The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks : Benson and Hornaday, Jr. Look to Win Big in Vegas by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Friday September 19, 2008

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As the Craftsman Truck Series rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, all eyes will be on points leaders Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday, Jr. The two are separated by just 74 points going into the first of four intermediate tracks left on the schedule. Last season, Ron Hornaday, Jr. led Mike Skinner by 29 points going into this race, and a blown tire sent him to a 22nd place finish and second in the points standings; Johnny Benson finished second to race-winner Travis Kvapil.

Over the last 10 races, Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday, Jr. have combined to win eight races. Either driver could experience problems that leave the championship wide open for the other. Johnny Benson currently has an average finish of 10.8 in four races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but that number is deceiving. Without an engine failure and a 33rd place finish in 2005, Benson would have an average finish of 3.33; he has finished fourth twice and second once. Ron Hornaday, Jr. actually holds a better average finish that Johnny Benson with 8.3 in seven races. Hornaday, Jr. has only two finishes outside the Top 10, a 13th in 2005 and 22nd in 2007.

Neither driver has managed to visit Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but both hope their first visit can be this weekend.

Ron Hornaday, Jr. could celebrate another Craftsman Truck Series Championship in November, while KHI teammate Jack Sprague shops for a new ride for 2009.

Quotable

“The track is great because you can race on either the top or the bottom depending on how your truck reacts. It has made for great side-by-side racing. We are taking the same truck that we ran in Michigan . I hope I can find that extra inch and try and win the race! [Crew chief] Trip Bruce and all the guys on this team are doing a great job every week preparing these Tundras. They work so hard, and it is really paying off. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing to have a chance to race for the championship. I am looking forward to the final seven races and trying to bring Bill and Gail Davis their first championship.” Johnny Benson

“Our mile-and-a-half program has been great this year. I don’t see why we cannot have another good run on this type of track. Rick Ren (crew chief) and all the guys on this Camping World Chevrolet Silverado team do an awesome job week in and week out.” Ron Hornaday, Jr.

“Las Vegas is a fast race track. It has the same feel as other 1.5-mile tracks that we’ve run at and we have been really good on those tracks this year. We won at Kansas and Texas and had really solid runs at Atlanta and Charlotte . You can carry a lot of speed out of the turns at Las Vegas and it’s a place where it’s not hard to pass. We need to carry this wave of momentum that we’re riding into Las Vegas and keep doing what we’ve been doing. We had a really good day in the pits last week at New Hampshire , but we have to be consistent. That’s what it’s going to take to win this championship.” Rick Ren, crew chief for Ron Hornaday, Jr.

Did You Know…

  • Justin Marks will be racing his last Craftsman Truck Series race this weekend at Las Vegas? Marks will drive the No. 9 Construct Corps Toyota in the Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 before moving to the Nationwide Series.
  • Erik Darnell will be running a special paint scheme this weekend? Darnell’s No. 99 will have the “Paint My Ride” promotion winning scheme created by Tracy Hutchens of Bassett, VA; the scheme is called “Flying Tool.”
  • Scott Speed will return to the track this weekend in the No. 22 Toyota Tundra? Speed has shared driving duties for the No. 22 with Michael Annett and will run the remaining seven truck series races this season.
  • Brian Scott will have a new crew chief at Las Vegas? Veteran Jeff Hensley joins the No. 16 Albertson’s Toyota team for the remainder of the season in preparation for Scott’s full time move to Bill Davis Racing in 2009.
  • John Andretti will return to the series for the first time since 2005? Andretti will pilot the No. 15 Hyprene Ergon Toyota for Billy Ballew Motorsports; he has a best finish of 8th at Memphis Motorsports Park.
  • Jack Sprague might be out of work at the end of the season? TheNASCARInsiders.com is reporting Sprague will be out of the No. 2 at the end of the season with Camping World East Series driver Ricky Carmichael as a possible replacement.
  • Paul Tracy will make his Craftsman Truck Series debut next month? Originally rumored to start this weekend at Las Vegas, Tracy’s debut was switched to Texas Motor Speedway on October 31st; he’ll pilot a Germain Racing Toyota with a Texas-based sponsor that has not yet been announced.
  • Donny Lia will be racing for Randy Moss Motorsports again this weekend? Nationrides.com, a long-standing sponsor for Lia will be on the No. 81 Chevrolet.

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