Johnny Benson earned the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) driver's championship with his seventh-place finish in tonight's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Benson captured the title by seven points over second-place Ron Hornaday, Jr.
Todd Bodine earned the 13th win of the 2008 season for Toyota with his victory in Friday night's NCTS race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In addition to Bodine (first), other Tundra drivers finishing in the top-five at Homestead included rookie Brian Scott (second) and Kyle Busch (fifth).
Other Toyota drivers in the field included Terry Cook (ninth), Scott Speed (10th), Timothy Peters (15th), James Buescher (19th), Jack Sprague (20th), Tayler Malsam (21st), David Starr (22nd), Mike Skinner (26th), Max Papis (27th) and Chrissy Wallace (31st).
This afternoon, Skinner earned the 60th pole position for a Toyota in the NCTS since the Tundra joined the series at the beginning of the 2004 season. The pole was also the 11th for Toyota in 2008.
TODD BODINE, No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota Tundra, Germain Racing
Did you expect to win this race tonight? "We had a terrible truck -- we really did. The guys pit stops got us a lot of positions -- awesome pit stops and then Jr. (Mike Hillman, Jr., crew chief) made the right calls. The first stop we made a big swing at it. The second stop we made a little swing and the third stop we didn't change anything and it worked. I really feel bad for Ron (Hornaday, Jr.) because he had the truck to beat and not winning the championship. It's great for Toyota and Johnny Benson and Trip (Bruce, crew chief) because they've been close a lot of times, and it's about time they got one. I'm proud of Brian Scott because he did a hell of a job racing."
What does it mean to bookend your season with wins at Daytona and Homestead? "That's a great way to bookend the year -- this Lumber Liquidators Tundra was a terrible race truck. It was not handling well at all. They got us a lot of spots on pit road and that made a lot of difference. Guys I didn't have to race to pass. (Mike Hillman) Jr. (crew chief) took a lot of swings at the set-up and air pressure and wedge and track bar. He did a great job and thought it through and made the truck the best it could possibly be and it still wasn't great, but it was good enough to hold Brian (Scott) off and I am awfully happy for him because he is an awesome driver and he's got a great future. Great win for Toyota in victory lane and another championship for Johnny (Benson) and Trip (Bruce, crew chief) and Toyota. They are long overdue -- so I'm happy for them."
What are your thoughts on how the championship unfolded? "I don't want to comment on it because I'm shocked -- I'm really shocked at it. Ron (Hornaday, Jr.) and those guys did a great job all year long. They always had the truck to beat and it's a shame to come up short like that, but that's racing. That's Craftsman Truck Series racing and we're glad that Craftsman has been around for 13 years, but now it's Camping World Racing and we're looking forward to next year and racing for the championship."
How big is winning the season finale leading into next year? "Well, it's always big to win, first of all. That's what we go every week for. But it's nice to -- for the guys to walk around the shop in the wintertime with their chests bowed out. Every week the winner is a winner for a week, and the next week there's another winner, and the next week there's another winner. Now you get a week off and that guy gets it for two weeks. Well, guess what, we get it for two months, three months, whatever it is. And it's important for the team. It's important for morale. Our guys, like I said earlier, we don't ever give up. That's our motto. For our guys in that shop, this just proves it right here. Tonight is a great example of what Germain Racing is about. We should not have won this race. We did not have the best truck by any means. But the guys knew that their pit stops were going to count and make my job easier. I'd say probably between the three stops they picked up 12 spots or 15 spots. I mean, that's pretty incredible. They know that. They know that they were a part of putting me in the position to do what I can do, and it's a team effort, and we go through the winter and we'll have our chests bowed out and we'll go to the Christmas party and we'll have fun and talk about our last win and how good it's going to be to go to Daytona and win another one."
How exciting has this week been for you? "It was a pretty awesome week to get engaged to a great girl -- I'm very lucky -- and to come out of here with a win that we never thought we were going to get when that race started. Jr. (Mike Hillman, Jr., crew chief) just told me to race for a top- 10 and at the end it was to race for a top-five and we never gave up."
BRIAN SCOTT, No. 16 Albertsons Toyota Tundra, Xpress Motorsports
How was your race tonight? "It was an exciting race there at the end. We had a good truck all night. At the beginning of the race we were a lot better just on long runs. It seemed like we needed 20 laps just to get going. We just had great communication among the whole team in the pits -- they did awesome pit stops. They gained us positions and worked on the truck and it just got better. After the first stop -- we came in after 10 laps and then there on the last stop we started off good right away and stayed good the whole time and just had a great truck. I wish I could have got Todd (Bodine) there at the end, but it was just a good night."
How aware were you of Johnny Benson's position when you were side-by-side with him? "I was very aware of him and it was pretty hair-raising because I was pretty loose and hanging on a lot. I knew I was going to spin myself out before I was going to spin him out. That's just good, close racing and that's what the Craftsman Truck Series is all about -- run hard no matter who you're running against and don't wreck them."
