* Father's Day is more than just a Hallmark holiday for these competitors DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 12, 2006) -- Father's Day is doubly special for many NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors. Without racing fathers, nearly half the...
* Father's Day is more than just a Hallmark holiday for these competitors
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 12, 2006) -- Father's Day is doubly special for many NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors.
Without racing fathers, nearly half the starting field in Saturday's Con-way Freight 200 might be doing something other than competing in NASCAR.
At least 15 competitors TAKING the green flag at Michigan International Speedway have fathers who drove race cars.
Some of those fathers have left the driver's seat; others continue to compete -- often against their sons.
In any case, all HAVE had a major influence on their sons' careers.
Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota), who grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. not far from MIS, was seven when he began working in his father Johnny Benson Sr.'s race shop.
The elder Benson won seven championships at Berlin (Mich.) Speedway and more than 200 races. He currently owns a race equipment business.
"I was welding and working with tools while other kids were playing in the neighborhood," said Benson, fourth in NASCAR Craftsman Truck point standings entering the season's 10th race. "The biggest thing was helping build the cars and going through all the different parts and pieces.
"Going to the track was a bonus. I got to see how all the different things we worked on at the shop applied at the race track."
David Reutimann (No. 17 Team Tundra Toyota) and Kraig Kinser (No. 46 Centrix Auto Finance Chevrolet) grew up idolizing their fathers -- then racing against them.
Both still do on occasion.
Reutimann, the 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, recalls his first race against father Emil "Buzzie" Reutimann, one of the nation's top modified and late model drivers. He was 16 when the pair rolled out of the pits and onto the dirt-surfaced East Bay Raceway near Tampa, Fla.
The elder Reutimann got tangled up with another car early in the race, cut a tire and returned five laps behind -- but just ahead of his son. Like a long-haul trucker in the "rocking chair," the teenager glued his car to his father's bumper and together the pair slashed through the field.
"He was making me look like a hero when he was actually doing all the work," said Reutimann.
That is, until trouble surfaced.
"I was so excited that I was racing with my dad up until what happened next," said Reutimann. "With 10 laps to go I overdrove the corner and spun him out and cut his tire down. After spinning him out, someone else drove down there and hit him.
"I finished ahead of him but it wasn't legit."
Kinser not only raced with his father but beat the legendary Steve Kinser, the 20-time World of Outlaws champion, in sprint car racing's equivalent to the Daytona 500 -- the Knoxville Nationals. Between father and his racing grandfather, Bob Kinser, the now 21-year-old received what amounted to racing's version of a Harvard doctorate.
"He started my passion for racing without even knowing it. He let me decide what I was going to do by myself," said Kinser of his famous dad. "He never pushed me but he gave me a good foot in the door. He is probably the single most important person involved in my career.
"I listen to everything he says and he gives me advice all the time."
The Kinser clan -- grandfather, father, uncle, Randy Kinser and now Kraig -- pretty much epitomize racing as a family sport. All pitched in toward a common goal.
"We slowly and surely blossomed from there," said Kinser.