Homestead: Season finale preview

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News And Notes -- Homestead * Bizarre Phoenix Race Clouds Championship Picture * Three Points Smallest National Series Margin Since 1979 * Kevin Harvick Inc. Scores Unprecedented "Triple" Benson, Hornaday Share...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News And Notes -- Homestead

* Bizarre Phoenix Race Clouds Championship Picture
* Three Points Smallest National Series Margin Since 1979
* Kevin Harvick Inc. Scores Unprecedented "Triple"

Benson, Hornaday Share Similar Fates In Wacky Lucas Oil 150

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2008) -- This screenplay would have been rejected out of hand. But truth sometimes is stranger than fiction.

Two of NASCAR's most veteran competitors took themselves out of Friday's Lucas Oil 150 -- Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) on the race's first lap and Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) at mid-race -- adding yet another twist and turn to what's become the closest championship battle in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history.

Hornaday halved Benson's points lead -- six to three -- as the former Phoenix International Raceway winners finished 25th and 26th.

Observed Hornaday's owner and race winner Kevin Harvick (No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet), "I'm glad they both pulled a bonehead move on the same night. They both could have had opportunities to put daggers in each other."

Benson and Hornaday agreed.

"We're just trying to make it exciting. I don't know what else to say," said Benson, who appeared headed for a top-10 finish and a 50-plus point lead over Hornaday before his accident.

Pole starter Hornaday, who spun out racing Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts NOS Energy Drink Toyota) for the opening lap lead, said, "That was the stupidest thing I ever did in my life.

"Johnny and I said we are going to go fishing and whoever catches a fish first is going to win the championship because we definitely don't want to win this thing on the track."

One To Go: Finishing Ahead Of Your Rival Is Title Prescription

The task at hand for Benson and Hornaday is rather simple: beat the other guy.

Taking lap leader bonus points out of the equation, the highest finisher of the pair (unless the points are equal; a possibility with 11th through 13th positions being three point drops) will be the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion.

Hornaday, with six victories to Benson's five, holds the tie-breaker.

Lap leader points -- five for leading a lap and five additional for leading the most laps -- could alter the scenario, allowing Benson to finish behind his rival and still maintain his points lead.

"It's going to be exciting for the fans and for our teams," said Benson. "(I'm) excited but not nervous. It's been a lot of fun."

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"We had some great races at Homestead-Miami Speedway when it was a flat oval; a smaller copy, if you will, of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"One of the greatest finishes came in the very first race, when Jack Sprague slid across the grass attempting to pass Dave Rezendes on the final lap.

"Adding banking, however, has made Homestead the perfect place to end the season -- and decide the championship. There is no follow-the- leader; fans will see three-wide racing all night.

"It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday Jr. come to the checkered flag side-by-side.

"This has been a tremendous season; a dozen winners so far and the most first-time winners since 2001. I say this without reservation: we've had 14 great seasons but 2008 has seen the deepest, most competitive fields and some outstanding driving by veterans and rookies alike. Honestly, I hate to see it end.

"In another way, this week's race -- and Monday's Awards Banquet -- will be bittersweet. They mark the end of our tremendous relationship with Craftsman, the only title sponsor the series ever has had.

"We will always remember their contribution and help promoting and supporting some of the best racing in NASCAR's 60 years.

"Still, we are excited that Camping World will be coming aboard in 2009. Their commitment ensures that the series will continue to grow and excite the millions of fans who follow our tough trucks and drivers."
    Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director

Homestead-Miami Speedway was the first track of more than a mile in length to be added to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck schedule and hosted the 1996 season-opening race won by Dave Rezendes. The South Florida facility has hosted the season finale since the 2002 season with each race deciding the championship.

In The Loop:

In the championship battle between points leader Johnny Benson and second-place Ron Hornaday Jr., statistics from the last three Homestead-Miami Speedway races give an edge to... neither of them.

They are extremely close, as their identical 10.0 average Homestead finish in the last three races there would suggest.

Digging deeper, Benson holds a slight statistical advantage.

Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Benson has a Driver Rating of 113.4, an Average Running Position of 8.1, 57 Fastest Laps Run and 347 Laps in the Top 15 (85.5%) at Homestead. The Driver Rating and Fastest Laps Run totals are best on the series.

Over that span, Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 98.5, an Average Running Position of 9.0, four Fastest Laps Run and a series-high 348 Laps in the Top 15 (85.7%).

An interesting side note to this weekend could be the owners' championship. Though Benson's No. 23 Toyota and Hornaday's No. 33 Chevrolet are the clear favorites, Billy Ballew's No. 51 Toyota driven by Kyle Busch could sneak into the equation.

The No. 51 is 98 points behind the No. 23, but Busch has excellent series numbers at Homestead. He finished second there last year, and in his two Homestead races Busch has a Driver Rating of 107.8, an Average Running Position of 8.4, 15 Fastest Laps Run and 250 Laps in the Top 15 (91.9%).

Ballew was 193 points out a race ago.

Manufacturers' Battle

Chevrolet's victory last week at Phoenix was the truck maker's 10th of the 2008 season. It marked the sixth time GM's Silverado has visited Victory Lane 10 or more times.

Harvick's victory was Chevy's 12th in 18 races at the Desert Mile -- the most by a manufacturer at a single track.

Toyota, which wrapped up its third Manufacturers' Championship on Oct. 31 in Texas, can match its greater number of victories in a season -- 13 a year ago -- by winning the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Toyota has won two of the past three races in South Florida.

