Heading into Wednesday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, just five drivers were locked into the Truck Series Chase with a dead heat for the final transfer spot, but after 200 laps around the half-mile bullring, the Chase picture has come into focus a bit more with three races remaining in the regular season.
Prior to the UNOH 200, Ben Kennedy and Cameron Hayley were in a tie for the eighth and final transfer spot as the two drivers both had scored 251 points on the season. Since neither driver had a win yet, Wednesday’s race would be crucial in determining just which driver would have the opportunity to race for a championship and which driver might be on the outside looking in.
Early on, it looked like the Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks had the advantage and were well on their way to racking up yet another win, but after all three ran into trouble, Kennedy found himself in the catbird seat as the laps wound down. As luck would have it, Kennedy found some speed in his GMS Racing Chevrolet over the final laps and held off a furious charge from Brett Moffitt to score his first win of the season and his first career win in the Truck Series.
“I can’t put it into words,” said Kennedy. “Someone asked me earlier today, what it’s like coming to Bristol for the first time, and to win here, this is so cool. I’m speechless. The guys gave me an awesome truck. Everybody at GMS Racing, Jacob Companies, the fans in the stands, everybody watching on TV.
“Gosh, this is the coolest day of my life. I don’t know how to say it any other way.”
“This is just so cool. These guys deserve it. They work so hard. We put this deal together a couple of months ago and I never would have imagined going into this race that we would be here today. I mean, I thought we were a top-15 truck or a top-10 truck, but to be here in victory lane, it means the world to me.”
With Kennedy winning the race and Daniel Hemric, who is still looking for a win in 2016, finishing third, the picture of which drivers will be competing for a championship is much clearer. Kennedy’s win means that there are now six drivers with wins, joining William Byron, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Christopher Bell, and John Hunter Nemechek. That leaves only two spots for other drivers to either win a race or score enough points over the next three weeks to stay in the top-eight in points.
Leaving Bristol, Hemric sits 39 points ahead of Cole Custer in ninth and Timothy Peters holds onto the eighth and final Chase spot with a 29 point cushion on Custer. Behind Custer, Tyler Reddick has a 32 point deficit, Cameron Hayley fell to 42 points back with a poor finish at Bristol, and Spencer Gallagher has 65 points to make up if he wants to make it into the Chase without a win.
Anything can happen over the next three weeks, with races at Michigan, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, and Chicago, but for the time being, Hemric and Peters are looking pretty good to be able to make it into the Chase on points if they aren’t able to win between now and then.