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Benson repeats in Milwaukee truck race
Roy Schmidt Photo 2007
Roy Schmidt Photo 2007

By: Mark W. Theisen

June 22, 2007

Johnny Benson took the lead from Mike Skinner on lap 104 of tonight’s Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200 for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and lost the lead only during a brief pit stop exchange on lap 159 to record his first win of 2007 in the series and successfully defend his 2006 win here at Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile.

36 trucks took the green flag for the 13th series race to be held at the Mile with pole sitter and season point leader, Skinner, jumping out to a lead over Todd Bodine, Jack Sprague, Benson and Travis Kvapil.

The race was only 3 laps old when rookie Wille Allen got loose in turn 4 spinning in front of Ron Hornaday Jr sending to latter into an evasive save move that would later be a determining factor in the outcome of the race.

Only three laps were needed to clear the track before the green flag appeared and it looked as though Skinner had the field covered as he sped a six second lead over Bodine, Sprague, Erik Darnell and Ted Musgrave.

That advantage was wiped out on lap 68 for debris in the fourth turn with the second caution of them race that sent all the lead lap trucks to the pits for their first stop of the race.

Skinner’s Toyota Tundra team turned him out in front of Benson, Bodine, Sprague and Darnell as the race resumed with the trucks now a lap down inside the leaders for the restart.

Only five laps could be recorded before rookie Kelly Bires, running a lap down, entered the second turn to hard and shot up hitting Ted Musgrave who was on the lead lap and attempting to pass. The contact sent both into the wall with Bires truck receiving taking a hard hit. That was compounded when a frustrated Musgrave came up and drove into the left front of Bires truck after the accident.

Musgrave was immediately disqualified from the race. “I guess the No. 21 truck (Kelly Bires), being a lap down, didn’t give us enough room,” said Musgrave, a former series champion who is the midst of a so-so season. “The lapped trucks were not giving any room. I think he came into the corner a little too hot, got up into me and hooked my left front and send us home.”
“I really don’t know what happened,” said Bires a Wisconsin driver getting his break and start in NASCAR this year in the Woods Brothers Truck. “Someone on the radio told me ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. Next thing I knew I had someone in my right or left rear, I’m not sure, and just ran over me, basically. I’m just trying to stay out of the way yet remain competitive and get the lap experience.” Bires, from Mauston, was making his seventh truck series this season.

Only two laps could be scored under green when Bill Lester stalled on the backstretch on lap 83 for the fourth caution of the race.

When lapped traffic could be cleared and all out racing resumed it was Benson on the move steadily reeling in Skinner to take the lead on lap 104 and once in front he was able to begin stretching his lead out as Skinner’s once dominant truck began to falter.

Bodine was the first to reel in Skinner taking second on lap 133 but it was Hornaday who was making the most noise. Starting 14th and dropping to 21st after his early race spin to avoid the errant truck of Allen, Hornaday with the help of quick pit stops, and able to move through the field to take second from Bodine on lap 141 but with Benson now 6.3 seconds ahead he needed some help and he got that help from the guy who put him in the hole early in the race, Willie Allen.

Allen spun by himself in the fourth turn on lap 159 to wipe out Benson’s lead. Because of the location of his pit stall, after the start-finish line, Hornaday was able to lead the 159th lap as the leaders all made their stops but it was Benson’s Toyota leading Hornaday’s Chevrolet out of the pits and set up a classic restart.

Hornaday is legend when it comes to restarts in whatever series he races in. He is known for his aggressiveness and he will come at whoever is ahead of him. In this instance Benson was ready for him and he was able to hold the lead on the restart but this time he could not put any real distance between himself and Hornaday, Bodine and Skinner.

Hornaday would get one more chance when Sprague was nudged by Mike Bliss in the second turn on lap 194 sending his truck spinning out of 5th place and brining out the yellow one final time.

Again Benson held his ground and was able to post his first win of the year ahead of Hornaday, Bodine, Skinner and Rick Crawford, who made a late race charge to finish fifth.

“This was just a great day for us,” said a jubilant Benson in victory lane. “We unloaded and practiced fast and stayed that way. The temperature change from day to night made our truck a little tight at the beginning but after the first stop we were fast and it stayed fast all night. My hat goes off to my crew they did a great job for me tonight.”

When questioned about having Hornaday behind him on the restart all Benson could do was laugh. “We all know how good he (Hornaday) is on the restarts and tonight we just stayed calm and persevered.”

“My truck was used up by the end of the race,” said a tired Hornaday. “I had to drive the wheels off of it coming back up through the field and had I had any brakes left at the end I may have taken a shot at Johnny (Benson) but he races me clean all year long and I do the same with him. I was just happy with second after the early race spin and the fact that I took over second in the points.”

Defending series champion, Bodine, was pleased with a third place finish in Milwaukee after mediocre finishes in the past. “We just missed the set up a little bit,” said Bodine, “but my team made the right calls all race long and we were the fastest right at the end but not quite fast enough to catch the trucks in front of us. Were still down in the points but a good finish here at Milwaukee may be the shot we need to turn our season around.”

28,000 fans watched the race as Benson became only the second driver to win more than one truck race at Milwaukee and became the first to ever win back to back. Musgrave won in 2001 and 2004 to be the only other two time winner in 13 races here.

Former series champion, Kvapil, from Janesville fought an ill handling truck from the start and managed an 8th place finish to lead the Wisconsin drivers in the race. Tim Sauter was 16th, Brad Mueller was 30th while Musgrave and Bires finished 34th and 35th respectively to round out the drivers with Wisconsin ties in the race.

The series moves to Memphis Motorsports Park next week with Skinner leading Hornaday by 108 points.
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