In Wednesday evening's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Tundra driver Johnny Benson used pit strategy and some quick maneuvering late in the race to avoid two trucks spinning in front of him to earn his second win of the season, seventh of his career and first at Bristol.
Benson was running third late in the race, following race-leader Travis Kvapil and second-place Kyle Busch around the half-mile Bristol oval. When Kvapil and Busch made contact on lap 179 (of 200 laps), Benson avoided the collision and moved his No. 23 Exide Batteries Tundra into the lead. The Grand Rapids, Michigan-driver managed to hang onto first-place for the final 21 laps, holding off challenges from Brendan Gaughan (second) and veteran Mark Martin (third).
"I thought we had a good shot getting to the front even without the 51 (Kyle Busch) and 6 (Travis Kvapil) getting together," said Benson, after the race. "I was surprised that he (Kyle) tried to go by on the bottom. He lost the back of it a little bit and tried to save it, but had to use the 6 to do it -- and they both spun. I thought; ‘Wow, that just made life a little bit easier for us.'"
Benson and his Bill Davis Racing team decided to make just one stop during the race, just past the halfway point. "I knew we weren't going to come in on that early pit stop, but I didn't expect the field to come in," explained Benson. "The guys just made a great call. We talked about coming in on lap 40, but I couldn't. I wasn't sure what the truck was going to do and wanted to get some more laps on it. I wanted to run about 100 laps on the tires, instead of 160."
It was the 33rd victory for a Tundra since Toyota joined the Craftsman Truck Series at the beginning of the 2004 season, and it was the eighth win this year by a Tundra driver.
In addition to Benson's Bristol win, he had a victory earlier this year at Milwaukee. Other Tundra racers with wins this year are Mike Skinner (California, Atlanta, Martinsville and Kentucky), Jack Sprague (Daytona) and Todd Bodine (Texas).
Other Tundra drivers in the field included Mike Skinner (fourth), Jack Sprague (eighth), David Green (16th), AJ Allmendinger (21st), Todd Bodine (24th), Ted Musgrave (27th), Ryan Mathews (31st) and Terry Cook (32nd).
Skinner did not lead any laps in his No. 5 Tundra -- the first time he has not led a lap in 20 races. Prior to this evening's race, Skinner had led at least one lap in 19 consecutive events (15 races in 2007 and the last four races of 2006).
The next race on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule is Saturday, September 1 at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.
In Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway, two Toyota Camrys battled three-wide for the win and took the checkered flag second and third. Jason Leffler and David Reutimann proved to have strong Camrys throughout the race, but came up just short with Leffler finishing second in his No. 38 Great Clips Camry and Reutimann finishing third in his No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Camry.
Leffler started on the pole for Braun Racing and led a race-high 81 of 250 laps, having one of the strongest cars in the field. Forced to pit for fresh tires with less than 80 laps to go on the half-mile Tennessee short track, Leffler restarted 18th and headed for the front.
The defining moment of the race came with less than 10 laps to go, when contact between then-leader Ryan Newman, eventual winner, Kasey Kahne and Leffler resulted in a flat-left tire for Newman and an intense battle between Kahne Leffler and Reutimann for the win. Kahne used the high groove on Bristol's new racing surface to hold off Leffler for the win.
"We could get wound up there on the bottom, but Kasey (Kahne) did a great job controlling the race from the high groove," said Leffler, following the race. "I'm really proud of everybody at Braun Racing and Toyota -- they've done a great job. We're really coming to the top and the hard work showed tonight. We really had a great car."
Reutimann led 33 laps in the No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine, but an older set of tires made it difficult for Reutimann to make a run at the checkered flag. Reutimann, whose best finish of the season was second at Nashville earlier this season, settled for a third-place finish.
"We were kind of fading there at the end of the race because we were on old tires," said Reutimann. "I wasn't waiting for them to get into each other; I just didn't have the tires to make any good runs on them. I think every driver hopes that they'll rough each other up and slide by, but I wasn't waiting for it to happen. I knew I had to keep as close as I could to them. I think we ended up okay."
