Benson’s Toyota spoils Ford’s parade
Johnny Benson driving a Toyota won the Ford 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race with a last-lap pass on a green-white-checkered-flag restart that sent the event four laps beyond its posted distance; in the process, Ron Hornaday Jr. won his third series championship when the anticipated shootout between Hornaday and points leader Mike Skinner failed to materialize.
Johnny Benson celebrates
Skinner entered the race with a 29-point lead but exited the season finale 54 points behind Hornaday. Johnson will take the green flag in Sunday's Ford 400 Nextel Cup race with an 86-point lead over teammate Jeff Gordon.
Benson passed runner-up Kyle Busch on the final lap at the 1.5-mile track after Chris Jones' spin on Lap 133 brought out the fourth and final caution of the race. Benson crossed the finish line .60 seconds ahead of Busch, with Rick Crawford finishing third, Kevin Harvick (Hornaday's truck owner) fourth and Jason Leffler fifth.
But the expected fireworks between Skinner and Hornaday never happened.
The sparks flew, all right, but not from an intense battle between the two championship leaders. The sparks were a product of contact between the left rear hub of Skinner's truck and the asphalt, after his star-crossed Tundra jettisoned its left rear wheel on Lap 75, and with it, Skinner's dreams of a championship in Toyota's 100th race in the series.
Hornaday secured the championship, his third in the series, in the absence of a pitched battle with his rival. The driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet soldiered to a seventh-place finish, the last truck on the lead lap.
"I hate to see it for Mike, but only one of us could win it," Hornaday said.
The title race took a drastic turn on Lap 25, when Skinner slowed from the lead off Turn 4, believing his right front tire was losing air. Skinner brought the No. 5 truck to pit road on Lap 26, where his crew changed right-side tires, but Skinner lost a lap in the process.
That was just the beginning of Skinner's troubles. On Lap 74 he slowed again, this time with a vibration that preceded his left rear wheel falling off as he rolled through Turns 3 and 4 a lap later. With two wheel studs having been broken during the mishap, the No. 5 crew was unable to tighten the lug nuts to secure a new tire.
Skinner brought his Toyota to the garage where the crew changed the left rear hub, but the repairs cost the points leader another 10 laps and any hopes of winning the championship he might have had.
Benson's Toyota leads
"We changed right-side tires, but that didn't fix it," Skinner said. "Eventually the hub just came apart."
Benson finished third in the point standings followed by 2006 champion Todd Bodine and Crawford. Travis Kvapil, who held third at the start of the race, fell to sixth after finishing 21st.