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Taking the next step up: Ben Kennedy to make Xfinity Series debut today in Iowa

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Toyota Tundra 250 - Qualifying

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 06: Ben Kennedy, driver of the #33 Weber Grill Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway on May 6, 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

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Ben Kennedy will take the next step in his racing career on Sunday, making his first career start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the American Ethanol E15 250 at Iowa Speedway.

While Kennedy has 58 starts in the Camping World Truck Series under his belt – including a seventh-place finish in Saturday night’s Speediatrics 200 at Iowa – this will be his first go-round in the Xfinity Series.

Kennedy will be driving the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Ruud Chevrolet in the Xfinity event.

And while this is his Xfinity debut, Kennedy has looked like a series veteran thus far at Iowa. He led both practices Friday, and qualified sixth in Saturday’s qualifying session.

“Yeah, I’m pretty comfortable with it,” Kennedy said of his quick acclimation to an Xfinity car. “I kind of compare it to a K&N car in a way, just because you don’t have the downforce and side force that the trucks have. They drive so differently.

“My biggest difficulty wasn’t so much getting in an Xfinity car, but going from an Xfinity car to a Truck. It was just kind of a challenge for me, realizing how much deeper you have to drive into the corners and how much you have to tag it. I think we have a real good car and truck for this weekend and I’m looking forward to it.”

Kennedy, the grandson of late NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., and the son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, has high hopes for his inaugural Xfinity race.

“I’d be happy with a top-10 finish,” Kennedy said. “I’m not trying to do anything crazy here, obviously, but I’m going to give it 100 percent and I gave the guys 100 percent (Friday) in practice. It’s great to work with (crew chief) Danny Stockman and the entire team.

“This is an awesome opportunity for me with Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet and Ruud being on board. It’s a real fast car and I’m honored to be here. I’ve sat in an Xfinity car in the shop, but just to be able to have that experience with a very good team and fast cars is just a big honor for me.”

Kennedy has been a fast learner in an Xfinity car. Not only has he driven it like a veteran thus far this weekend, he has a mindset and strategy akin to a veteran, as well.

“You just have to attack the corners differently with a different mindset,” he said. “I got used to the Xfinity car pretty quick, I felt like. You just don’t have the sideforce to lean on (like a truck), so you’ve got to close up your entries and exits and drive a little bit straighter and the bumps are a little bit different seeing how the package underneath is (different between a Truck and Xfinity ride).

“I think once we get racing and everything and get acclimated, we’ll be fine. We did a 20-lap run in the Xfinity car (on Friday) and I learned more than I’ve learned in a long time just in that 20-lap run about different things and tools I can use inside the car and during the race as far as line, momentum and whatnot.

“As much different as they are, you still have to use the same principles as far as going between the Truck and Xfinity car, just seizing the momentum as much as possible. Sure, they have a lot of power, but at the same time you also have to keep that momentum going – and I think that’s what I learned quite a bit (Friday).”

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