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Daytona Beach, Fla. -- Ben Kennedy is headed to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. But Ben Kennedy Racing isn't going anywhere.
The 21-year-old rising star and great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. announced Thursday the team is staying in its shop in Daytona Beach and will field a team in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
At Thursday's press conference, the team also announced they have tapped 22-year-old Kenzie Ruston to drive the No. 96 Ben Kennedy Racing Chevrolet fulltime in 2014.
"Getting an opportunity in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Turner Scott Motorsports was due in large part to the time and hard work the team at Ben Kennedy Racing put in over the last two years," said Kennedy. "To be able to maintain the team here in Daytona and put another talented young driver in the seat is a really cool deal."
Ruston, like Kennedy, was a member of the NASCAR Next program last year. The industry initiative, in its third year, is designed to spotlight the sport's rising stars. The pool of talent that has been identified by the program includes Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott and Dylan Kwasniewski.
As a rookie in 2013, Ruston finished sixth in the points standings in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. The El Reno, Okla., native had four top fives, including a third-place finish at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway in April.
Her points standing and her run at Greenville were both records as the highest finishes for a female in series history.
"Jumping into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East last year was a great experience and I really learned a lot in my first year," said Ruston. "Having competed against Ben and his team, I've seen firsthand the dedication and level of excellence they bring to the track.
"I saw how they were really able to help Ben grow in the series from one year to the next, and get him prepared for the national series. I'm really looking forward to getting into that car in New Smyrna and Daytona in February."
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season kicks off Sunday, Feb. 16 at New Smyrna Speedway. Two days later, the series will compete on the 0.4-mile oval on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway in the UNOH Battle At The Beach.
The series also makes another in-state visit Friday, June 13 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola. Kennedy won that race last year.
Kennedy, a senior at the University of Florida, drove three full seasons in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and progressed from 13th to ninth to fourth in the points. He picked up his first two series wins last year, first at Five Flags and then another at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. He started five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in 2013, including a fourth-place finish in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Ben Kennedy and Kenzie Ruston at Thursday's announcement that Ruston will pilot the No. 96 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2014. NASCAR