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Post-Race Reactions: Kentucky 225
Austin Dillon comments on his effort to catch Hornaday and James Buescher recaps his night in Kentucky .
KBM rookies ready for Kentucky
Erik Jones, Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez looking for win When the Kyle Busch Motorsports haulers rolls up to Kentucky Speedway on Thursday, it will arrive with trucks that will be driven by a trio of talented young drivers. Erik Jones , 19, Christopher Bell, 20, and Daniel Suarez , 23, will try to capture the second consecutive KBM win in the Bluegrass State in Thursday’s UNOH 225 (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Team owner Kyle Busch took the checkered flag in last season’s event, leading a race-high 91 laps on his way to Victory Lane. Jones enters the race coming off his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win of the season at Iowa. He has never competed in a NASCAR event at Kentucky , but finished sixth at an ARCA race there in 2013. "Should be fun, Kentucky is a cool place with a lot of character," Jones said. "It's getting rougher and I haven’t been there in a few years so it should be pretty good and rough now." Jones' crew chief Randy Fugle added, "We finally put it all together and collected our first win. Now, we need to go out and get five or six more." Fresh off his NCWTS debut at Iowa where he finished fifth, Bell will make his first start at an intermediate track. The dirt standout is transitioning to stock cars and has already won four races in KBM's Super Late Model. "Obviously the top-five run at Iowa was awesome, so anything less is going to be a letdown, but we need to go there with realistic expectations of me never running at a track that size," Bell said. "First I need to finish the race, but also continue to be competitive as I gain more experience in these Tundras." Suarez seems closer and closer to getting his first NASCAR national series win every time he straps into the No. 51 truck. He finished second in his last two NCWTS races, at Texas and Dover. " Kentucky Speedway is a fun, interesting track that is really fast," Suarez said. "I'm excited about it, especially since I'm also competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race there. Running both events will help me figure the track out quicker and will hopefully lead to two positive results." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Matt Crafton wins wreck-shortened race at Kentucky
Ben Kennedy involved in spectacular wreck with five laps remaining RELATED: Complete NCWTS results " Updated standings SPARTA, Ky. -- In a race that ended five laps short of its scheduled distance, polesitter Matt Crafton was declared the winner of Thursday night’s UNOH 225 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event after Ben Kennedy ’s Toyota damaged the catchfence at Kentucky Speedway beyond the track’s capacity to repair it expeditiously. With a shove from the Ford of Ryan Blaney , Crafton had taken the lead on Lap 145 moments before Kennedy was launched into the fence from contact with David Gilliland ’s Ford. The victory was the fourth of the season for the two-time defending series champion, who won for the first time at Kentucky and the ninth time in his career. The race was slowed for the seventh time on Lap 140, when contact from the No. 05 Chevrolet of John Wes Townley sent the No. 23 Silverado of Spencer Gallagher hard into the outside wall. NASCAR red-flagged the proceedings for 3 minutes, 28 seconds for track clean-up, leaving Jones in the lead for a restart on Lap 145. But Gallagher's wreck was nothing compared with the jolt Kennedy took on the restart lap after contact with Gilliland's Ford sent Kennedy's Toyota to the top of the SAFER barrier and into the catchfence. "I thought I was clear," Kennedy said on his radio. The driver of the No. 11 Tundra had moved up the track into Gilliland's Ford after being cleared by his spotter. "I heard 'Clear' on the radio, so I moved up to the wall and as soon as I went to the wall," Kennedy said after leaving the infield care center. "I guess Gilliland had a run on the outside and pretty much hit me in the right rear -- and I went up. "I guess I was on top of the wall. I remember being on top of the wall for quite some time. I didn't see much -- just a bunch of dust and debris flying. Then came down. The ride from the wall to the ground was pretty hard. But I’m OK. "Thank God for everything that NASCAR has done to keep this sport safe. 'Cause for me to get out of my car on my own power after a hit like that is pretty incredible." Blaney finished third, followed by Daniel Suarez and Timothy Peters . Two support poles in the catchfence had to be replaced, a process that would consume 90 minutes. Accordingly, NASCAR called the race with five laps left. It was the second straight race in one of NASCAR’s top three touring series in which a car has hit the fence protecting the grandstands. In last Sunday's Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway, Austin Dillon 's Chevrolet was launched into the fence during a last-lap wreck in the tri-oval. Erik Jones finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney , Daniel Suarez and Timothy Peters . FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kentucky Camping World Truck pit assignments
