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Kennedy Eliminated in Round of 6 After Two-Team Effort in 2016

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — It was a tale of two teams for Ben Kennedy in 2016, who was eliminated from the Chase Round of 6 on Friday night.

Kennedy, son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, finished ninth in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, which ended the GMS Racing driver’s title aspirations along with Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie William Byron, who suffered a blown engine after leading 112 laps.

The 24-year-old started the year with Red Horse Racing and drove the No. 11 for the first three races of the season collecting finishes of 23rd, 15th and 11th while driving for Red Horse. Owner Tom DeLoach decided to emphasize focus on Timothy Peters having an opportunity to win the 2016 championship, so his team parted ways with Kennedy.

He joined GMS in April and made his debut with the team at Kansas Speedway in May, where he earned his first top 10 of 2016.

In the summer night showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, Kennedy won his first career Camping World Truck Series race and clinched a berth in the series’ inaugural Chase.

He collected two top fives in the Chase and survived the opening Round of 8. But finishes of 18th, 13th and ninth weren’t enough to advance to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the final four.

“It was a good transition coming over to GMS, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from this group,” Kennedy told POPULAR SPEED. “I have awesome teammates and really smart people. We’ve had fast trucks. We won at Bristol, and we ran down Kyle [Busch] at Chicago. Some races we have been able to capitalize and some we’ve missed it a little bit, but we’ll go on to Homestead.”

GMS had the best year of its history in NASCAR this season. The organization, which only had one victory since its inception, has won six races in 2016 with the Homestead finale next.

Naturally, the team will look to build on its success from this year and translate it to 2017.

“We’ll just keep building on it, we have a really good platform,” Kennedy said. “This year was all about learning. There were some tracks that kind of surprised us. We thought we had some good mile-and-a-half packages as well as this one [Phoenix, a one-mile oval] and missed it quite a bit. But will have a good notebook going forward.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.