Travis Benjamin, of Belfast, Maine, made only his second NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race of 2003 on Saturday night, but it was his best race yet when he broke into the top ten for the first time. He finished eighth in a...
Travis Benjamin, of Belfast, Maine, made only his second NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race of 2003 on Saturday night, but it was his best race yet when he broke into the top ten for the first time. He finished eighth in a race where he qualified seventh and ran in the top ten for the entire 150-lap distance.
Benjamin, driving the No. 93 Irving Oil/Mainway Ford Taurus, impressed many during practice sessions for Saturday's Irving Oil 150 at the third-mile Beech Ridge Motor Speedway when he recorded the second fastest time in the second session. He backed that up in qualifying, where, as the first car out, he set a time that would wind up being the seventh best.
"To qualify where we did was awesome," he said. "This engine is a real good engine, and that's probably the biggest difference between last year and this year. At this track you don't need a lot of power, but with a better engine it makes it easier to set the car up."
Benjamin also acknowledged receiving support from Joey McCarthy's J.T. Mase MotorSports team, as well as his own Benjamin Motorsports crew.
Benjamin moved up to sixth in the race's opening laps, then settled back into seventh. Despite having to face pressure from series champion Andy Santerre and race-winner McCarthy, he held his ground as the top ten drivers worked lapped traffic during a long green-flag run that ended with thirty laps to go.
Under the lap 121 yellow, Benjamin joined five other lead-lap cars on pit road for fresh right tires, but he had to come in a second time because a lugnut was missing when the tire change was first completed. This put him thirteenth on the field with time running out. He worked his way to tenth when a late caution forced the race to go long, ending with a green-white-checker finish. In those final two laps, he picked up two more positions to finish eighth.
"I went over the whole car three times just to make sure everything was right," he said after the race. "It paid off, all day long we were quick. Second in the second practice, then going out to qualify first and time trialing seventh. In the race, I was trying to just stay someplace where I wasn't going to get wrecked. I gave myself plenty of room, and it worked out awesome tonight."
Having the time to make sure the car was right before even leaving the shop proved to be a key ingredient to Benjamin's success. He's now laying the groundwork for running more Busch North races, and performances like Saturday's will make that return more successful.
"You really need two or three people working full-time on the cars," he said. "And you have to have the money to get the engines where they needed to be. Hopefully this is a good thing, to take a step back and regroup. Maybe this will get things going for next year, where we can get a sponsor, and we can go back Busch North racing full-time."
Benjamin will return to Busch North next month when the series returns to the one-mile New Hampshire International Speedway, running a 125-lap event on Saturday, September 13th.