Benson wins at Bristol after leaders crash
Johnny Benson was in the right place at the right time Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway to take advantage of contact between Travis Kvapil and Nextel Cup Series interloper Kyle Busch to score his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win of the season.
Benson, who pitted for tires on Lap 104 of the O’Reilly 200 and restarted 17th, quickly knifed his way through the field using the inside and the outside grooves on his way back to the top five. He was riding in third and closing in on the leaders when they made contact on Lap 179 of the 200-lap race.
Kvapil had the dominant truck in the middle stages of the race, but Busch was coming on strong as the laps clicked off. He moved inside Kvapil going into Turn 1, and the truck jumped loose, sliding into Kvapil and sending them both into a synchronized spin. Benson slipped through unscathed and led the final 20 laps to ring up his seventh career NCTS victory.
“I was confident we could get to the front because we had 40-lap fresher tires,” Benson said about his crew chief Trip Bruce’s call to pit in the middle of the race. “I knew we had a great truck even before we pitted. We just knew that on the new surface the tires would give up just a little bit.”
Wednesday night’s race was the first NASCAR race at Bristol since it was repaved after the Cup race in March.
Benson had a front-row seat to the unfolding demise of the leaders.
“I think when Travis and Kyle got together it was just hard racing,” Benson said. “If they hit door to door, they would have just slid up the track and we would have gone on past and they finish second and third. But they ended up spinning. When that happened, it just made it a little easier.”
Benson held off newlywed Brendan Gaughan, who scored his best finish of the season in second. Gaughan made a run at the lead on the final restart with six laps remaining but then was forced to drive defensively to hold on to the spot.
“I wanted to win this race bad,” Gaughan said. “I really like Johnny, but if I got to him, I can’t guarantee that he wasn’t going to go around. But he got away from us, and I did all I could to move down and block like heck to keep Mark Martin behind us.”
Martin finished third, with points leader Mike Skinner and Rick Crawford rounding out the top five.
Ron Hornaday finished sixth, followed by Mike Bliss, Jack Sprague, Cale Gale and Danny O’Quinn Jr. Kvapil ended up 11th and Busch 15th.
Skinner leads Hornaday by 92 points going into the next series event at Gateway International Raceway on Sept. 1.