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Johnny is the man!
Johnny Benson navigating turn one at ORP in Indianapolis. Photo by Steve Burzynski, Bronco's Pitstop
Johnny Benson navigating turn one at ORP in Indianapolis. Photo by Steve Burzynski, Bronco's Pitstop

By:  Mark W. Theisen

     CLERMONT, INDIANA July 25, 2008:     Johnny Benson bided his time, looked for the right opening and when he saw it dove under Ron Hornaday Jr., who had lead a race high 153 laps prior to that and then waited through a race record number of caution flags to win tonight’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Power Stroke Diesel 200 at O’Reilly Raceway Park for his second straight series win to solidify his point lead in the series.
Benson, who won for the third time this season, also became the 10th different winner at O’Reilly in the last ten Truck Series races at the tight and tricky .0686 mile track to join a list of prestigious winners at the track including Hornaday, Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague who each have won two races of the 13 contested since the inception of the series at the O’Reilly.

Bobby East, the United States Auto Club open wheel standout, who had won last night’s Silver Crown series feature race here at ORP put Jack Roush’s Zaxby’s Ford on the pole with an average speed of 108.602 to show that could get around his “home” track in any race vehicle led the first 4 laps of the race using the high groove around the track.
His reluctance to surrender that top racing line led to Hornaday getting around him on the fourth lap and once in front the defending series champion began to distance himself from East and Sprague who moved in on East as the early laps wore on.
The first 40 laps saw uninterrupted racing with Sprague moving in and overtaking East on lap 13th while Benson, who had started 8th, was working towards the front moving in on East on lap 29 and taking that spot from him on lap 30 with Shelby Howard, Erik Darnell and Dennis Setzer in the mix as well.
T.J. Bell began the caution parade on lap 40 with spin in turn three.  With a 115 lap window on tires and fuel at ORP the top 15 trucks remained on the track during this yellow with the balance of the trucks on the lead lap pitting setting up a strategy race for them hoping the out-of-sequence stops will play to their advantage later in the race.
As has become his trademark in racing Hornaday was able to pull ahead of his fellow competitors on the restart as Sprague looked high and low for a way around his Kevin Harvick Racing teammate.
When the second yellow flag appeared on lap 86 for a spin by Brian Scott in turn four Hornaday had lapped all but the top 20 trucks including former series champions Skinner and Ted Musgrave.
With the top running teams now in their “pit window” they made what would ultimately be their only pit stop during the race at this juncture.
Benson’s Bill Davis Racing Toyota team turned him out of the pits ahead of Hornaday followed by Darnell, Todd Bodine, East, Sprague and Landon Cassill, who was driving for the new Randy Moss Motorsports racing team this week.
It took only corner of the restart for Hornaday to reclaim the top spot over Benson but this time it was evident that Benson’s stop made his truck much better than his rivals and as the track bar adjustment made to his truck made him better than his rivals in the middle of the turn and now it was just a matter of looking for the right spot to make his move to retake the lead.
The race turned bleak for East on lap 123 when be brought out the fourth caution of the race after tangling with the lapped truck of Stacy Compton on the front straight and hitting the all causing considerable damage to his Ford that would take a lap in the pits to repair sufficiently enough to return to the race.
Three more quick cautions on laps 128, 136 and 154 followed and with each restart Hornaday as able to hold off the charges on Benson but on lap 162 Benson’s repeated efforts to pass on the inside paid off.  He stayed with Hornaday on the inside the entire lap and was ahead at the conclusion of lap 162 and that became significant when caution number 8 came out on lap 163 for another spin by Scott along the backstretch.
Now with Benson in front he became the prey for Hornaday’s restart prowess and he would have to fend off those challenges three more times in the final 32 laps to go on to his series leading 3rd victory of the season.

The restarts took their toll on several of the front runners late in the race.  Sprague, Bodine and Terry Cook, all running in the top 10 during the later stages of the race were swept up in an accident on lap 188.  Michael Annett, a Davis Racing teammate of Benson, had moved up steadily during the race only to make a move to pass a slowing Rick Crawford on lap 197 and lost control of his truck dropping him to 21st after being 4th with two laps to go.
Crawford, who moved his Ford truck into the top five during the last twenty laps of the race, saw that all go for naught when he lost a cylinder on that 197th lap and finished 12th after winning this race just two years ago.
At the finish it was Benson .0484 seconds ahead of Hornaday with Darnell, Matt Crafton and Howard rounding the top five.  “Ron (Hornaday) pretty much dominated the race tonight,” said Benson in victory circle at ORP, “but we got the trophy!”
“Actually, I have to give credit to my team for this win,” continued Benson.  “We were not as good as Ron early but after the pit stop I was just right.  The adjustments they made to the track bar made me able to run pretty much were I wanted to and I just waited for Ron to burn off his tires running the high groove and when I saw an opening I went for it and made the pass.”
Hornaday was not happy to lose but gave credit where credit was due.  “He (Benson) was just better than I was in the middle of the corner those last laps and he raced me and passed me clean,” said Hornaday.  “He deserved to win, he’s been tough of late and we just have to get our truck better in order to compete with him.
Darnell, whose truck was fading in the waning laps, was the beneficiary of the late race attrition to finish third.  “We had a tire equalizing and had to back off,” said Darnell.  “We needed to finish and were able to get back up their when several trucks fell out.  We needed this finish to help us in the points so we’ll take it and move on.”
Crafton, who entered the race one point behind Benson in the series point standings, had his hands full with an ill handling truck in the early laps of the race and was in danger of going a lap down when the second caution allowed him to make a pit stop to try and correct his truck.  With each subsequent stop and the late race accidents Crafton found him in the top five at the end and still in the point’s battle.
“We kept fighting it all race long and here we are talking to you guys, (the press interviews that follow the race to the top five)” said Crafton.  “It was tough early but we preserved and can move forward from this.”
Benson now takes a 15 point lead over Hornaday to the next race in Nashville with Crafton 31 markers behind the leader.
A nice crowd estimated at 30,000 saw the race won from a truck starting out of the top five for the first time in the 13 previous running’s of the event as the uniqueness of the track makes for difficulty passing but Benson was up to the challenge tonight and may have showed his rivals a new way to get things done at ORP.