The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks : Johnny Benson Ousted at Red Horse Racing by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Friday June 12, 2009

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After a less than thrilling race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Camping World Truck Series made up for it to the tune of some big news. Monday afternoon, I got home from work and read in disbelief that Johnny Benson’s No. 1 Red Horse Racing team has shut down due to a lack of operating dollars, but his teammate T.J. Bell and the No. 11 team would continue to run the remainder of the season as long as there are funds to do so. Johnny Benson was as surprised as I was when he got the news.

“The decision to close the team is a bit surprising because they told me they wanted to build a championship-caliber race team,” Benson said. “They hired a champion driver and a champion crew, and then decide to close the team instead of building the organization around it. So I’m a little confused.”

Just a couple days after that announcement, Red Horse Racing announced they had signed Timothy Peters and sponsor Strutmasters.com. Peters will keep his No. 17 on the truck, but the team will use the equipment left vacant by Johnny Benson. The deal puts a larger array of equipment and resources at the disposal of an excited Timothy Peters.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to come over to Red Horse Racing. I really appreciate my opportunity at Premier Racing and all the support Strutmasters.com has given me,” said a grateful Peters. “Obviously all our hard work paid off because we were able to get Tom DeLoach’s (RHR team owner) attention. I am thankful that he is taking a chance on me, and I look forward to the future with RHR and Strutmasters.com.”

My first thought when I read about Johnny Benson’s release was ‘why can’t they just put him in the No. 11 and let T.J. Bell go?’ It seemed like a no-brainer to me. You’re looking at the defending series champion who, in his nine year career, has scored 14 wins and 85 top 10 finishes versus a driver who has just nine top 10 finishes in 55 starts.

But in the hour I had to really think about it after I read it, I realized that just may not be a possibility. Sure it’s easy to see that Johnny Benson is clearly the better driver of the two, but when you consider the impact that sponsorship dollars can have on anyone running in NASCAR, it’s clear to see the No. 1 team had to have started running out of money.

Johnny Benson has had just one sponsor in eight races this season. The No. 1 Toyota carried a K&N Filters paint scheme in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, but Benson got caught up in a wreck midway through the race and was unable to finish. Since then the driver of the No. 1 has had three top 5 finishes, including a best finish of second at Kansas in April.

But that performance just wasn’t enough to woo a sponsor to fork out the money it takes to keep a Camping World Truck Series team afloat. T.J. Bell, on the other hand, has had Home4TheHolidays.org (also with Bell in 2008) and VisitPIT.com on his truck in four of the eight races he has run this season.

Despite winning the 2008 Truck Series championship, Johnny Benson was released from the Red Horse Racing No. 1 ride on Monday due to lack of sponsorship.

Sure that’s only three races more than Johnny Benson has had sponsors for, but in a sport as expensive as this one, that money makes a huge difference. Besides, it’s possible—and probably highly likely—that Tom DeLoach and Red Horse Racing presented the idea of putting Benson in the No. 11 and the sponsors squashed that idea. After all, money talks, especially when it can cost more than $60,000 each week to race.

Aside from not having sponsorship dollars to help run the team, it just plain wouldn’t be fair to T.J. Bell to just dump him. I know, life isn’t fair and drivers get dumped all the time for a driver who is better, but the Camping World Truck Series has usually been a place for young drivers to develop their skills in hopes of scoring a Sprint Cup Series ride in their future. And I honestly doubt Red Horse Racing just jumped at the opportunity to leave the defending series champion with no ride. In fact, I’m willing to bet that it was a well thought out, hesitant decision.

The argument was brought up in Mirror Driving about Bell’s performance, but you have to consider what Bell has been driving all this time. He spent 16 races in 2007 piloting the No. 50 for Roush Racing, but it was a development truck that didn’t perform that well. Last season, T.J. Bell piloted the No. 7 Chevrolet for TRG Motorsports for just 17 races. In those 17 races, Bell scored 7 top 10 finishes for the brand new team. That’s not bad at all for a brand new team making its start in the series.

You can debate the business sense of a sponsor who is willing to back a driver with mediocre results all you want, but simply put the decision is theirs to make. The harder part to imagine is that in eight races, no one has been willing to step up and back the defending series champion who scored five wins and 18 top 10 finishes in 25 races last season.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t think it’s fair that the defending champion had his ride closed. I’m still having a hard time grasping the fact that Red Horse Racing can say Monday that the tough economy has forced them to close and then just two days later announce they’re adding another team. But you can’t blame Timothy Peters for this at all.

