*Benson Looks For Homecoming To Continue Standings Rebound *Hornaday's Texas Victory Shakes Up Points Yet Again *Michigan Competitors Made Impact On Series From Race No. 1 Benson Has Momentum On His Side In Return To Home Track DAYTONA BEACH,...
*Benson Looks For Homecoming To Continue Standings Rebound
*Hornaday's Texas Victory Shakes Up Points Yet Again
*Michigan Competitors Made Impact On Series From Race No. 1
Benson Has Momentum On His Side In Return To Home Track
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 9, 2008) -- Grand Rapids, Mich., native Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) rides a wave of momentum following his third-place finish in Friday's Sam's Town 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The past five races have produced a steady climb up the point chart from ninth to third.
Saturday's Cool City Customs 200 may be the spark that carries the 44-year-old Benson to the No. 1 position in the standings.
Benson got his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at Michigan International Speedway in 2006. He finished ninth last year -- his third top-10 performance in four visits to the two-mile superspeedway.
"We are slowly moving up in the points and hopefully that will continue this weekend," said Benson. "We started the season out strong and then got into a string of bad luck, but it looks like this Tundra is back on track now."
Benson started the season with a pair of third-place finishes but slowly has been digging out of the hole created by a 30th in Atlanta and a 25th at Martinsville.
Historically speaking, Benson should be a solid favorite this week. Michigan has a pair of repeat winners. And, Benson is the only driver to get his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck win at MIS.
"I love going home to race at Michigan. It's always fun to race in front of my family and friends," he said. "Plus, MIS is just a great track to run on anyway."
Hornaday Wins In Texas; Point Lead Changes Fourth Straight Time
Have a good race, the elevator goes up.
Have a bad one and it's definitely a trip to the bargain basement.
And so it goes with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2008.
Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) won Friday's Sam's Town 400 in his 11th try and finally checked off Texas Motor Speedway from his "to-do" list.
Hornaday now has won on all but one of the schedule's 1.5-mile speedways and can finish the job in September at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was an express ride down for Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel Ford), who found the Lone Star state anything but hospitable.
Crawford, the point leader going in, fell all the way to sixth following a finish of 21st.
The race marked the fourth consecutive time the point lead has changed.
Kevin Harvick Inc., Ballew Motorsports Top Owners' Points
With more than a third of the season complete, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series owners' championship standings continue to shift.
A week ago, Tom Mitchell's No. 14 team held the top spot. Mitchell's time in front, like that of his driver Rick Crawford, was short-lived.
Kevin Harvick Inc. and Billy Ballew Motorsports bypassed both Mitchell and the No. 88 ThorSport Racing team to rank one-two entering week 10 of the 2008 season.
Their lead, however, hardly is comfortable.
DeLana Harvick, with Hornaday in the seat, is 34 points ahead of Ballew's multiple driver effort spearheaded by Busch, with Rhonda Thorson's Menards Chevrolet, driven by Matt Crafton, 45 out.
Just 71 points separate KHI and Mitchell, who slipped all the way to seventh after Crawford's potential top-five performance was doomed by an accident caused by a cut tire.
KHI (first and sixth) and Bill Davis Racing (fourth and eighth) are the only teams boasting two trucks in the current top 10.
Michigan Had Immediate Impact on Craftsman Trucks
It didn't take long for drivers from the state of Michigan to make an impact on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- even though Michigan International Speedway didn't become part of the schedule until 1999.
Two competitors -- Butch Miller (No. 0 ASI Limited Chevrolet) and Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) -- were in the field for the Feb. 5, 1995 series debut at Phoenix International Raceway.
Sprague finished sixth in an unsponsored Chevrolet with Miller's Jim Herrick-owned Ford seventh.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Later in the year, Miller edged Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) at Colorado National Speedway. His only series victory -- confirmed by rerunning CBS' videotape -- remains closest in series history at .001 seconds.
"My first question," said Miller, a partner in SS Green Light Racing, "was, 'did I win?'"
Sprague, meanwhile, caught the eye of Rick Hendrick, who put him in a Budweiser-backed Chevrolet after the driver's original owner folded his operation.
Sprague, of course, has gone on to win three championships and 28 races. He returns to his home track this week fifth in points.
"It would mean so much for me to win at Michigan International Speedway," said Sprague. "I think it would bring things full circle; winning here locally when I first started and now being able to win at one of the highest levels of NASCAR competition would be pretty cool."
Etc. And Quotable
Case Of Dejà Vu -- Sort Of ... Texas fans got what they came for as Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee/NOS Toyota) charged from the rear to challenge Hornaday in Texas Motor Speedway's fifth consecutive green-white-checker finish. It reversed March's order in Atlanta where Busch prevailed over Hornaday in a similar shoot-out. "We finished second for Billy Ballew and that's what matters most," said Busch before jetting back to Pocono Raceway.
First-Time Winner Hex Continues ... Scott Speed (No. 22 Red Bull Toyota) became the third first-time winner to finish outside the top 10 in his next start. Speed, who flew from Pocono with Busch, was involved in a pair of accidents and finished 26th. Lowe's winner Crafton was 12th at Mansfield while Mansfield victor Donny Lia (No. 71 NationRide.com/Zurich Chevrolet) ranked 17th at Dover.