Ford has a single win in 2008 but is the all-time winning make at HMS. An F-150 won the track's first four races and five overall. Mark Martin was Ford's most recent winner in 2006.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series 2008 Manufacturers' Championship Standings Following Race 24 of 25 at Phoenix International Raceway:

Toyota 163
Chevrolet 151
Ford 108
Dodge 84

Kevin Harvick Makes History In Phoenix; Much Of Top 10 Yet To Be Decided

When Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag in last week's Lucas Oil 150, he put the finishing touches on a milestone not achieved in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' first 340 races.

The victory made Kevin Harvick Inc. the first organization to win three consecutive races with three different drivers.

Ryan Newman opened the streak on Oct. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ron Hornaday Jr. supplied the middle victory six days later at Texas Motor Speedway.

Several teams -- most recently Bill Davis Racing this season -- have won with three drivers. But the wins weren't consecutive.

While the spotlight shines on the championship battle, there's much left undecided heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) has the No. 3 position locked away but the next four positions -- and 10th-place -- won't be determined until the Ford 200 ends.

Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) is fourth, four points ahead of Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota). Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) is another four points back with Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar/Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) just 31 points shy of Darnell.

Terry Cook (No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota) and Chad McCumbee (No. 8 Malcolmson Construction Chevrolet) conclude their scuffle over who finishes 10th. The positions swapped at Phoenix with Cook taking a 59-point edge into the finale.

Etc. & Quotable:

What's At Stake ... Benson is gunning for his second NASCAR national series title having won the Nationwide Series championship in 1995. Only one other driver, Greg Biffle, can lay claim to both championships.

Hornaday eyes even more history. He would become the series' only four-time and back-to-back champion. Hornaday also would be NASCAR's oldest national series titleholder at 50 years four months 25 days. Ted Musgrave is the current eldest: 49 years 11 months one day when he captured the 2005 championship. Travis Kvapil (No. 09 Zaxby's Ford) is the only champion under the age of 40 in the past six seasons.

Harvick Makes It An Even Dozen ... For the sixth time in series history, there have been at least 12 different winners. With one race to go, the 2008 season won't match the record -- 14 in 1998 and 2005. There have been 10 or more winners in 11 of the series' 14 campaigns.

Age Makes A Difference But ... Veteran drivers have figuratively run the table in 2008 with only two members of the current top 10 yet to celebrate their 40th birthdays. Darnell would be the first driver age 25 or younger to secure a top-five position since Carl Edwards in 2004. A pair of 20-year-olds -- Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) and Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertsons Toyota -- could finish one-two in Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings for the first time.

No Repeat Winners At Homestead ... There have been 12 races at Homestead-Miami Speedway dating to the 1996 season opener and 12 different drivers have gone to Victory Lane. No other track has boasted such a streak although New Hampshire Motor Speedway went 11-for-11 until Hornaday ended the run in 2007. The odds are in favor of a 13th winner since only four previous winners -- Benson, Bodine, Crawford and Hornaday -- are expected to compete in this week's Ford 200.

Other Streaks On The Line ... Jack Sprague (No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota) has one more chance to extend his record of a win in 10 consecutive seasons as a fulltime NASCAR Craftsman Truck competitor. Brendan Gaughan (No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford) would like to end a streak of an opposite kind. The Ford 200 will mark his 100th start since Gaughan's last win in October 2003 at Texas Motor Speedway. Gaughan's best finish during the "drought" includes a his second-place Homestead performance in 2006.

Banner Year For Raybestos Rookies; Braun Still Leads

Scott and Donny Lia (No. 81 NationRides Chevrolet) still have a mathematical chance of overhauling Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Braun.

Sixty-one points, including bonuses, remain as the 13th freshman competition heads for its Homestead-Miami resolution.

Scott, who posted his first top-five finish at Phoenix, trails Braun by 26 points. Lia is 37 back.

Scott Speed (No. 22 Red Bull Toyota) is 46 points behind and unlikely to catch Braun but figures to crack the top 20 in overall standings, marking the first time since 2001 that four rookie candidates have been thus ranked.

Lia and Speed both scored wins in 2008; the 2001 season was the last in which multiple freshman competitors scored victories.

Braun would be Roush Fenway Racing's sixth Raybestos Rookie of the Year and youngest top freshman at 20 years one month 23 days.

Up Next: '08 Awards Banquet

Competitors barely have an opportunity to catch their breath as the 2008 season officially comes to a close on Monday, Nov. 17, with the annual Awards Banquet.

For the second year, the festivities will be held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., a few miles north of Miami.

The event marks the eighth time that South Florida has hosted the salute to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion and other award winners.

Comedian Tom Papa, a regular contributor to "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and other late night television programs, is the featured entertainment. Island Records artist Jon McLaughlin also will perform.

Fast Facts

The Race: Ford 200
The Place: Homestead-Miami Speedway

The Date: Nov. 14, 2008
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 201 miles / 134 laps
Track Layout: 1.5 Mile Oval

TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, Sirius. Listen locally on WCTH FM 100.3.

2007 Winner: Johnny Benson
2007 Pole: Jon Wood

Schedule:
Thursday: Practice, 5-6 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m.
Friday: Qualifying, 5 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Jon Wood , Matt Crafton , Scott Speed , Brendan Gaughan , Carl Edwards , Erik Darnell , Chad McCumbee , Brian Scott , Donny Lia , Jay Leno , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Bill Davis Racing