Dale Jarrett, making his first NBS start since August 2005, finished 23rd in the No. 44 UPS Centennial Camry, while Brian Vickers finished 36th in the No. 10 Ft. McDowell Resort Destination Camry.
Reutimann (second) and Leffler (fourth) remain in the top-four in the NBS point standings after 26 of 35 races this season.
The next race on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule is Saturday, September 1 at California Speedway.
In Saturday night's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (NNCS) Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the five Toyotas in the field found themselves challenged by the handling of their Camrys on the half-mile bull-ring. Michael Waltrip had the best result of the Camry contingent finishing 23rd.
Waltrip started his No. 55 Camry 16th and battled handling issues throughout the race. His NAPA Racing team was able to make adjustments on his car and get him to 23rd when the checkered flag fell.
"We fought all night and the highest we got was 23rd -- that's when the checkers fell," said Waltrip following the race. "We had a good restart there with 30 laps to go -- I got up on the outside and was able to get past about three guys. Then I was good enough to hold them off. It was a good night -- we wish we could have finished better. We started off slow, but Bobby Kennedy and the boys just kept adjusting on it and we were able to get it better and better. That feels good when you're running your best at the end."
Dave Blaney started his No. 22 Caterpillar Camry from the fifth position, but fell back early in the race as he battled to find grip on the newly-resurfaced track. Blaney's Bill Davis Racing team continued to adjust on the Camry during the race and finished 31st.
"We were terrible early-on -- we went straight backwards," said Blaney following the race. "Then we pitted under green and the caution came right out when we left the pits so we lost laps and just couldn't come back from that. We did get the car better to where it was running top-10 speeds. At least we figured out what was wrong with the car early, but we just got too far behind to get a good finish."
Other Camrys in Saturday night's race included Dale Jarrett (34th), AJ Allmendinger (35th), and Jeremy Mayfield (37th).
The next race on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule is Sunday, September 2 at California Speedway.
Toyota NNCS Finishing Positions at Bristol Motor Speedway 23rd, MICHAEL WALTRIP 31st, DAVE BLANEY 34th, DALE JARRETT 35th, AJ ALLMENDINGER 37th, JEREMY MAYFIELD DNQ, DAVID REUTIMANN DNQ, BRIAN VICKERS
Toyota Drivers in the NNCS Point Standings following Bristol Motor Speedway ** 33rd, DAVE BLANEY 1,759 Points 39th, BRIAN VICKERS 1,262 Points 40th, DALE JARRETT 1,009 Points 41st, DAVID REUTIMANN 1,006 Points 45th, JEREMY MAYFIELD 682 Points 47th, AJ ALLMENDINGER 522 Points 51st, MICHAEL WALTRIP 450 Points **Unofficial Point Standings Toyota NBS Finishing Positions at Bristol Motor Speedway 2nd, JASON LEFFLER 3rd, DAVID REUTIMANN 23rd, DALE JARRETT 36th, BRIAN VICKERS Toyota Drivers in the NBS Point Standings following Bristol Motor Speedway ** 2nd, DAVID REUTIMANN 3,053 Points 4th, JASON LEFFLER 2,921 Points 13th, DAVE BLANEY 2,252 Points **Unofficial Point Standings Toyota NCTS Finishing Positions at Bristol Motor Speedway 1st, JOHNNY BENSON 4th, MIKE SKINNER 8th, JACK SPRAGUE 16th, DAVID GREEN 21st, AJ ALLMENDINGER 24th, TODD BODINE 27th, TED MUSGRAVE 31st, RYAN MATHEWS 32nd, TERRY COOK Toyota Drivers in the NCTS Point Standings following Bristol Motor Speedway** 1st, MIKE SKINNER 2,681 points 4th, TODD BODINE 2,346 points 6th, JOHNNY BENSON 2,159 points 7th, JACK SPRAGUE 2,027 points 8th, TED MUSGRAVE 1,957 points 14th, TERRY COOK 1,700 points 25th, RYAN MATHEWS 1,146 points 28th, AJ ALLMENDINGER 855 points 36th, DAVID GREEN 509 points **Unofficial Point Standings
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