LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR will crown two Iron Men on Sunday. Jeff Gordon , who will take the nod for most consecutive races run (789) in the Sprint Cup Series when the green flag drops for Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra), will occupy most of the headlines, but Camping World Truck Series driver Ben Kennedy 's pursuit of IRONMAN triathlon status is nothing to ignore. Following the conclusion of Saturday's UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FS1), Kennedy will hop on a plane with his mother, Lesa France Kennedy , en route to Augusta, Georgia, where the pair and her boyfriend will all compete in a 70.3-mile IRONMAN race. We've seen fitness freaks Jimmie Johnson , Landon Cassill and Josh Wise spend their off-time training for these types of events, but until recently it never appeared to be on Kennedy's radar. "I don't know (how it happened)," the 23-year-old said Friday at the 'Magic Mile.' "It came about in November of last year. We were all sitting down at dinner; it was me, my mom and her boyfriend and we'd done some small triathlons, 5Ks but nothing major. "I've always wanted to do at least a half IRONMAN and we were probably a little bit crazy in the head (at the time), but it was something that we committed to and now we're here doing it this weekend." Kennedy said that as his career has progressed, he's come to realize the importance fitness and nutrition play when he's in the truck. There have been a few "wake up calls", as he put it, when he realized he needed to be more physically fit as he advanced within the sport and races got longer and more demanding. Now, he's using the same training program that Carl Edwards , arguably NASCAR's fittest driver, uses and he's seeing the benefits play up both off the track in his alternate racing career and on the track, where he already has more top-fives and is on pace to earn more top 10s than his 2014 campaign. Kennedy's competitive nature -- which every NASCAR driver certainly needs, to an extent -- is apparent, but he's keeping his expectations in check for Sunday, when he'll have to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles just to complete the grueling race. "I've got two different goals and I'll just be happy finishing, honestly," said Kennedy , whose other goal is to place first in his age group and qualify for the next stage in Australia. "Especially after this weekend, because I'm going to race on Saturday and jump on a plane right after to fly down to Georgia. "Only thing I'm worried about is being kind of wired after the race, because I know I'm going to be wired even more so about Sunday morning. I don't know how much sleep I'll get." No matter if he places first or not; or even if he finishes or not, the five months of training that led up to Sunday are enough to be proud of for anyone, let alone a NASCAR national series driver trying to balance a race schedule on top of a routine that saw him doing two of the three legs every day. Sunday will tie Kennedy back together with his childhood hero, whose legend in the sport will be further ingrained around 2 p.m. ET. Just another reason for him to admire the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion. "With everything that Gordon's done for the sport; I remember when I was, I think, 3 years old, I had the opportunity to meet him and he was the first driver I think I ever met," Kennedy said. "I made that connection in the back of my mind growing up through my childhood that he was always my favorite driver. "It's so cool to see him running so good at this point of his career. You look at some athletes and they're not at their strongest the last couple years of their career, but Jeff Gordon , he's as strong as he's ever been, especially in the field that's out there; it's so unbelievably competitive. It's cool to see what he's done and brought to the sport."
RELATED: Race results " Series standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- As strong as he was in winning Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200 , Matt Crafton was already looking ahead to 2016. Crafton, whose hopes for a third consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship were dashed by a crash at Phoenix last week, won his sixth race of the season, holding off John Hunter Nemechek and Tyler Reddick in the season finale. Although Crafton's No. 88 Toyota Tundra finished 2.9 seconds ahead of Nemechek and more than six seconds ahead of Reddick, the 39-year-old veteran still wound up third in the point standings, 15 behind 19-year-old Erik Jones . "I was having so much fun there at the end of this race," said Crafton after his first career victory at HMS. "Six wins with as many laps as we’ve led -- it's been awesome this season. We just made too many mistakes. I made too many mistakes. … I promise one thing: It's going to make us stronger in 2016." Crafton said he was happy to be able to "take the gloves off" and go all out for a win at HMS. "That was lot of fun," he said. "It's amazing what Junior (crew chief Joiner) can do with these trucks. On that last run, we hit a home run there." Ultimately, Kyle Busch 's eye for youthful talent paid off as Jones did what he needed to in becoming the youngest driver ever to claim a NCWTS title (19 years, 5 months, 21 days) and first NASCAR Next alum. He also became the first to win a driver's title for Kyle Busch Motorsports. "He put it to me when he beat me in a Super Late Model race," recalled Busch, who will race for the Sprint Cup title