See where every driver will pit at 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1 RELATED: Full starting lineup When the Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying was cancled due to rain at Kentucky Speedway, the first 26 drivers in the field for Thursday's UNOH 225 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) were set by owner's points. Two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton claims the pole for Thursday night's race and also claimed the first pit stall off pit road with an open pit box in front of him. Tyler Reddick , driver of the No. 19 Ford, lines up second and chose the 14th pit stall with two empty pit boxes in front of him. Ray Black Jr ., who is lining up 15th, chose the first stall onto pit road with an open box behind his stall. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ben Rhodes: Chasing dreams on-track and on-camera
Ask some of the people who work most closely with Ben Rhodes about him and you'll get the same sense -- that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie isn't an ordinary 19-year-old. Ask his crew chief. "I've known this kid since he was 15 years old and he was always very mature, very respectful and acts older than he is," Kevin Bellicourt says. "I mean, the way he has shown maturity in the race car and everything around that, I do forget that he is 19 years old." Ask the sports director who co-hosts Rhodes' TV show -- yes, his own TV show -- in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky . "I'll look at him sometimes and I'll just be like, 'Look, stop it. Just be a kid.' But he's not," Kent Spencer says. "He's definitely wise beyond his years." The wisdom has served Rhodes well in all facets of his budding NASCAR career, which carried him to the K&N Pro Series East championship in 2014 and a stint with the NASCAR Next youth initiative that identifies the sport's up-and-coming stars. The next step is a full-season campaign this year with powerhouse ThorSport Racing in the Truck Series, which makes its next stop Friday night at Kansas Speedway . Even in casual conversation, Rhodes' composure comes through in a calm that belies his age, less than one year removed from receiving a high school diploma. It's a collected nature that helps him feel just as at home in front of a TV camera's lens as he does behind the wheel. Rhodes doesn't have to balance a racing career with schoolwork any more, but his focus is far from singular. "It's full-time racing now, and it's full-time everything that has to do with racing, not just being on the track or working on the cars, but sponsors, events, fans -- which is cool," Rhodes says. "I really like that aspect of it. You can't be on the track without that." The story of how Rhodes came to be on the track isn't unlike the tale of other youngsters with a dream and a heavy right foot. But it's the unique wrinkles of his narrative that make Rhodes' story ready for prime time. Early beginnings Around their home state, where the term "racing" is most commonly associated with Thoroughbreds, it's fitting that Rhodes' career choice was galvanized by figuratively getting back on the horse. Rhodes had barely entered grade school when the itch for speed struck him. He recalls helping his older brother, Chris, try to emulate his father's practice of removing the governor from their go-karts, much to their mother's dismay. The recreational -- and occasionally unrestricted -- karting soon led to competition. "We were having a blast around the house," Rhodes says, "but when we hit the race track, it didn't really click at first and it took awhile before I got in a wreck to figure it out." Rhodes recalls crashing his first time out -- the leader coming around to lap him, clipping one of his back wheels and landing on top of his kart. The wreck naturally made him gun-shy, but it took another altercation to set his course toward making racing a lifelong pursuit. Rhodes' family vividly recalls that incident at the Clark County, Indiana, 4-H Fairgrounds, where the 7-year-old driver was on the receiving end of an intentional wreck for the first time. His family worked to repair his kart while the youngster seethed, intent on retaliation. But as Rhodes began to furiously charge back through the pack, something changed in his demeanor. "Once I passed the other guy, I didn't even think about wanting revenge or whatever, I just started having a blast," Rhodes says. "Passing cars was a lot more fun than getting passed, and that's when it all started clicking for me. We started working on set-ups and had just an awesome time doing it. It was an awesome family experience." Into NASCAR Those first forays led to progression and an eventual place in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at age 16. After a partial first season, his first full campaign in 2014 netted a remarkable five victories and six pole positions, with Bellicourt serving as his car chief. The performance drew the interest of JR Motorsports, which fielded Rhodes in a 10-race slate in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2015. After a seventh-place series debut at Iowa Speedway in May, Rhodes endured largely uneven results in the JRM No. 88, despite help from the team's fleet of Sprint Cup drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kevin Harvick , Chase Elliott and Regan Smith . "I learned so much from them, but the problem is it was hard to apply it," Rhodes says of his sporadic schedule. "You have to be in the car feeling it. I had a month between times (in the car) more than once before I could actually feel what they were talking about or actually apply it. All the momentum that you had was lost. It was just really hard for me to get adjusted to and just hard to keep the learning going, but the jump, I felt like if I ran the whole season, the jump maybe wouldn't have