CHINA GROVE, N.C. (June 26, 2011) – After three Green/White/Checkered finishes, seven laps of overtime and a finish so wild even NASCAR needed time to figure out whom won – Alex Kennedy is shown in 21st place after Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America.
However, the 19-year old driver from Aztec, N.M. was running ahead of that in his No. 23 St. Baldrick’s/Media Master Dodge on the four-plus mile, 14-turn layout throughout much of the day. After a sway bar arm came loose during qualifying, Kennedy had to sacrifice his 19th-place qualifying effort after repairs were made for the race.
NASCAR rules mandate any work done to the car after qualifying will be sent to the rear for unapproved changes. So, when the green flag waved, Kennedy did what he does best when racing – he started moving to the front.
Just two laps in is all it took Kennedy to race from the back of the pack to 30th place. By lap three, crew chief Walter Giles called Kennedy in for a fuel only stop to start the pre-planned pit strategy. This would set-up the No. 23 Dodge right where it was needed for future stops.
After the first caution waved on lap six, the call to stay out moved him up to 22nd for the lap-nine restart. Pitting on lap 18 for fuel, tires and no adjustments had Kennedy poised perfectly when the caution waved again on lap 22.
Having already received new Goodyear tires, and filling up with fuel, earlier kept him from hitting pit road like many cars in front of him on the scoring pylon. So, when the race restarted on lap 24, Kid Kennedy was lined up 12th on the grid.
He would run in the top-15 until lap 34 when he broke into the top-10 positions. From there, it was up to sixth on lap 35 before pitting on lap 37 for fuel, tires and air pressure adjustment to help him in the middle of the turns.
Returning to action in 21st place, he would race back into the top-20 just two laps later and by lap 39 through 45 he was turning his fastest laps of the race. This was being done despite a declining loss of electrical power because of a broken lead alternator cable; which forced him to turn off all fans, his AC and switch between the two ignitions to keep going.
With five laps remaining, Kennedy and the No. 23 St. Baldrick’s/Media Master Dodge were in 18th place. A caution on lap 46 allowed him a trip to pit road where the R3 Motorsports crew leapt into action and quickly changed out batteries.
This cost them five spots, but they were still on the lead lap, when the race restarted on lap 49.
A big wreck occurred as the field dove into Turn 1 moving Kennedy up to 17th place and brought out the caution on lap 50, which was the scheduled distance of the race. The green/white/checker rule was put into place lining him up 17th for the for the lap-52 restart.
It was on this restart where the fate of the race changed for the No. 23 Dodge team.
As cars dove into the turns, several went spinning off the racing surface and others were shoved around as drivers jockeyed for position. Kennedy got caught up in that ruckus and was forced off the racing surface, through a large gravel pit backwards coming to rest right at the edge.
Stuck there, he had to wait for a push from the tow truck – despite the efforts of four corner workers who tried to physically assist him out – before getting back on the racing surface.
The car was not damaged, but he went a lap down and was dropped to 24th in the running order. The third, and final, GWC took place on lap 56 and more cars went spinning off the track, into the walls and gravel pits.
On lap 56, the caution waved again and Kennedy was left with an undeserving 21st-place finish. This was after NASCAR took several minutes to decide who actually won the race, and who finished where, because of the last-lap mayhem.
Kennedy returns to action for R3 Motorsports at Watkins Glen and Montreal in August.
Alex Kennedy Quotes:“I am just very frustrated our finish on paper is nowhere near what this car and team had going on at Road America. We raced our way from the back to the top-15 then top-10 out there. We were solidly running in the top-15 and had ourselves set up to be a top-10 contender.
“The crew did a great job all day and were awesome when it came time to switch batteries on that one stop. But, like most of these road races, we got caught up in some guys trying to get good finishes at the end by being aggressive and I got pushed off in the gravel.
“If I could have gotten out of there before the field came by, we would have stayed on the lead lap and come out of here with a better finish. But, I know one thing for sure. When we get to Watkins Glen, we’re going to be ready for a much better finish than what we showed today.”