on Sunday. "I tend to pick up on the talent of younger kids. Actually, the first time he raced against me, he blew my doors off, then blew up 40 laps later. I said, 'Good. I don’t have to race (against) this one.' " There was no blowing up Friday night. Jones entered the race 19 points ahead of Reddick, his nearest competitor, and 32 points ahead of Crafton, the Keystone Light Pole-sitter. Making his first HMS start, Jones needed only to avoid trouble and finish 15th or higher to claim the series crown. Jones, who notched three wins this season and has seven career NCWTS victories, finished sixth in the race behind Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters . He qualified fifth and was content to race safely and efficiently, remaining in the top 10 for most of the race and avoiding any calamity on the track. "I can't think of a better way to repay these guys. I can't think of a better ending than that," said Jones, who expects to drive full-time in the XFINITY Series for Joe Gibbs Racing next year after parts of three seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports. "Eric's done a lot of growing up in a short period of time," Busch said. "I'm glad he stuck with me and our plan. I think he has a lot of bigger and greater things ahead on his plate." NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next alum Daniel Suarez appeared to have the strongest truck early in Friday's race, charging from sixth to the lead. But Suarez slid up the track into the truck of Dexter Stacey on Lap 61, falling back to 15th, then found the wall again on Lap 83. That left Crafton in position to dominate the race. He led 93 of the 134 laps, leaving NASCAR Next driver Nemechek (Chevrolet) and Reddick (Ford) in his wake to battle for second. Reddick, driving for Brad Keselowski Racing, started fourth and advanced to second behind Crafton with 40 laps to go. But by then, Jones, who briefly slid back to 14th after a caution flag shuffle, had rallied to seventh, keeping Reddick, also a 19-year-old driver, at bay in the chase for the title. "We were very consistent this year. I'm proud about that," Reddick said. "We just have to move on to next year. I know what second place feels like and I really don't like it too much. If I didn't have enough reasons to win a championship, I've got one more."
Pit boss heads to Red Horse Racing to run the No. 11 team Red Horse Racing announced Friday afternoon that Scott Zipadelli will be crew chief for the No. 11 Toyota to be driven by Ben Kennedy next season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Since 2007, Zipadelli has had a recurring role as a crew chief in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The Red Horse job will mark his first venture into the truck circuit. "Red Horse Racing is a well-respected organization that has had a lot of success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and I am very excited to be a part of it," Zipadelli said in a release provided by the Tom DeLoach-owned team. " Ben ( Kennedy ) is a talented driver and I have high expectations for him and the No. 11 team. He had an outstanding rookie season, and our goal this year is to win races and put ourselves in position to contend for the 2015 championship." Zipadelli has posted three XFINITY Series wins in his career -- two last season with Kyle Larson at the wheel, and one with Boris Said on the Montreal road course in 2010. His brother, Greg, is a 34-time winner as a crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and is currently the vice president of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing . Last month, Red Horse announced that Kennedy -- the Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NCWTS in 2014 -- would join its driver lineup and that the field of crew chief candidates had been whittled to a short list. The hiring of Zipadelli fills the lone vacancy in its driver-crew chief pairings for 2015. "Scott Zipadelli has great experience on top of the pit box and brings a lot to the program," Kennedy said in the team's release. "I am really looking forward to working with him and can't wait to unload our No. 11 Toyota Tundra at Daytona in February." The 23-year-old Kennedy netted seven top-10 finishes for Turner Scott Motorsports in his rookie truck season, highlighted by having the number one starting spot for the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway . In making the switch, he'll take on the role of teammate to Timothy Peters and crew chief Marcus Richmond in the organization's No. 17 Toyota. The Camping World Truck Series' 23-race schedule opens Feb. 20 with the NextEra Energy Resources 250 (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports 1) at Daytona. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ben Kennedy talks with GarageCam host Matthew Dillner about a second race he is running this weekend: a half-Ironman.
Kennedy makes Red Horse Racing debut in NextEra Energy Resources 250
Red Horse Racing team owner, Tom DeLoach, introduces Ben Kennedy as the driver of the number 11 Toyota for the 2015 NCWTS season. Timothy Peters also comments on his new teammate.
Cody Coughlin gets loose and wrecks up in Turn 4, collecting Ben Kennedy along the way at Michigan International Speedway.
Ben Kennedy goes for a wild ride with 5 laps to go, causing a red flag and enough damage to the catch fence that NASCAR decided to call the race, giving Matt Crafton the win at Kentucky Speedway.
Ty Dillon gets loose and makes contact with Ben Kennedy before slamming into the wall.