third followed by William Byron, Johnny Sauter, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, John H. Nemechek, Brandon Jones, and John Wes Townley.
The race, strewn with nine cautions, lived up to the .533-mile, high-bank oval’s reputation of being difficult causing numerous spins and crashes after the track revamped the lower groove.
The Camping World Truck Series moves north for next weekend’s Career for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, August 27.