been that bad." An offseason to regroup also led to a new opportunity, as one of the newest faces at ThorSport Racing, a championship-caliber team with an evolving driver roster. In the offseason, Rhodes joined two-time Truck Series champ Matt Crafton , second-year driver Cameron Hayley and fellow rookie Rico Abreu under the watch of team owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson. The team's drivers have perennially lauded the resources that the Thorsons provide to compete at a high level. Rhodes found this out early on, when they sought his input to hire a crew chief for his No. 41 Toyota. He immediately thought of Bellicourt, who had just finished helping William Byron as crew chief for his K&N East championship run in 2015. In some respects, the job was a tougher sell than most, requiring Bellicourt to move from North Carolina to within reach of ThorSport's Sandusky, Ohio, shop. But it was also a commitment for his wife, his 11-month-old daughter and the baby the couple are expecting in early June. But the opportunity to move from the regional and touring level to a NASCAR national series was too good to pass up. After taking the leap, the driver-crew chief reunion went seamlessly. "The communication is back to where it was and it's like we never even left off," Rhodes says. "I remember the first time that he was up at ThorSport and I was there and we were having such a good time. None of the guys up there had seen us run before or work together, so when we came up there, they were like, 'We've got a feeling that you just brought your best friend in to work on these race cars.' That was kind of cool that we hit it off right away once again." Says Bellicourt: "We just have a good time. I understand what he's saying when he's talking about the truck, and he understands when I'm trying to make a point with him. His understanding of the race car has just come a long way since I first met him when he was 15. He understands that a lot, and all the set-up stuff. That just helps a lot, too, with the driver having that knowledge. We've just been able to roll with it so far this season." Rolling with it has meant gradual gains in the early stages of the year, but one accomplishment stands out -- winning the pole position last month at Martinsville Speedway . Though a late-race wreck saddled Rhodes with a midpack 16th-place result, the speed shown in qualifying and out front for 42 laps made a solid impression. "It felt really good to get the pole because it validates what we know that we have," Rhodes says. "We're trying to show others what my crew chief and I know. We have an awesome relationship and we know how to set up the race cars, we know how to get speed, it's just a matter of getting the experience together now. It just validates that." The fact that Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch was among the competitive field in qualifying that day didn't hurt the team's confidence, Bellicourt says. "You look at that and say there's no reason we can't run with any of these guys," Bellicourt says. "Now Ben knows it. We knew it before, but you always want to make it happen and then you just get that extra confidence. I know it, the guys know it, Ben knows it, and hopefully now everybody else sees what we're capable of. "We're looking to continue to do more of that to show that it wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan, one-time thing. We're going to try to do it at Kansas again." On the mic Rhodes has visions of keeping his racing aspirations going, climbing the ladder, chasing victories. But if his NASCAR dream somehow ended tomorrow, he has an entertaining backup plan -- in television. The 19-year-old is in his fifth season as co-host of "On Track with Ben Rhodes ," a 30-minute weekly show that chronicles his racing career and allows him to meet and interview personalities in the Louisville area. Kent Spencer -- the sports director at WHAS-11, an ABC affiliate in Louisville -- has served as the show's other co-host since its inception. "I'd met Ben before, but in kind of a different realm," Spencer says. "He was a young man trying to come up, went to a local high school, trying to make it in NASCAR, so we interviewed a few times there. This was obviously a different beast. He and I have a really good rapport together, we like to be around each other, so we kind of knew early on that this was going to work." The experience has allowed Rhodes to interact with community leaders from all walks of life. This season, Rhodes and Spencer have taken their show on the road, spending time with charitable organizations, returning to Holy Cross High School (the driver's alma mater), and paying visits to Churchill Downs, site of Saturday's 142nd Kentucky Derby. Rhodes' comfort on camera has grown not only in his hometown, but also during media sessions in the garage on race weekends. "I get to see and build new relationships with people, but it's also trained me to talk to the media and how to talk on camera," he says. "Before the show, I was really, really bad. Now that I've done the show for a couple seasons, I've done a lot better and it makes the job at the race track a lot easier for me." Even Bellicourt has noticed. "You give that kid a microphone and you're going to have to rip it out of his hand before he quits talking," he says with a laugh. "He's very outgoing and does a good job with that. He's kind of a total-package guy. He's got the marketing side, he's really good in front of the camera and obviously has performed on the race track great, so he's got an enormous amount of talent." It all