Benson breaks through for victory at home track. MARNE, MI -- NASCAR Winston Cup driver Johnny Benson returned to his home track Wednesday night and put on a great show, breaking through for his first feature win in the two years he has been a...
Benson breaks through for victory at home track.
MARNE, MI -- NASCAR Winston Cup driver Johnny Benson returned to his home track Wednesday night and put on a great show, breaking through for his first feature win in the two years he has been a part-owner of Berlin Raceway and his first win driving the red and white #10 Berger Chevrolet Late Model car he built himself. Benson hopes to build on this victory with another one on Sunday when he competes at Michigan International Speedway, where he has a history of running strong.
Benson's Winston Cup teammate, Kenny Schrader, also competed in the Chet Mysliwiec Memorial 100, a 100-lap Coors Light Late Model race in memory of the man who founded Berlin Raceway and ran it for 50 years. Schrader, who also raced in last year's Mysliwiec Memorial, finished third in the feature after winning one of two 50-lap qualifying races driving the #1 Randy Sweet car.
In the first 50-lap qualifying race, Schrader took the lead early and ran away with the race, while the real race was for second place between #47 Fred Campbell and #82 Tom Thomas. Campbell came home second, followed by Thomas, #22 Brian Campbell and #11 Leroy Magoon. In the second qualifying race, Benson started ninth but moved up to sixth by the half-way point. #12 Tim DeVos put on a strong showing to win the race, followed by rookie #79 Jake Meyerink, #101 Joe Bush, #88 Tim Yonker and Benson rounding out the top five.
In the 100-lap feature, #8 Phil Bozell and #15 Brian Maxim crashed on the backstretch before a lap was completed, forcing a complete restart. On the official start, Benson, starting on the outside front row, took the lead on the first lap, but DeVos took over on lap 3. Benson reclaimed the lead on lap 7 and would remain in front for most of the night. Meanwhile Schrader, who started in 10th, moved up to sixth position by lap 16. A quick caution lap on 17 for a flat right front tire in the #88 car of Tim Sweeney was followed by a long green flag run, during which Benson built up a comfortable lead over DeVos. Schrader moved up to third place and challenged DeVos for second on lap 40, racing side-by-side on lap 42 before taking the second position on lap 43 but losing it back to DeVos at the half-way point. #11 John Grega, who was forced to use a provisional to get into the 28-car starting field, had charged up to the 12th position by the halfway point.
While Benson was running away with the race with a straightaway lead two-thirds of the way through, the real race was between DeVos and Schrader, who changed positions several times. Caution came out on lap 69 for debris in turn 3, then on the restart DeVos stayed with Benson and put the pressure on him for the lead. Benson, DeVos and Schrader broke away from the rest of the field, leading fourth place Fred Campbell by almost half a lap. DeVos passed Benson for the lead on lap 86, but Benson took it back for the final time on lap 88. The caution flag came out for the final time on lap 89 as #16 Jack Gritter brushed the outside wall on the frontstretch and came down underneath #94 Greg Usher, whose car climbed onto Gritter's and almost turned on its side before slamming down into the infield mud.
On the lap 89 restart, Benson's car was a solid mile and half per hour faster than the others, allowing him to pull away from the field. Again the battle was between DeVos and Schrader for second place. Benson crossed the finish line for the victory by a 1.371 second margin over DeVos, while Schrader finished third, Yonker fourth and Fred Campbell fifth. Tom Thomas finished sixth, and Grega completed his impressive run in seventh place.
The MTA Sportsman division also ran a non-points race Wednesday night, with #24 Lee VanDyk capturing his fourth victory of the season.
The Mysliwiec Memorial race also served as a fundraiser for the Berlin 4-H program, contributing $5,000 to the organization.
Benson and Schrader now hope to continue their success Sunday at M.I.S., while Berlin Raceway will be back in action Saturday night, August 17, with a weekly show of Coors Light Late Model, Engine Pro Super Stock and MTA Sportsman divisions. Tickets are $11 in advance and $12 at the gate for general admission and $25 for pit passes. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m. Benson will return to Berlin Raceway one final time this season on September 10 for the Chris Bradley Memorial 100.