Matt Crafton wins wreck-shortened race after Ben Kennedy’s truck slams catch fence at Kentucky
Matt Crafton was declared the winner of Thursday night’s UNOH 225 Camping World Truck Series race after NASCAR officials called the race five laps early due to a wreck involving fellow driver Ben Kennedy that damaged the catch fencing at Kentucky Speedway.
Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and son of International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy, was jockeying for position when he made contact with the trucks of David Gilliland and John Wes Townley.
Kennedy bounced off both trucks and hit the wall head-on, then climbed the retaining wall and SAFER barrier, slid along the top of it for several hundred feet and almost flipped before returning to the racing surface and finally coming to a stop.
The catch fence suffered significant damage. With an Xfinity Series scheduled for Friday and the Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday – coupled with the expected length of time it would have taken to repair the damage – NASCAR officials called the race five laps from its scheduled 150-lap length.
This is the second race in five nights where the catch fence prevented a vehicle from going into the stands. Austin Dillon’s car went airborne in Sunday night’s race at Daytona and heavily damaged the catch fencing on the final lap of the Coke Zero 400.
It was Crafton’s fourth win of the season and ninth of his career.
Erik Jones finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez and Timothy Peters.
How Crafton won: On the final restart of the race on Lap 140, Erik Jones had the lead, but Crafton got a tremendous push from behind by Ryan Blaney that allowed Crafton to pull ahead of Jones and stayed there. “I have to thank Ryan Blaney,” Crafton said. “He was all about that restart. I know we had the best truck when we got track position. This truck was really, really good. That push was pretty amazing that Blaney gave me, without a doubt.”
Who else had a good race: Erik Jones was hoping to take the same truck he won with last month at Iowa to victory lane at Kentucky, but couldn’t keep Matt Crafton from getting past him on the final restart. Jones led the most laps (55), while Crafton led 44. … Had the Ben Kennedy wreck not occurred, third-place finisher Blaney might have been able to challenge Crafton in the closing laps. … Once again, Daniel Suarez came close to his first NASCAR win, but he couldn’t make up enough ground on the final restart to mount a challenge to Crafton.
Who had a bad race: In only his second career Truck race, Christopher Bell was running in the top 10 before losing it and wrecking with 18 laps left in the race. … The same thing happened to Spencer Gallagher, who wrecked with 10 laps remaining. … And then there was Kennedy and his wreck with five laps to go.
Notable: John Hunter Nemechek, who just turned 18 last month, made his first career start on a 1.5-mile track in any series and finished 11th. Nemechek ran an excellent race and was on-target to a potential top-five finish before he got into the wall with six laps to go that brought out the final caution. … The driver leading the race with 10 laps to go had won 15 of the last 17 races at Kentucky Speedway, but not this time, as Jones was passed by Crafton.
Quote of the day: “I’m fine. Thank the good Lord for keeping me safe and everything NASCAR does to keep these trucks safe. If I had a wreck this bad years ago, I don’t know if I would have gotten out of my truck on my own power like that.” – Ben Kennedy, who was uninjured after his wreck and ride along the retaining wall and into the catch fence.
What’s next: The Truck Series returns to the dirt at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway on July 22 for the 1-800-CARCASH Mud Summer Classic.