circles back to the versatility and composure that extends beyond Rhodes' years. "I got that feeling from him back when he was 17," Spencer says. "You could definitely tell he's not a normal high school junior, not a normal high school senior. It's just the way he goes about things and the way he can communicate, and I think a large part of that is because the way that his mom and dad make him do a lot on his own. "If you want this dream, it's not easy. You're going to have to work for it. Every week, we get done taping the show and Ben helps tear down the set. He does a lot setting up his own schedule. He's out there and he's doing it, getting the job done, but there's a lot of times where it just blows me away." Several drivers with successful NASCAR credentials have made smooth transitions to the broadcasting booth for second careers after their driving days are done. Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon added his name to the list this season, joining FOX Sports for its coverage of the sport. Rhodes says he'd love to see a similar trajectory for his career, but right now he's one-upping it -- by taking on both jobs at once. "Hopefully my racing career goes on for a long time and I can build up a great reputation and go out on TV broadcasting," he says. "I think it's really cool that drivers do that once they're done, and they're able to go up in the broadcast booth and shine new light on the subject and able to give fans kind of the inside scoop on things. As things change and progress, maybe some of the other broadcasters might not be aware of it. "New drivers like Jeff Gordon and the guys that are fresh out of the race car can show them and talk about what's changing in the sport. I think that's really cool that drivers can do that." Spoken like a kid who is wise beyond his years.
Earnhardt Jr. reveals new paint scheme
RELATED: See Junior's Darlington scheme Dale Earnhardt Jr . took to social media -- as he so often does -- Monday afternoon to reveal a new paint scheme. Specifically, to reveal his No. 88 Nationwide Children's Hospital Chevrolet for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway on July 9. What's different about this look is the campaign that goes along with it. Five hundred fans who make a donation will have their names printed on the hood of the car. I’ll be driving this @Nationwide88 scheme at @KySpeedway in July to support @NationwideKids . pic.twitter.com/oqCxjC3y8o — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) May 3, 2016 Nationwide will serve as Earnhardt Jr.'s primary sponsor for 21 races in 2016.
Crafton claims Kentucky under red flag
Matt Crafton wins the UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway due to Ben Kennedy's late race wreck that caused enough damage to the catch fence for NASCAR to call the race.
Rain wreaks havoc on Thursday's Kentucky schedule
Air Titan 2.0 drying track for Camping World Truck race (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1) GALLERY: Best photos from a rainy Thursday at Kentucky After enduring a soggy day on Wednesday, NASCAR drivers across all three series were at the mercy of the weather once again on Thursday at Kentucky Speedway as rain canceled all Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series practice sessions along with Keystone Light Pole Qualifying for Trucks. NASCAR later said that XFINITY cars might get on track "if the track comes around in due time," according to a spokesman for the sanctioning body. Ten NASCAR Air Titans have been cirulating the track since 9:30 a.m. and are continuing their drying efforts in order to get the Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) on track to race. Since qualifying for the Truck race was canceled, the field will be set according to NASCAR Rule Book that states that the first 26 drivers in the field will be set by owner's points. This means two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will start from the pole position in Thursday night's event, flanked by Tyler Reddick in the No. 19 Ford. Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez will start second and third, respectively. Since Thursday's Sprint Cup Series practice session was added to the schedule because two practice sessions on Wednesday were rained out, teams continue to wait for their first chance to test the new Kentucky rules package on the track. The Sprint Cup Series has two practices scheduled for Friday, along with Coors Light Pole Qualifying. The XFINITY Series has qualifying and its race scheduled for Friday. Friday's schedule had not changed at the time this story was published. MORE: Complete weekend schedule for Kentucky FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Catch fence repairs complete at Kentucky
Fences were significantly damaged in Thursday's Truck Series race SPARTA, Ky. -- Track officials completed repairs to a damaged catch fence at Kentucky Speedway early Friday morning after a severe crash in Thursday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Ben Kennedy 's Red Horse Racing No. 11 Toyota made contact with two other trucks, then became airborne, clipping the catch fence and the energy-absorbing SAFER barrier as the truck rode along the outside retaining wall in Turn 1 before coming to rest. No debris was reported in spectator areas, and Kennedy emerged shaken but unhurt. The race was halted five laps short of the complete distance because of the damage, with two-time series champion Matt Crafton declared the winner. A Kentucky Speedway spokesperson said that track workers spent 3 1/2 hours making repairs. A NASCAR representative