Monday, July 21, 2008

Benson!

While Johnny Benson was a regular in what is now the Sprint Cup Series, we often noted that he did not seem aggressive enough to be competitive in the top series of NASCAR. It may have been equipment, but Benson never seemed to want to even try to make a pass when the opportunity presented itself. It may have been the equipment, but Benson seemed to be unable to adapt to the changes in the car that were made between 1997 and 2001.

Needless to say, when he joined the Craftsman Truck Series in 2004, we doubted that he would be successful there. Most of the regular drivers in the series failed in the Cup series because they were too aggressive. Unless the driver's name is Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, or Jeff Gordon, over aggressiveness usually results in more problems for the driver than for the competition.

But the aggressive style of drivers like Ron Hornaday, Jack Spraque, Mike Skinner, and Ted Musgrave fits right in to the relatively short races of the CTS. There is no pit strategy in CTS; it is all about mashing the pedal and turning left from the first wave of the green flag. And you do not want to be the driver of a truck that gets in the way of faster traffic. It is not the kind of racing one would expect a laid back, let-things-happen type driver like Benson to be successful.

But we were wrong about Benson. In 2004, his first season in Trucks with Bill Davis Racing, he ran in only thirteen races, but finished in the top ten eight times, with five of those eight being in the top five. He went on to win 5 races in 2006, with 13top fives out of 17 top tens, and four wins in 2007 wit 12 top fives. And now, with the Truck season barely over the half-way mark, he has two wins and leads the series in drivers' points. Benson seems to be having the time of his life.

We have written before that the CTS is the closest to Saturday night circle burners NASCAR has in its top tier.This is the kind of racing with which Benson and the others feel most comfortable. It is what they have been doing their entire lives. It is the kind of racing in which any driver who starts the race has a chance to win.

The tightness of the competition can be seen in the points standings among the top five drivers. There is a difference of only 108 points between the lead and fifth place, after thirteen races. The points lead has changed three times in the last three races. No Chase for the Championship is needed here, the points championship looks to remain tight for the rest of the season.

Personally speaking, my favorite driver in the Truck Series has long been Ron Hornaday. But I like it when Johnny Benson wins. It could be because he looks a little bit like Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges, but it is probably just because it feels good to see a driver find his place doing what he loves.

4 comments:

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Tim Zaegel said...

That was a pretty sweet pass when he took it four-wide, wasn't it? Who's your pick to win the Truck Series this year?

RevJim said...

Wow Tim, that is a tough one. I would like to see Hornaday win again, and he could, but it would be cool to see Johnny get it. He has shown he deserves a championship.
Things change so fast in the CTS, it is really hard to predict, but I think the Big Mo is on Benson's side, and maybe he will take it all.

Tim Zaegel said...

I would have to narrow it down to the same two guys, but I like Hornaday to bring home the gold again this year.