JOHNNY BENSON, No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Tundra, Bill Davis Racing
How does it feel to win the championship? "Words can't describe this. I was kind of crying down the backstretch, but hopefully I'm over it. Just when Wayne (Auton, NCTS series director) came over the radio to say congratulations, that's way cool. It's fairly emotional, obviously. These guys are the ones. Trip (Bruce, crew chief) told me early on, if we weren't the fastest, we'll definitely do what we have to do to be the smartest. Ron (Hornaday) and Rick Ren (crew chief) did a great job all season long. My wife kept telling me that I only had to win by one. She kept saying, God already has a plan, it's all set, and it's going to be what it's going to be.' That was my approach going into the race. If Ron didn't come in, I was going to try tires. I didn't think it was going to work. I was just really bad at the end. I thought we lost it. I have to thank Exide Batteries for being on board this weekend, Toyota Certified Used Vehicles -- those people have done such a great job."
What does this championship mean to you? "I have to thank my wife, Debbie, and both my kids. They've been at every race I've won at this year, so that's cool. I have to really thank Bill and Gail Davis (team owners) -- this is for them. They've given me a great opportunity, along with Toyota, to come and do this. It was just awesome. I'm glad that we could get that for them. It means more to me to get that for them. They've done so much for me."
How much fun is this moment? "It was only fun at the end. It wasn't fun at the beginning or the middle. I knew Trip (Bruce, crew chief) was going to make some pretty gutsy calls, and that's what we had to do. I knew that Ron (Hornaday) had a great truck tonight. We just ended up beating them on a little bit of strategy work. It was great. Hopefully the fans saw a great race. I really wish we could've won, but on the same token, we were only here for one thing tonight -- and that was to be the champion. These guys deserve it. Bill and Gail Davis, they deserve it more than anybody on this race team. They have put their hearts and souls into racing for many, many years, and this is awesome that we were able to do this for them. They gave me a great opportunity to come do this. We talked about how we wanted to go win a championship, and I'm glad we were able to do that for them."
Did you ever second-guess the calls made by your crew chief Trip Bruce? "I never second-guess Trip Bruce (crew chief), ever. He knows what he's doing. He can see the full picture of what's going on, and I can't. I can only see and feel what I'm sitting in the truck. I tell him what I feel and what I need. He makes the adjustments necessary to do what it does. If those guys, I thought about coming in and putting tires on, but the minute I came in, I knew I had to stay out. I really thought I lost it when the 09 went by us coming out of turn four. Our tires were junk. I have to thank Goodyear, they brought a good tire, and they've had a good tire all year long."
Can you express your feelings? "I can't put it into words. Not only to have my family here, but these guys are all my friends. All these guys behind me that work on this thing are great friends. It's unbelievable. It will sink in maybe about two or three o'clock tonight. It's emotional, for sure. It's not a long time coming, but we worked very hard to try to make this happen, and I'm so proud of these guys and so proud of Bill and Gail Davis."
TERRY COOK, No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota Tundra, HT Motorsports
How strong was your race truck tonight? "We lost the handle on it over the last 30 laps, but I can't say enough about the effort my guys gave me here tonight. We got up and fought in the top-five and I really thought we had something for the leaders. The truck got tight on the second set of tires and we made an adjustment and it went to way loose going into the corners. If we had some more laps, it would have tightened up enough to be competitive with the leaders again."
What does it mean for you to finish 10th in the points this season? "We finished in the top-10 in the race and in the points -- that's huge for this team. We had a lot of fun these last five races and it rejuvenated me and the team. We got Team ASE a top-10 in their final race too and that's very important. They've been huge supporters of this series since day one and we want to thank them for everything they've done for us over the years. I also want to say thank you to Jim and Shirley Harris for letting me drive this truck the last five weeks and their efforts to keep me in the top-10 in points -- it means a lot to me."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota Tundra, Billy Ballew Motorsports
SCOTT SPEED, No. 22 Red Bull Toyota Tundra, Bill Davis Racing
TIMOTHY PETERS, No. 17 Toyota Tundra, Premier Racing
JAMES BUESCHER, No. 15 Hyprene-Ergon Toyota Tundra, Billy Ballew Motorsports
JACK SPRAGUE, No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota Tundra, Wyler Racing
TAYLER MALSAM, No. 52 Stocks for Tots Toyota Tundra, Bill Davis Racing
DAVID STARR, No. 11 Zachry Toyota Tundra, Red Horse Racing
MIKE SKINNER, No. 5 Toyota Tundra, Bill Davis Racing
MAX PAPIS, No. 07 GEICO Toyota Tundra, Germain Racing
CHRISSY WALLACE, No. 9 Toyota Tundra, Germain Racing
-credit: toyota motorsports