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BENSON CRUISES TO THIRD STRAIGHT MILWAUKEE WIN
June 21st 2008 - By:  Mark W. Theisen

     WEST ALLIS, WISCONSIN June 20, 2008:     Johnny Benson continued his torrid streak in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series by capturing tonight’s Camping World RV Sales 200 at the Milwaukee Mile edging Matt Crafton for his first win of 2008 but his third straight win at the legendary Wisconsin speed plant.

     Benson, who finished second to Erik Darnell in a photo finish at Michigan International Speedway last week, emerged from his final pit stop ahead of Darnell and then had to wait through a rain delay and a red flag for lightning in the area that forced speedway management to evacuate the grandstands as a precautionary measure before leading the final 53 laps to post the win 2.530 seconds of Crafton.

     Benson gave early indication of the strength of his Toyota Certified Used Vehicles truck by posting the top qualifying speed of 121.082 miles-per-hour to as 36 trucks qualified for the 14th truck series race at Milwaukee.

    Benson led fellow front row starter Rick Crawford to the green flag but it was Crawford who was ahead at the end of the first lap and led for the initial 3 laps before Benson took control of the race and was ahead for the first caution of the race when Michael Annett spun in the fourth turn.

     Benson then set sail with Crawford falling off with each passing lap.  Mike Skinner, Colin Braun, Ron Hornaday Jr., Jack Sprague and Brendan Gaughan were the trucks in the group behind as Benson continued to stretch his lead with each passing lap.

     By the 35th lap he was lapping trucks and the intense traffic allowed Crawford and Braun to make up some of the lost distance only to loose the advantage gained back when Benson was in clean air.

     With over 55 laps of green flag racing recorded teams began to plan for their first pit stop and those stops began on lap 70 with Crafton beginning the stops with Benson continuing to lead until the caution flag appeared for the second time on lap 79 when Paul Poulter ran out of fuel coming through the fourth turn and stalled at the entrance to pit road.

    Darnell was in the pits at the time the caution fell but the yellow allowed Benson, Todd Bodine, David Starr and Marc Mitchell to pit under the yellow and they emerged from the stops in that order with Braun, Crafton, Crawford, Skinner, Hornaday, Shelby Howard, Gaughan and Landon Cassill ahead of them on the track but nearly a lap down to the leader, who was Darnell after all was said and down.

     Those trucks running just ahead of the lead tandem of six trucks got the break they needed on lap 96 when the yellow was thrown over the field for the third time for debris on the track.  They were then allowed to go around to the end of the field and enter the pits with the lead groups of truck who elected to make their second stop of the race at this point in the contest.

     Only Mitchell elected not to pit and he was no match for the trucks on new tires and his lead lasted only one lap into green flag racing when Darnell passed him for the lead just as a nine car mix up was occurring at the tightly bunched field completed just that first lap.

     Sprague, while trying to make a three wide pass for position, was nudged by Gaughan triggering an accident that swept up Skinner, Braun, Starr, Brian Scott, Ted Musgrave, Hornaday and Donny Lia.

     Hornaday and Skinner escaped with the least amount of damage but the rest saw their chances at a good finish ended with extensive damage to their trucks.

     Darnell paced the field through the caution and for 10 laps of green flag racing before Crawford was able to run him down and retake the lead in the race on lap 117.   Crawford then led for the next 30 laps before Crafton was able to run him down and take the lead for the first time in the race on lap 147, just as light rain began falling over the speedway bringing out the caution and setting up decision time for the crew chiefs.

     Heavy rain was in the area with thunder and lightning seen and heard, so the choice was to stay out and gamble or because the threat was a short one, would they pit and gamble on a restart.

     The entire field made their stops with Benson’s team lead by crew chief Trip Bruce getting their driver out first ahead of Crafton, Cassill, Darnell and Bodine.

     Crawford was the big looser as he was caught for speeding off pit road and was delegated to the rear of the longest line for the restart.

     The red flag came out on lap 150 when a real threat of lightning was in the area and the metal grandstands
needed to be evacuated as a precautionary measure.

      In 25:44 minutes the threat passed with the lightning dissipated and the heaving rain missing the track by just a few miles allowing for a restart of the trucks and resumption of the race.

     On the restart Crafton made one attempt to pass Benson but that effort failed and Benson roared to his win as the top five finished the race just as they came off pit road on that final stop.

     Crawford restated 18th and all the way back to 8th at the finish to prove that he did have a truck capable of winning had it not been for the penalty.,

     “This is way too cool,” said a beaming Benson in victory lane continuing a hot streak that started two weeks ago with a third place finish and a second last week to take the series point lead.   “To win three in a row anywhere is special but to do it at Milwaukee, with all its heritage and tradition is just so special.”

     “My second set of tires put us off a bit,” Benson continued.  “It made my truck a little tight but that last set was the ticket as I was able to do just about anything with the truck and place it anywhere on the track and be fast.  You get a set up like that so infrequently that you have to take advantage of it when you have it.”

     “I was just tight at the end of the race,” said Crafton, “and could not keep up with the 23 (Benson).  He was fast and deserved the win.  He is on a hot streak now.”

     Crafton was in a new truck for his team that had seen only two previous races so with the newness of the truck he was happy with the results and was looking forward to the rest of the season with his team that already has one victory this season.

     Rookie Cassill, in only his fifth series start, recorded his first top five finish of his brief career and just his second top ten after starting 23rd.  Cassill, who also drives for Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Nationwide Series team and Jr. Motorsports, was excited.  “To be able to do this is just awesome,” said Cassill.  “I am happy our team is working well together and our hard work is really showing.”

     “I don’t know exactly what happened at the end,” said Darnell.  “We just didn’t keep up with the track as well as we needed to and we were tight at the end after being real good in the middle.  After winning last week this is a disappointment even though it was a fourth place finish and we continue to move up in the point standings.”

     Benson built his series point lead to 50 over Bodine with his 10th series win in 111 series starts.

     Annett, Hornaday, Crawford, Terry Cook and Skinner rounded out the top 10 as track management announced a crowd of 25,000 for the event.

*EOS