JOHNNY BENSON Taking a Top Toyota to Texas MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 1, 2010) -- Kyle Busch Motorsports driver-owner Kyle Busch knew exactly who he was going to call. With the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra vacant for...
Taking a Top Toyota to Texas
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 1, 2010) -- Kyle Busch Motorsports driver-owner Kyle Busch knew exactly who he was going to call.
With the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra vacant for Friday's WinStar World Casino 400k NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Busch immediately put in a call to 2008 Truck Series champion Johnny Benson.
Benson wasted little time saying yes and will pilot the No. 18 Toyota Tundra in search of his 15th career Camping World Truck Series victory.
KBM driver Brian Ickler was originally scheduled to drive at Texas, but due to his success at KBM (two top-five finishes in just two starts in 2010), he was offered a partial schedule in the Nationwide Series with Roush Fenway Racing, including this weekend's race at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway.
While Ickler will still drive some Truck Series races for KBM, Benson was the natural fill-in at Texas.
The 46-year-old Grand Rapids, Mich., native has 14 career Truck Series victories and, in addition to his 2008 series championship, he also won the 1995 Nationwide Series title.
Benson has proven to be successful at Texas, having scored six top-five finishes in 10 starts at the 1.5-mile oval. He also scored two top-five finishes in eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts in the Lone Star State.
No stranger to Toyota, all 14 of Benson's Truck Series triumphs, as well as his 2008 championship, came with the highly successful manufacturer.
Friday night, he'll look to play a part in the drive for an owner's championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports. With Busch's victory two weeks ago at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, the No. 18 Toyota extended its points lead in the owner's championship to 49 over the No. 30 truck of Germain Racing.
Johnny Benson, Driver, No. 18 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Overall thoughts heading to Texas?
"I'm excited about it, obviously. The trucks out of Kyle's shop have been very good, and every racecar driver wants to get in equipment that is capable of winning a race. To me, it's a pretty big deal to run for Kyle. It's pretty cool for me to able to run for him."
All 14 of your NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories, and your 2008 points championship, came using Toyota Tundra trucks. Can you talk about your relationship with Toyota?
"Toyota's done a tremendous amount for my career in the Truck Series. We've won 14 races and all of them have been with Toyota. I was able to pick up a championship with them in 2008, and that was special for me, especially with all the support they give their race teams. It's something that really means a lot to me, especially given the effort they put into the program."
You have six top-five finishes in 10 Truck Series starts at Texas. What does it take to be fast there?
"Like any racetrack, you have to be able to run the bottom and you have to be able to run wide open. You just might not be able to do it all day. In the Truck Series, Texas is a momentum type of racetrack, so being able to keep your momentum up and your speed up throughout the entire race is very important. We've had a lot of great runs there. It's a track I've always run well at and it's a place I've always loved to race at. They've got some of the best fans in the world there and it's a neat place because Texas always does everything big. It's one of the highest-attended races of the year and it's always cool to race at the big events."
How tough is it to come into a situation where you haven't worked with a crew chief or a team before?
"I think, as a young guy, that's probably is a little more difficult. The one thing that's nice is Eric (Phillips, crew chief) has been around. He's won races and he's a good crew chief. So, as a driver coming in, you've got that little bit of a comfort zone knowing the team already runs well and has had success. I've been around long enough and worked with enough people that it doesn't take long to get a good line of communication going. I know what I like in the vehicle and I know the crew chief is confident enough to get it where we need it. That's a good scenario going in. Is it the best scenario? No, because when you work with people for a long time, you know what they want. But, I think it's a good scenario going into this because the truck already has had success."
Rick Ren, Director of Competition, Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Thoughts on Johnny Benson driving the No. 18 Toyota in place of Brian Ickler?
"First of all, I think this is a great opportunity for Brian Ickler. We all do. It's part of what the Truck Series is about -- the opportunity of young guys and young talent to maybe get some attention and take a shot at going to another level. It left us in a little bit of predicament because Brian was supposed to run Texas and I know he was looking forward to doing that. So, we made a phone call to our old friend Johnny Benson. He and I ran Texas together back in 2005 and 2006 and Johnny gets around Texas really well. I think he'll be a really good addition to our program."
What does he bring to the team in terms of experience?
"Johnny won a championship a few years ago and I actually finished second in points with him a few years back. Johnny is a real methodical driver who is just always creeping his way toward the front if he doesn't start up front. He's very patient and only goes when it's time to go. He's not a guy who wants to go out and lead every lap, but he has his own way of making sure he's right there at the end of the race."
You have some very important family business to attend to back in Illinois and will not be at the Texas race. Talk about that and the last time you missed a race.
"I'm going to miss the Texas race because my only daughter, Staci, is getting married up in Illinois. The last time I missed a race was Texas 2006, the fall race, when I had emergency back surgery. So, it will be Texas and Texas as the only races I've missed, but I sort of quarterbacked that one from the couch with a telephone and a guy with a radio and my car chief calling the shots at the racetrack. Benson was actually leading the race that race and lost an engine. I know everything will run smoothly, though, and I know Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and Johnny will get along great."
Kyle Busch, Owner, Kyle Busch Motorsports
You have Johnny Benson in the No. 18 Toyota this week. What is the current status with Brian Ickler?
"I brought Brian in to drive Billy Ballew's trucks last year and he did a good job. He had a couple of top-fives and a few top-10s. I really liked his feel and what he was doing, so I brought him on this year to drive my trucks. I threw him in right before Martinsville. He wasn't even supposed to race Martinsville and he did a great job, finishing third there. He ran fourth at Kansas, so he's got a better average than I do in the Truck Series (this year). He's done a really good job. What the Truck Series is, it's a grooming area for young drivers in order to bring them up through the ranks.
"Roush Fenway Racing called Ickler and asked him about what his deal was with me and if he could get out of it and try to move on into the Nationwide Series ranks. I have no reason to hold Brian Ickler back. It's all for his best interest. I feel like I've done what I needed to do to help him move on up so, hopefully, he can make a name for himself and a place for himself over there at Roush and do a good job. The remainder of this season, we're going to have to work around our schedule a little bit and Roush's schedule a little bit to see what races they want him to run. Right now, I think he's slated to run Charlotte, Nashville and Daytona. Nashville conflicts with the trucks in Texas, so we'll be putting Johnny Benson in the truck for Texas and we'll play it by ear after that. We don't know what other races Roush wants to run him in, yet."
What led you to put Johnny Benson in your truck for Texas?
"I wanted to put Johnny (Benson) in a third truck if we could ever find the money to do it. I just told Johnny, 'Look, if I ever have the opportunity, I gave my word to Brian Ickler that he's going to drive this truck and if there's ever any availability, I want you to be the first to know that you'll be in my truck.' Here's the first available time and he got the call. I think it's a great opportunity for him. I think we've got great equipment. Our trucks run really well and we're fast. Of course, it's a Toyota, so him driving Toyotas is all familiar to us. I wish him all the best and hope he wins for us."
Johnny Benson's Toyota Tundra
Chassis No. KBM-002: This truck was used by KBM driver-owner Kyle Busch in March at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he started second and finished second after leading 15 laps. Busch then drove the truck to victory in the April 2 Nashville 200 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. After starting on the pole, Busch led 131 of 150 laps en route to the first victory for KBM.