#50 Learnframe Pontiac driver Johnny Benson saved his best for last on Saturday in the Pontiac Wide Track Grand Prix 200 at California Speedway.
Benson's lap of 40.844 seconds on lap 103 enabled the 5-year Winston Cup veteran to remain in front of a battling Ken Schrader and Brandon Gaughan earning Benson the victory in the first NASCAR Winston West Race of his career.
Ironically, Schrader was driving a car sold to him by Tyler Jet Motorsports.
"Man that was a lot of fun," said Benson who had traded the lead with Schrader and Gaughan throughout what was supposed to be 100-lap race. But a late yellow invoked the Winston West rule that calls for all races to end under green.
So with two laps remaining, Benson took the green ahead of Gaughan and never let up. Gaughan and Schrader battled to the finish where Schrader edged the youngster for second place.
"I didn't know that we would set fast lap on the final lap, but I was pushing pretty good," Benson said. "I almost wish we could race this car on Sunday in the Winston Cup race, but I hope that car will be even better than this one."
Team Owner Tim Beverley, Crew Chief James Ince, Learnframe sponsor representatives, and the Tyler Jet Motorsports crew celebrated the victory into the evening hours in Fontana. The team had tested the Winston West car two weeks ago. A Winston West car is very similar to a Winston Cup car with the exception of a few minor engine requirements and spoiler requirements.
"We hope what we learn today will translate into our Winston Cup effort," Benson said. "But winning just breeds winning and we hope this will continue."
More Benson Reaction:
"It was a blast. It was fun. We knew we had a pretty good race car. We hung out for a little bit and had some fun. Then at the end the '16' (Brendan Gaughan) was running pretty good and I was doing everything I could to get around him. That added to the fun. Those guys ran extremely well today. I think they ended up third. They probably had a car good enough to win, too. They were pretty good there. It took me awhile to run up on him. I knew I had some experience on him and I forced the issue a little bit. I tried to get him to get his tires hot, and I think that is what ended up happening at the end. But he ran a great race and those guys should be real happy with the way they ran.
"All-in-all I think most of the guys did a terrific job. There were about four or five cars that were pretty dang fast. Obviously we have a little more experience than they have, and that definitely helps. We didn't beat them on horsepower today. I can tell you we were off a little bit. But the car was extremely good through the corners, and that's basically what we wanted to know for tomorrow.
"I figured that's where I was going to get beat was on the restart because, like I said, we were down just a little bit. The engine was like three years old and just been sitting in the shop, and we just threw it in the car. I hated to see that last one (caution). We were just fortunate enough that Kenny (Schrader) got along side Brendan. When he got along side him that helped me out tremendously. I knew those guys would get 'whoaed up' just a little bit. If I beat him to turn one I figured I was in pretty good shape. We managed to get there first."
(ON KEN SCHRADER RUNNING A CAR PURCHASED FROM HIS TEAM) "Kenny bought one of the cars from our shop, so it's kind of cool for our guys to have the cars that they've worked on finish one and two."
(ON TIRE STRATEGY FOR TOMORROW'S WINSTON CUP RACE) "We saw in the Busch race that two tires is good on the short run and four tires are good on the long run. We saw that a little bit today. We took on two tires, tried that the first time and it was OK. But in the long runs it was a little 'slidey.' Then we put on four for the last (run) and I was perfectly fine. I think you'll see a little bit of gambling with everything tomorrow. But traditionally this race runs 'long green,' so you're going to see four tire stops."