said that 35 feet of catch fencing and two support posts were replaced, as were 15 "pyramids" -- the impact-reducing foam blocks behind the steel-tubed exterior wall as part of the SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) system. No other structural repairs were necessary for the SAFER barrier, the NASCAR spokesperson said. One invested viewer was Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Busch , whose team fielded three trucks in Thursday night's UNOH 225 . Busch said he was entertained by the quality of the racing, hoping that Saturday night's Sprint Cup event emulated the slipping, sliding, multi-groove show. Busch also lauded the sanctioning body's progress in safety, but said that despite the improvements and extra measures, inherent danger still exists in the high-speed sport. Kennedy's crash came on the heels of Austin Dillon 's frightening wreck that severely damaged the Daytona International Speedway catch fence earlier in the week. "As far as the catch fence and everything, I'm glad they're there," Busch said. "I'm glad they're obviously doing their job, they're keeping the race cars or trucks on the race track and so it's a dangerous sport. We live it every day. Sometimes we take it for granted because of all the safety advancements we've gotten over the years that we feel invincible but there's certainly rare, opportune times that you can put yourself in a situation to get hurt. We saw it in Daytona with myself, we saw it in Daytona again with Austin Dillon and we probably saw it again last night among other times. Those times just seem to be the most severe, the most scary crashes that we've seen." MORE: Learn about the SAFER barrier system FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
How to follow the Kentucky action
Keep tabs on this weekend's national series activity The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series all head to Kentucky Speedway this week. Here's more info on how you can follow along all weekend. RACES Sprint Cup Series: Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts (Saturday, July 11, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) XFINITY Series: Kentucky XFINITY Series 30 (Friday, July 10, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, MRN, SiriusXM) Camping World Truck Series: UNOH 225 (Thursday, July 9, 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM) &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; WEEKEND SCHEDULE Click here for on-track times, press conferences, leaderboards and GarageCam. RACE DAY • NSCS leaderboard • NXS leaderboard • NCWTS leaderboard • NSCS Lap-by-Lap • NXS Lap-by-Lap • NCWTS Lap-by-Lap • NSCS live standings PRODUCTS • RaceBuddy: Through the remainder of the season, NASCAR RaceBuddy will feature two (2) alternate live action camera angles, along with up to six (6) in-car cameras with different driver selections for each Sprint Cup race and four (4) for XFINITY races. • RaceView: Watch virtual video of cars on track and listen to the scanner. • RaceView Mobile: On your phone? Try RaceView here. • Scanner: In-car audio only. • Mobile Apps: Follow the leaderboards live from your device. NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA Web stream: NBC Sports Live Extra Mobile app: iOS/Android NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs will provide racing fans with unparalleled interactive digital access to every NASCAR Sprint Cup series race, including exclusive camera angles, custom diver information, and insider track information. • Multi-view options that bring fans inside the race, combining NBC Sports Group’s race simulcast and alternative camera angles, ranging from in-car views to various key track locations. For the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 11, one specialty camera will offer an innovative speed shot from Turn 4, capturing the cars as they speed by. • Dedicated full-view, on-board alternate cameras. • Additional features on the desktop/laptop experience, bringing fans comprehensive race-day information to their fingertips, including: • Driver updates, cup standings, and biographies • Track infographics with key facts and history NBC Sports Live Extra will stream NASCAR coverage on NBC and NBCSN via "TV Everywhere", giving consumers additional value to for their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms. The NBC Sports Live Extra app is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store and Apple TV. For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at NBCSports.com/liveextra . FOX SPORTS GO The Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 will be available through FOX Sports GO; which is an online and mobile streaming product that allows subscribers of participating TV providers to watch live sports and shows from FOX, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Deportes. FOX Sports GO is currently available for download on iTunes for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices or can be accessed online at FOXSportsGO.com . The app is also available via Google Play, Kindle Fire and from the Windows Store. Access to programming in FOX Sports GO requires a pay TV subscription of FOX Sports 1 with a participating TV provider. Login credentials are the same username and password used to access online accounts with your TV provider. FANTASY • NASCAR Fantasy Live: Set your lineups, check your progress • Streak to the Finish: Play in all three national series LIVE INTERVIEWS PressPass: Watch exclusive post-race interviews. Stay tuned to NASCAR.com throughout the weekend for the latest news.