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Benson wins first NASCAR Truck crown with Toyota

NASCAR Truck Series
Saturday, November 15, 2008


Johnny Benson and his No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Toyota team celebrate winning the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
Johnny Benson’s seventh-place finish driving the No. 23 Bill Davis Racing (BDR) Tundra at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Friday evening’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race clinched the truck driver’s championship for the Grand Rapids, Michigan veteran.

In one of the closest championship battles in series history, Benson edged Ron Hornaday, Jr., by seven points to capture his second-career NASCAR championship -- he won the Busch Series (now Nationwide) title in 1995.  By winning titles 13 years apart, Benson breaks a NASCAR record for the most years between national series championships, eclipsing the mark established by Terry Labonte, who won Cup series titles in 1984 and 1996.

It marks the second NCTS championship for Toyota this season and third overall NASCAR title in 2008.  In late October at Texas Motor Speedway, Toyota clinched the NCTS manufacturer’s championship and captured the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) manufacturer’s title at Kansas Speedway in September.  In addition, it marks the sixth NASCAR championship for Toyota since joining the upper levels of competition in 2004.  Previously, Toyota won the NCTS manufacturer’s championship in 2006 and 2007, and Todd Bodine captured the NCTS driver’s crown in 2006.

“Words can’t describe this,” said Benson, following the race.  “I was kind of crying down the backstretch, it’s fairly emotional, obviously.  Trip (Bruce, crew chief) told me early on that if we weren’t the fastest, we’ll definitely do what we have to do to be the smartest.  It was only fun at the end of tonight’s race -- it wasn’t fun at the beginning or the middle.  I knew Trip (Bruce) was going to make some pretty gutsy calls, and that’s what we had to do.  Ron (Hornaday, Jr.) had a great truck tonight but we just ended up beating them on a little bit of strategy work.” 

Benson solidified himself as a serious title contender with a mid-season stretch that saw the 45-year-old win four of five races -- including Milwaukee (June 20), Kentucky (July 19), Indianapolis (July 25) and Nashville (Aug. 9). 

The BDR driver added his fifth victory of the year at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 18). A modest start to the season saw Benson sit fifth in the championship point standings following the eighth race of the campaign at Dover, Del.  However, a third-place finish in Texas (June 6) was the beginning of a 17-race stretch to end the season where Benson posted 11 top- five results.

“I have to thank my wife, Debbie, and both my kids,” added Benson.  “They’ve been at every race I’ve won at this year, and I have to really thank Bill and Gail Davis (team owners) -- this is for them. 

They’ve given me a great opportunity to come and do this.  I’m glad that we could get that title for them.  It means more to me to get that for them because they’ve done so much for me.” Along with his five victories in 2008, Benson had 18 top-10 finishes in 25 races and recorded three pole positions -- at Mansfield (Ohio), Milwaukee and Memphis. Benson’s championship comes in his fourth full season driving a Tundra for Bill Davis Racing in NCTS competition. 

In 113 career NCTS starts behind the wheel of a Toyota, Benson has amassed 14 wins, 72 top-10 finishes and has led 1,195 laps.  Benson finished second in the 2006 NCTS championship chase to Bodine, and was third behind Hornaday and BDR teammate Mike Skinner in 2007. “We are extremely proud of Johnny Benson and everyone at Bill Davis Racing for what they accomplished this year,” said Lee White, president and general manager of TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development). 

“Johnny performed at an exceptional level this season and was able to finally win the championship after being in the running for a title the last three years.  We’re extremely happy for Bill and Gail Davis, who have poured their hearts into NASCAR over the years, and have finally gotten the championship they both deserve.  We also need to recognize everyone at TRD and Triad for all their hard work and dedication this season and throughout the years.”

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