Off-week news of note 2008-08-11

* Johnny Benson Wins Three In A Row...Finally * On The Move: Erik Darnell Climbs Points * In The Loop: Two Former Champs Still Looking For Victory Lane Third Time's A Charm For Points Leader Benson DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 11, 2008) --...

* Johnny Benson Wins Three In A Row...Finally
* On The Move: Erik Darnell Climbs Points
* In The Loop: Two Former Champs Still Looking For Victory Lane

Third Time's A Charm For Points Leader Benson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 11, 2008) -- Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) earned his way into an elite group of drivers in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Saturday with his win at Nashville Superspeedway.

Benson became the fifth driver to win three races in a row joining drivers Ron Hornaday, Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet), teammate Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) and former series champions Greg Biffle and Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota).

Third time was the charm for Benson, who previously fell short in 2006 and 2007.

The series veteran's victory also marked additional firsts. The win was his fourth of the season -- each in the last five races. That hadn't happened since Biffle went on a similar hot streak en route to the title. Maybe that's an omen for Benson, who is looking for his first series championship.

Benson also became Nashville Superspeedway's first repeat winner in eight races dating to 2001.

While Benson retains his lead in the championship standings, he can't feel comfortable. He leads by only 45 points over defending champion Hornaday, the closest since 2003 when Brendan Gaughan led Travis Kvapil by seven.

History favors the Bill Davis Racing driver holding or extending his advantage when the series next competes at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 20.

Benson is the defending winner of the O'Reilly 200 as he bids to become the first to win four straight.

Erik Darnell Is Movin' On Up

With 10 races remaining in the 2008 season, Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) finds himself climbing the points ladder.

In his third season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the Roush Fenway Racing driver got off to a strong start at Daytona winning the Keystone Light Pole. But his night ended early after being caught up in an accident.

That set the tone for an up-and-down run of nine stars in which Darnell recorded only two top 10s.

Then came race 10. Darnell edged Benson in June's photo finish at Michigan International Speedway marking the closest margin of victory in series history since electronic scoring was implemented.

Since that second career victory, Darnell has posted four top-five finishes including a pair of seconds. He's also moved from 12th to sixth in points.

As the Roush camp looks for it's golden 50th victory in the series, Darnell heads to tracks where he's made strong runs.

Darnell has been solid on the short tracks with a second at Memphis and fifth at Martinsville.

Take that success, add recent momentum and chances are good Darnell could bring home his second win of the season at Bristol.

Etc. & Quotable

Wallace In The Big Apple ... Chrissy Wallace (No. 03 Germain Toyota), along with her father, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Mike Wallace, will go to the Big Apple Tuesday to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange at 4 p.m. ET. The younger Wallace made her NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut earlier this season at Martinsville. Her next race will be at Gateway International Raceway on Sept. 6.

Don't Count These Guys Out ... While the top of the field contained some usual suspects, several drivers made strong showings with solid finishes at Nashville Superspeedway. With a seventh-place finish, Stacy Compton (No. 4 Bobby Hamilton Racing VA Dodge) posted his fourth top-10. Compton started the night second, his best start of the season, and was also one of six drivers to lead laps.

Chad McCumbee (No. 8 Malcolmson Construction Chevrolet) ended his night in the top 10 after starting 20th. This finish was his fifth top-10 of the season and a welcome break from the tough luck that has plagued the team since his last top-10 appearance at Michigan.

The driver, who sits 12th in the points standings, has collected two top-five finishes as well. His best finish, second, came in May at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

The series' 2005 champion, Ted Musgrave, and his No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota, placed a solid eighth, his best finish since his sixth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway in February. The driver has four top 10s this season.

Manufacturers' Battle

Toyota maintains the lead after Nashville in the race for the Manufacturers' Championship title. The trucks head to Bristol where Ford and Toyota have alternated trips to Victory Lane over the last four races.

Rookie Standings

With a top-10 finish in the Music City, Roush Fenway Racing driver Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford) extends his lead to 16 points over Donny Lia (No. Nationrides.com Chevrolet) in the competition for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.

Braun started the race fourth and finished sixth.

In The Loop: Still Chasing A Victory

Jack Sprague has gone winless over an entire season only twice. Once was 1995, the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. The second was 2003, when he ran only two of the 25 races.

Otherwise, he's won at least one race. But in this 2008 season, Sprague has yet to visit Victory Lane.

But the statistics suggest it'll come sooner than later. Sprague has been strong this season, and compares favorably with those drivers who have won in 2008.

Sprague has a Driver Rating of 90.9 (sixth-best), an Average Running Position of 12.0 (eighth), 120 Fastest Laps Run (fifth) and has spent 71.6% of the total laps running among the top 15 (seventh).

Mike Skinner has also gone winless in 2008 and, like Sprague, ranks among the best in the series in most Loop Data statistics. Skinner has a Driver Rating of 97.1 (fourth), an Average Running Position of 9.6 (fourth), 63 Fastest Laps Run (eighth) and has a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 83.3% (second).

Both past champions have contended for a victory in 2008. Skinner leads the series in top-10 finishes with 12, while Sprague has four top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

Up Next:

The series heads east on Interstate 40 to swap paint at Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday, Aug. 20.

The Johnny Benson show could continue. The driver is the defending winner of the O'Reilly 200.

Fast Facts

The Race: O'Reilly 200
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway

The Date: August 20, 2008
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 106.6 miles / 200 laps
Track Layout: .533-Mile Oval

TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Johnny Benson
2007 Pole: Travis Kvapil

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Stacy Compton , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Brendan Gaughan , Erik Darnell , Chad McCumbee , Chrissy Wallace , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Bill Davis Racing