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Ken Finishes Eleventh In Taylor Racing Products Pro Truck 50 At Orlando Speedworld
The unpredictable Florida weather cancelled Ken's mid-week practice session forcing him to rely on only one pre-race practice on race night as he headed into the thrid race of the season. The Taylor Racing Products Pro Truck 50 was the feature event of the evening and turned out to be a true test of skill and stamina for this young, enthusiastic driver!
As soon as the school bell rang that afternoon Ken wasted no time in getting home so the team could leave for the track. After signing in and parking they immediately pulled out the #17 Chevy Pro Truck and hit the race track for a 12 lap practice.
The previous race had yielded more information which allowed for a few slight adjustments during the two week break between races. The practice session was crucial in order to assess how the changes had affected performance. Ken felt confident with the results.
As a novice, race officials have the option of running him in a separate "novice" division or allowing him to race with the regular Pro Truck class. Once again Ken was given the green light to race with the upper division for this event. Only two Novice drivers had registered, however Ken would be the only novice to make the race as the other novice driver experienced engine issues in practice which prevented him from racing.
After changing tires, a few final tweaks, and a driver's meeting Ken, along with a field of 15 other Pro Trucks, headed out for qualifying. Regardless of how he qualified, as a Novice Ken would start in the rear, so his attempt was simply to gain qualifying experience. He qualified 11th out of 15 - turning a lap time of 15.524 - very respectable for his first qualifying effort and for having so little seat time in the Pro Truck.
Ken missed most of the pre-race on-track autograph session due to radio issues, however joined the field just in time to say a quick hello to some fans before the spectators were asked to return to the grandstands.
A few minutes later the field of 15 Pro Trucks heard the most famous words in racing, "Gentleman, start your engines!" and they quickly lined up for the green flag.
On the start Ken was held up on the front stretch by two other trucks which were lagging behind as they took the green. This allowed the pack to immediately pull away. Ken was determined not to let this disadvantage hinder his race and on lap two made his first pass as he drove by #57! He wasted no time chasing down and passing #63 six laps later and then pulled away.
With the lead pack stretched out ahead of him he set his sights on #2. However, coming out of turn 2 around lap fourteen Ken lost control and spun when his left side tires barely crossed onto the apron causing his truck to step out and the caution flag to fly.
Ken restarted in the rear and immediately passed #57 within one lap, then #63 on the second lap, and once again was working on chasing down #2. On lap 20 the #63 pulled off the track just as trouble unfolded on the front stretch with a couple of trucks getting together and spinning. While the caution was out it appeared #00 was given a black flag and promptly exited the track.
On the restart Ken was positioned in the rear. He knew he had to make a move. As the green dropped he passed #2 and #57, then another caution came out for the #24 who had spun in turn 2. Following the spin #24 left the track. This time Ken restarted in 10th position!
Issues with Ken's radios continued throughout the race posing another challenge for him. With limited contact with his spotter he was left to rely on his years of racing experience and judgment.
During this long green flag run, Ken traded positions with the #121 a few times, and battled the #2, eventually both trucks overtaking the #17 machine. Lap 36 saw another caution as the #1 spun on the back stretch. During the yellow the #24 and #00 trucks rejoined the field after making lengthy visits to the pits.
In the final laps Ken would watch as the trucks ahead sliced and diced for position while he fought lap traffic with no chance of catching the leaders. He spun coming out of turn 4 on the last lap, a combination of his left side tires going too low on the track onto the apron and exhaustion caused by the sweltering heat inside his truck, but he managed to turn it around and take the checkered flag bringing the #17 machine home in 11th position!
It was a solid performance for this 12 year old talent in only his third race in the Pro Truck. "He demonstrated a lot of promise tonight," said Ken's dad, "I was amazed at how well he handled himself."
"Actually," said Ken, "I was somewhat disappointed in my performance. I would've liked to have at least finished in the top 10 - but I'll get'em next time! Overall though it was a good night!"