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The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hit the high banks for 'Preseason Thunder'

Series champion Matt Crafton is back to defend his championship and the Preseason Thunder test whetted his appetite for the action that awaits in 2014.
Series champion Matt Crafton is back to defend his championship and the Preseason Thunder test whetted his appetite for the action that awaits in 2014.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, six days of testing, timing, and experimentation came to a close at the historic Daytona International Speedway; an event known as Preseason Thunder. The NASCAR Camping World Trucks were the last of the major NASCAR touring series to hit the track on Monday and Tuesday, and the young guns were out in full force for the 2014 season.

Brand-new Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota trucks made their debuts on Monday at Daytona International Speedway, testing their set-ups in preparation for the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday, Feb. 21; part of Budweiser Speedweeks 2014. The broadcast of the race is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Twenty trucks recorded times during an extended test session Monday. Teams were granted an extra 45 minutes to test their trucks in the draft, as weather threatened to impact Tuesday’s track time. They made the most of that time, as a 10-truck draft finished off Monday’s action in high-speed style.

On Monday’s first day of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series testing, Turner Scott Motorsports driver Jeb Burton, son of 2002 Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton, posted the top speed of 191.144 mph in the No. 4 Chevrolet. Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway founder William H.G. “Big Bill” France, was second fastest at 190.925 followed by John Wes Townley (190.917), Matt Crafton (190.634) and Darrell Wallace (190.634).

“I'm excited,” said Burton, who is preparing for his second full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. “I think it could be an advantage for us. I feel like our guys are working really hard with this new body style in the wind tunnel and testing a lot trying to make it better. I'm really excited to be back with these guys. My team is pumped up. We're ready to go.”

The two-day test was a moment that Kennedy had been dreaming about for many years. Entering his first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driving for Turner Scott Motorsports, Kennedy is the son of ISC Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy and grandson to Bill France Jr.

“The first two laps or so I was grinning from ear to ear,” Kennedy said. “It was really awesome to do that. From always being around this racetrack and always watching races here and working here and doing pretty much everything here, I was sort of born and raised here. Being able to go around the track was something special, and being able to race here on the same weekend as the Daytona 500 is something awesome."

He was practically raised at the “World Center of Racing” and turning his first laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval put a big smile on the rookie driver’s face. Kennedy is campaigning for top rookie honors in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East since 2010.

Kennedy began his racing career on the short tracks of Central Florida. He has Pro-Truck championship titles at both Orlando Speedworld and New Smyrna Speedway, which he earned in 2009, followed by the Super Late Model championship at Orlando Speedworld in 2010.

“I’ve experienced a little bit of drafting, but not to that magnitude,” Kennedy said. “It’s a little bit different from what I expected. The side draft, and all of that different stuff, it was a unique experience.”

While he has competed at Daytona on the backstretch in last year’s UNOH Battle At The Beach, he had never turned laps on the 2.5-mile tri-oval and had never participated in any kind of drafting sessions until this week.

Series champion Matt Crafton is back to defend his championship and the Preseason Thunder test whetted his appetite for the action that awaits in 2014.

“It's just always a hope or a prayer that you could possibly get here and be able to race here, and now that I'm doing it, it's just a blessing to be able to do what I do and get paid to do what you love to do,” Crafton said. “I've got the best job in the world.”

On Tuesday, showers delayed the start of testing until early afternoon and only a handful of teams remained to participate on the second day with Johnny Sauter being the fastest at 183.921 mph. Testing earlier during Preseason Thunder were the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series.

“I think we've had a good test down here with all three series,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. “The Sprint Cup Series session was a nice long day but it nonetheless was a good test; the Nationwide Series had obviously the best overall test in terms of timing and cooperation from the weather; and it looks like everybody with the Camping World Truck Series came down prepared, which is good to see.”

Next up at the “World Center of Racing” will be the Rolex 24 At Daytona Weekend on Jan. 22-26. Stay tuned to this column for in-depth coverage of next weekend's action, including interviews with drivers, team owners, and more!

Tickets for all of the Speedweeks 2014 events are now available online, at the speedway ticket office, or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter,Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for the latest news all season long. Fans can also follow the latest on DAYTONA Rising, the $400 million frontstretch renovation at the “World Center of Racing” by using #DAYTONARising on Twitter.

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