I can understand the fact that there’s no money to run the No. 1 team, but it’s really disappointing to see the defending series champion dumped like yesterday’s garbage. That being said, the harsh truth is that it takes quite a bit of money to run a Truck Series team, and the driver who brings the sponsorship dollars is the driver who gets to keep his ride.

Did You Know…

  • The 2008 Cool City Customs 200 at Michigan International Speedway featured the closest ever Truck Series finish? Erik Darnell edged hometown favorite Johnny Benson by just 0.005 seconds to score his second career win.
  • There has been only one repeat winner in the nine races run at Michigan? Greg Biffle won in both 1999 and 2000.
  • Todd Bodine and the No. 30 team may be in danger of not finishing the season? Germain Racing has Copart for three more races this season—Michigan, Memphis and Kentucky—but currently the truck’s hood will be blank at Milwaukee next weekend.
  • Johnny Sauter now leads the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings? After starting on the pole, leading 42 laps and finishing sixth, Sauter now leads Tayler Malsam by four points.
  • J.R. Fitzpatrick will be back on the track this weekend at Michigan? Fitzpatrick will pilot the No. 4 Auto-Owners Insurance Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Incorporated.
  • Ron Hornaday, Jr. will have a new sponsor on the No. 33 Chevrolet this weekend? Turtle Wax has signed on as primary sponsor for this weekend’s race at Michigan and the Chicagoland 200 at Chicagoland Speedway in August.

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…
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Doug Scholl
06/12/2009 01:15 AM
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I wouldn’t worry to much about Todd Bodine. He’ll have a sponsor on the truck for Talladega for sure. The truck they run at Daytona and Talladega right now is three for three and only runs at Daytona and Talladega, for some reason that truck has an aero advantage even though it fits templates. Germain has not been able to replicate it.

Ed
06/12/2009 01:30 PM
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Unfortunately the name of the game is sponsorship. A good driver means nothing if he isn’t young and appealing to the under 30 crowd. I don’t understand that and I suppose that’s why I can’t stand NASCAR and everything it stands for anymore.

Bob
06/12/2009 03:10 PM
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I would’nt worry too much about J.B. being out of a ride for too long. He is a fine driver and one of the good guys so an offer will come soon, hopefully it will be good equipment and a solid and stable team-Hey Harvick are you listening? Anyhoo,good luck J.B.

midasmicah
06/12/2009 03:15 PM
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The Carl Long saga shows exactly what the France regeime wants. The blue collar, little guy means didly squat to the idiots in charge. Then they wonder why fans are tuning out in record numbers. When you offend fans in record numbers, YOU WILL pay the ultimate price. Right or wrong, the Mayfield situation fits right into the same mold. A fringe driver who doesn’t fit into the vanilla, boring mold. Add Johnny Benson and you come up with a very disturbing trend. Did you notice that none of these people are among nas$car’s darlings. I’m a long time fan and this kind of behavior sickens me. I’m addicted to racing and it takes a lot to drive me away, but there are limits to my patience and sense of dignity.

Kevin in SoCal
06/12/2009 03:47 PM
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J.R. Fitzpatrick in the #4 for KHI? What happened to Ricky Carmichael?

Bob
06/12/2009 07:49 PM
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As a racing junkie may I suggest that you go to the nearest short track/dirt track or fairgrounds race track and enjoy the show.You will not be gouged for a ticket you will not see prima donnas throwing tantrums you will not have to be subjected to “security“looking up your behind and you will see great racing by real racers,you remember,people just like us.Real people who work hard and play hard, drivers with dirt under their nails because they don’t have two hundred people on their “team“so they actually know what a wrench is and what it is for people who race for the love of it and for the fun of it. This will help you detox from the farce that NA$CAR has become. It will also get you ahead of the curve because the way I see it NA$CAR will soon be on their last legs due to the way they continue to mistreat their core audience- hard core race fans.

Beth
06/14/2009 08:49 PM
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Kevin, Carmichael was signed on for only part time this season, and after Fitzpatrick was released from his ride with TRG, KHI quickly signed him to share the No. 4 with Carmichael for the remainder of the season.

Kevin in SoCal
06/15/2009 01:43 PM
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Beth, and I thought after Ricky’s good runs at the beginning of the season, KHI scrambled to get sponsorship for him to run the full season. I guess not.
I saw RC on TV at a motocross race on Saturday, so that explains where he was.

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