For the second time in less than a week, a NASCAR driver emerged unscathed from a serious wreck into a catch fence.
Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, went on one of the wildest rides of his young racing career in Thursday’s UNOH 225 Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
It was the second time this week that a car or truck damaged catch fencing. Austin Dillon suffered a similar fate during a spectacular wreck in Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Kennedy was examined and released from the Kentucky Speedway infield care center after the wreck.
The catch fence sustained enough damage that NASCAR called the race five laps from the scheduled 150-lap finish. NBCSN’s Dave Burns reported Friday that track officials said about 50-75 feet of fencing was damaged. Repairs took more than three hours but track officials said they could have done it quicker if needed.
Dillon was one of the first persons to greet Kennedy when he left the care center, offering words of encouragement and concern.
“That’s crazy, two in one week,” Dillon said, according to a report by USA Today.
The wreck occurred on Lap 145, heading into Turn 1.
Kennedy was jockeying for position with David Gilliland and John Wes Townley. After making contact with Gilliland’s truck, Kennedy’s truck bounced into Townley’s truck, went up and slammed head-on into the outside retaining wall.
Kennedy’s truck rode atop the wall and SAFER barrier for several hundred feet, cutting open a part of the catch fence, damaging two support poles and almost flipped before landing back on the racing surface.
Track general manager Mark Simendinger told USA Today that no debris went through the catch fence, nor were any fans injured (unlike at Daytona, where 13 were struck by debris).
“I was just coming down the front straightaway and I heard ‘clear’ (from his spotter) and I guess the 92 (Gilliland) had a run on the outside,” a visibly shaken Kennedy said to Fox Sports 1 after leaving the care center. “As soon as I heard ‘clear,’ I wanted to get a good arc into the corner, so I started heading up towards the wall and got hit in the right rear and I guess the rest is really history.
“I got up on top of the wall for awhile, and you really don’t know what to expect being up there. And then falling down from the wall to the ground was also a pretty hard hit, as well.”
Because it would take a considerable amount of time to repair the catch fence – one NASCAR official estimated 90 minutes to two hours – and with Friday’s Xfinity Series race and Saturday’s Sprint Cup race still to be held, NASCAR officials ended the race five laps early and awarded the win to Matt Crafton.
“The fence performed exactly the way it’s designed to perform,” Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said after the race. “We’ve got experts on standby who are over there repairing it as we speak. It should be good as new in a matter of hours.”
Kennedy finished 16th.
“Thank the good Lord for keeping me safe and everything NASCAR does to keep these trucks safe,” Kennedy said. “If I had a wreck this bad years ago, I don’t know if I would have gotten out of my truck on my own power like that.”