Texas And The Long And Short Of It ... It took Ted Musgrave (No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota) 14 attempts to finally get a win at Texas Motor Speedway -- most by any driver at a series track. Hornaday's 11 starts ranks No. 3 behind Musgrave and Sprague, who picked up a victory at Martinsville Speedway in his 13th attempt. Yet, drivers Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), Kenny Irwin Jr. and Clint Bowyer won at TMS in their first appearances. So it goes.
No Defense This Week ... Defending winner Travis Kvapil, who also won in 2004, won't be in the field at Michigan. Bobby East will drive the No. 09 Zaxby's Ford following an eighth-place finish in Texas. Previous winners Benson, Brendan Gaughan (No. 10 International MAXXFORCE Diesel Ford) and Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Dodge) will compete.
Marks Breaks Pole Drought
Justin Marks (No. 9 Construct Corps Toyota) won the Keystone Light Pole at Texas Motor Speedway with a fast lap of 176.951 mph to become the first Raybestos candidate to grab the No. 1 spot since Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) at Nashville in 2006.
Marks wound up 14th in the Sam's Town 400 to rank second to Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) after nine rounds of competition.
Marc Mitchell (No. 15 Hyprene Ergon Inc. Toyota) led all rookies in Texas with a 12th-place effort, the best of his short NASCAR Craftsman Truck career. He is scheduled to parachute with the U.S. Army "Golden Knight" team on Tuesday.
Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertsons Chevrolet) was 13th -- his best performance since taking ninth in the season opener in Daytona Beach.
The series returns to another track that's been on the schedule each year since 1995 -- The Milwaukee Mile. There have been 13 races and two multiple winners.
Ted Musgrave won in 2001 and 2004. Johnny Benson goes for three wins in a row on Friday, June 20. Eight previous winners are expected to compete.
In The Loop:
Could one race relegate Rick Crawford to "afterthought" status?
Crawford, the points leader going into last Friday's race at Texas Motor Speedway, suffered a 21st-place finish at Texas and dropped like a stone in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings.
Now, Crawford's mired in sixth, 71 points behind leader Ron Hornaday Jr.
But all is not lost.
Crawford's strong at Michigan. He's finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races -- all sixth-place finishes -- and overall has five top-10 finishes in eight career races at the two-mile track.
Over those last three top-10 finishes, Crawford has an average Driver Rating of 99.2, an Average Running Position of 10.4, nine Fastest Laps Run, 158 Green Flag Passes, and had a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 80.8 percent.
Also watch for hometown favorite Johnny Benson. Benson finds his name near the top of a number of statistical categories.
Thanks to a win in 2006 and a ninth-place finish last season, Benson earned an average Michigan Driver Rating of 93.2, an Average Running Position of 11.8, 10 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 70.5 percent.
And, as usual, Kyle Busch should be a factor. Busch, again pulling triple duty, finished second in both of his trips to Michigan (2005 and 2007).
He has a Driver Rating of 119.5, an Average Running Position of 6.0 and 22 Fastest Laps Run -- all of which are best among those competing in this weekend's race.
Director's Take: Wayne's Words
"No one is going to mistake Brooklyn, Mich., for Daytona Beach, Fla. -- after all, they're about 900 miles apart -- but in 2004, when we had a record 18 lead changes, a couple of crew chiefs came over after the race and said they looked up and could have sworn there must have been palm trees growing in the infield.
"Michigan International Speedway is Daytona North as far as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is concerned. It's fast, wide and offers great drafting opportunities, just like the speedway in Florida.
"The 18-degree banking allows drivers to try different lines and not just hug the bottom groove. A fast exit from Turn 2 launches a truck down a more than 2,000-foot backstretch where the slingshot definitely comes into the picture.
"We've frequently seen three and even four-wide packs come out of Turn 4. The start-finish line camera is a definite must to be sure the right leader is called at the stripe.
"A rookie driver never has won at Michigan but the track is wide enough to give the first-time drivers the opportunity to get up to speed. A small mistake isn't as critical here as it might be someplace else." -- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director.
Michigan Rewind: Gaughan Sets Record
Brendan Gaughan was red-hot in 2003, winning six times including the Cool City Customs 200 at a record average speed of 154.004 mph.
The battle that day was between Gaughan and veteran Robert Pressley, who'd won the race the previous year.
"I was on the high side; he was on the bottom," said Gaughan. "The tough thing was to know if you were clear or unclear.
"I said I'd follow him and not block him into the wall. We charged our way through the field."
After a final, green flag stop, Gaughan emerged with a 12-second lead and ultimately the victory.
Gaughan is winless in 85 starts and hopes this is the week it ends.
"We'll get back to Victory Lane and we'll cherish it all the more having gone through a lot of bad spots," he said.
The Race: Cool City Customs 200
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: June 14, 2008
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 200 miles / 100 laps
Track Layout: 2-mile speedway TV: SPEED, 2:30 p.m. ET
2007 Winner: Travis Kvapil
2007 Pole: Travis Kvapil
Friday: Practice, 10:15--11:25 a.m. and 1:30-3 p.m.; Saturday: Qualifying, 10:35 a.m.