Ben Kennedy survives for first XFINITY Series top five in second start

Matthew T. Thacker/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

On one of the tracks his great-grandfather – NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. – built, Ben Kennedy parlayed a spirited drive into a top five in just his second NASCAR XFINITY Series start.

Driving in Richard Childress Racing’s (RCR) No. 2 Chevrolet, Kennedy survived two instances of stage-ending carnage and surged in the closing laps to claim a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway, his first NASCAR event since 2016’s season-ending Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kennedy, 25, was competing in the first of many races he’ll contest this season. The Daytona Beach, Florida native is scheduled to make nine starts for RCR, the team he debuted in Xfinity with en-route to a 10th-place finish at Iowa Speedway in 2016.

Kennedy will also compete in a minimum of 12 races for GMS Racing, elevating his schedule to include a minimum of 21 races.

“I learned a lot out there today in the Rheem Chevrolet,” Kennedy said.  “I knocked the rust off of it the first couple of laps and then started to get after it. On the last lap, Joey Logano and I had a run, but we just kind of lost our momentum on the high side.  It’s amazing how these cars run and the lines they run.

“I got a lot out of today and I’m really happy with the finish. It was a lot of fun.”

Kennedy previously competed full-time in the Truck series from 2014-16, earning his first NASCAR national series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. The Floridian also tallied 10 top fives and 26 top 10s during the stint, finishing a career-best seventh in the standings after making what was then referred to as the Chase, NASCAR’s playoff format.

The next start for Kennedy will come in the form of his debut with GMS Racing’s No. 96 Chevrolet in the Hisense 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The event is slated for May 27.

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