Martinsville: Benson, Waltrip - NASCAR spotlight

* Benson wants to end series victory drought in Kroger 250 * DW says 'so long' to racing career at Martinsville Speedway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 5, 2005) -- Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Tundra Toyota) owns a niche in NASCAR Craftsman Truck...

* Benson wants to end series victory drought in Kroger 250

* DW says 'so long' to racing career at Martinsville Speedway

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 5, 2005) -- Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Tundra Toyota) owns a niche in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history he'd just as soon relinquish.

Benson is the only active competitor to participate in the series' Feb. 5, 1995 inaugural event who has yet to win a race.

Not that the 41-year-old Michigan native hasn't come close.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series veteran and television analyst has finished second three times, most recently last October at Texas Motor Speedway. And several factors suggest this week's Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway could be Benson's personal drought breaker.

Three competitors -- 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion and current point leader Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge), Jamie McMurray and Scott Riggs -- posted their first career victories at the .526-mile track, and recent short-track racing has produced a flurry of different winners -- 11 in a row since August 2003.

Finally, Benson has thousands of laps of experience at Martinsville in all three of NASCAR's national series. His best performance came in 2002 when he finished second to Kurt Busch in the track's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Old Dominion 500.

Benson was 11th in last fall's Kroger 200. He finished third when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series made its debut at the southern Virginia track in 1995.

"We are moving ahead with the program," said Benson, who joined Bill Davis Racing last July as teammate to Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) and Bill Lester (No. 22 Toyota Tundra Toyota). "We are real close. Maybe in Martinsville -- but you will have to wait and see."

A Toyota truck has yet to win a short-track race, but Benson believes it's only a matter of time.

"We have been on the right track and have had some great runs," he said, adding that winning a series short-track race regardless of manufacturer requires a near perfect meld of driving talent, strategy and team preparation. "With the more competitive teams get it gets harder and harder to pass. It is really hard to get from the back to the front which means you can't make any mistakes."

***

For Darrell Waltrip (No. 11 Toyota Tundra Toyota), life without time behind the wheel of a race vehicle would be no life at all.

So even though Waltrip's making his final race appearance in Saturday's Kroger 250, he'll continue to be involved in his two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams -- meaning his two drivers will be getting hands-on advice from their owner.

"I'm not going to race competitively again," said Waltrip. "It's like going to Martinsville a few weeks ago and testing with David (Reutimann, No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota) and Robert (Huffman, No. 12 Toyota Tundra Toyota) and my truck. I still want to do that. It's not that I'm not ever going to get in a car or truck again. I'll probably hop in there every now and then just for fun."

Fun is the word Waltrip has used to describe his occasional appearances in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since retiring from the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2000.

"Ever since then, everything I've done is for fun," he said. "It would be no different if you were a professional baseball player or a golfer and you still like to play the game. I still like to play the game."

Waltrip is the winner of 84 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races including 11 at Martinsville Speedway. He has two seventh-place truck finishes at Martinsville since moving to the NASCAR on FOX television booth. Rich Bickle won the 1997 Kroger 250 in a Darrell Waltrip Motorsports-owned truck.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rich Bickle , Bobby Hamilton , Darrell Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Bill Lester