Benson Spins and Wins at Phoenix International Raceway
Benson’s chances of winning the 2006 Craftsman Truck Series
are mighty slim with just one race to go but he refuses to go
down without a fight and he proved it with a victory at Phoenix
International Raceway. Benson served notice to the competition
during qualifying when he shattered the track record with a
132.660 mph lap around the one-mile oval in the Arizona desert.
With teammate Mike Skinner lined up to his outside, the first
lap of the race should have been relatively uneventful. It was
anything but for the pole winner.
As Benson and Skinner battled side-by-side through Turn 4, Benson’s
Toyota broke loose and around he went. Skinner took the lead
while Benson hit pit road and fell to the back of the pack.
Mark Martin dominated the middle stages of the event and bagged
the bonus points for leading the most laps but while Martin
was leading the way, Benson was mounting a comeback.
28 laps to go, Benson set Martin up on the backstretch and regained
the lead for good as he went on to score his fifth victory of
the season. The bad news for Benson was a fourth place finish
by Todd Bodine. That meant that Benson moved just 25 points
closer to Bodine and left a 112-point deficit with just one
race to go. “I thought maybe we could maybe get to the
top five again,” said Benson about his mindset following
the spin on Lap 1. “That was my fault just being stupid.
I drove it down in there and it was real loose in Turns 1 and
2 and I thought I was going to still be okay as good as it’s
been. I lost it. These guys on this crew are unbelievable. I
know we don’t have a shot for the championship but this
is a championship caliber team for sure.”
Martin’s runner-up finish was his eighth top-two finish
in 13 starts for the Cup Series regular this season. “Johnny
Benson earned that one,” Martin admitted. “He showed
everybody he was fast in qualifying by smoking everyone. He
came from the back of the pack and he passed us. Our strong
suit was long greens. We got him in the first part of the race
but we didn’t get him at the end.”
Skinner led 34 laps and held on to finish third. “We had
a good start,” said Skinner. “I talked to Johnny
and told him we’re trying to hang on to tenth in points,
so I needed to lead a lap if I could. I gave him a lot of room
but his truck must have just got loose. I don’t think
we ever touched or anything.”
Bodine’s 112-point lead means that he has to finish just
28th or better in next weekend’s finale at Homestead Miami
Speedway to claim his first Craftsman Truck Series Championship.
But Bodine wants more. “We’re going to go to Homestead
and we’re going to win that race,” said Bodine with
complete confidence. “We kicked butt last year and I’m
looking forward to going down there.”