Wallace Jr., Kennedy tame Martinsville chaos
April 01, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
Young drivers show veteran poise in late-race restarts
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Based on their most recent results at Martinsville Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ben Kennedy might have expected to wind up on the podium together in Sunday's rain-delayed Kroger 250. After the checkered flag, though, both were still trying to sort out exactly how they did.
Wallace backed up his breakthrough NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory last fall with a solid runner-up finish Sunday behind race winner and reigning series champ Matt Crafton. Kennedy built upon the foundation of a fourth-place run in his Martinsville debut last October with a third-place effort Sunday.
Both young drivers threaded their way through two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish that extended the race six laps past its scheduled 250-lap distance. Wallace moved up one spot after a brush with former Martinsville winner Timothy Peters, but Kennedy's charge was even more dramatic as he launched eight spots forward from 11th place with 20 laps to go.
Wallace was apologetic for his run-in with Peters, saying he didn't mean to strand him on the final restart and cost him so many spots (Peters dropped from second to seventh in the final two-lap shootout). But while he was thankful for his "good graces" in avoiding late-race chaos, he was just as grateful to ease the pain of a 26th-place finish for his No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports team in the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway.
"I've revamped the whole season this year," said Wallace, who leaped 13 spots to eighth place in the series standings. "It's been a slow start, but after Daytona we threw that out the window and talked to Kyle (Busch) and my crew chief (Jerry Baxter) and really said, 'Let’s start our season here, come here and wax them.' We came up second so it's all good. That's what we're doing. We're just gaining points and trying to get back in the hunt and running smart races."
Kennedy, part of the current NASCAR Next developmental program, made similar headway in the season-long championship hunt, moving up five spots to sixth in the standings on the heel of his 15th-place effort in the Daytona opener. At Martinsville, he made forward progress by lining up on the inside lane for two of the final three restarts, helping him orchestrate the Turner Scott Motorsports No. 31 Chevrolet's march toward the front.
But just minutes after the checkered flag, Kennedy was still trying to make sense of how he defused the late-race traffic jam.
"I don't really know. That's a good question," said Kennedy, embarking on his first full season in the series. "I guess we had a couple of restarts on the inside, and just mayhem sort of broke out there and somehow made it through the eye of the thunderstorm and came out the other side."