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In a Nutshell: Todd Bodine took the checkered flag 0.232 seconds ahead of rookie Brian Scott to win the Ford 200 Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After starting 18th, Bodine took the lead with just four laps remaining and held on through a green/white/checkered finish to score his third win this season. Meanwhile, Johnny Benson finished one position ahead of Ron Hornaday to win the Truck Series championship by seven points (Benson was seventh, Hornaday eighth).
Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Busch started ninth after leading the final practice, but a dragging splitter required a pit stop under caution on lap 6. Following that stop, the driver of the No. 51 wasted no time moving to the front. He went on to lead 64 laps, but didn’t quite have the muscle at the end in dropping to a fourth-place finish.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. How did James Buescher fare in his Craftsman Truck Series debut?
Buescher made his CTS debut Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earlier this season, Buescher made six starts in the Nationwide Series and scored a career best seventh place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in July.
Buescher started his No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Toyota 10th after struggling in both practice sessions. Shortly after the green flag flew, Buescher moved up to the eighth position – but couldn’t stay there. Throughout the race, he slowly dropped through the field before ending up 19th when the checkered flag flew.
Buescher may not have run in the top 10 for a lot of the day, but he did show an ability to qualify the truck despite some struggles in practice. More importantly, he remained on the lead lap and brought his truck home in one piece. Buescher still needs more practice before he’ll contend for the win, but he made a great start of it all this weekend.
2. How did Benson win the championship?
Coming into the Ford 200, Benson held just a three-point lead over Hornaday. Benson started eighth while Hornaday had better track position – starting fourth. Hornaday’s truck owner, Kevin Harvick, then slowed to allow him to lead a lap early in the race, giving him five extra bonus points. Benson, on the other hand, struggled to simply gain positions.
The No. 23 truck had some tape come loose from the rear spoiler; but when the team attempted to fix it, Benson left the pits too soon. At first, NASCAR insisted that Benson come back down pit road to apply tape to the spoiler, but then decided to allow the team to put the tape on under their next stop.
With 43 laps remaining, crew chief Trip Bruce opted to make a two-tire stop while applying new tape to the rear spoiler to give Benson track position. The driver of the No. 23 Toyota entered pit road ninth and came out first. Not long into the green-flag run, Benson’s truck began to fade, and he fell back into the field and into Hornaday’s grasp.
However, with just 10 laps remaining, Hornaday pitted for four tires while Benson stayed on the racetrack. That allowed Benson to restart sixth, while Hornaday restarted 13th. A flurry of cautions after that caused a green/white/checkered finish, and cut down on the laps the No. 33 truck had to use fresh rubber to his advantage. In the end, Hornaday gained five spots and moved up to the eighth finishing position; but Benson dropped only one spot and finished seventh, enough to win the championship by just seven points.
Truck Rookie Report
2008 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Colin Braun (No. 6)
Andy Lally (No. 7 – left the ride in midsummer)
Donny Lia (No. 71 – now No. 81 for rest of the season)
Justin Marks (No. 9 – left the ride in September)
Marc Mitchell (No. 15)
Phillip McGilton (No. 22 – replaced by Scott Speed at Kansas)
Brian Scott (No. 16)
No. of Rookies in the Race: 4
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Scott, finished second and Scott Speed, finished 10th
Rookie of the Race: Scott
Scott scored his career-best Truck Series finish and his seventh top 10 this season.
Braun, driver of the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford, is the 2008 Raybestos Rookie of the Year. Braun scored eight top-10 finishes this season, including a best finish of third at Kansas Speedway in April; he will return to pilot the No. 6 next season.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Benson became only the second driver to win a championship in both the Craftsman Truck and Nationwide series; Greg Biffle is the other.
NASCAR and Camping World unveiled the new logo for the Camping World Truck Series Friday afternoon. The inaugural season kicks off February 13, 2009 at Daytona International Speedway.
Benson is the 2008 CTS champion. Hornaday came in second, just seven points behind Benson. Bodine gained even more ground with his win and finished third, 104 points behind the leaders. Erik Darnell and Matt Crafton, who moved up one spot, rounded out the top five.
Mike Skinner dropped one spot after a tire problem and ended up sixth in the final standings. The rest of the top 10 remain unchanged – Rick Crawford finished seventh, 29 points behind Skinner, while Dennis Setzer, Jack Sprague and Terry Cook rounded out the top 10.
This year marks the ninth consecutive season NASCAR has crowned a different CTS champion.
During qualifying for the Ford 200, Bodine announced he and Janet Paczkowski have become engaged to be married. Congratulations to Todd and Janet!
“We had a terrible race truck. They got us a lot of trucks on pit road. It was good enough to hold Brian [Scott] off. I’m awful happy for him. He’s got a great future.” – Todd Bodine
“More than words can describe. It’s fairly emotional, obviously. Ron [Hornaday] and Rick [Ren] and those guys did a tremendous job all season long. I thought I lost it when the No. 09 [Travis Kvapil] got by me there at the end. [Hornaday] is a hell of a racer. Gotta thank my wife Debbie and both my kids. They’ve been at every race I’ve won this year. This means a lot to me.” – Johnny Benson
“It was a good race. Johnny [Benson] and I raced hard. It’s just one of them things. We just didn’t have track position there at the end. After last week and giving all those points away, we coulda came here with a cushion, but we didn’t.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.
“It came down to pit strategy there at the end. It’s been fun to watch those guys (Benson and Hornaday) race against each other. All you can ask for is an opportunity. You don’t like to lose, but that’s part of the sport.” – Kevin Harvick, owner of Ron Hornaday Jr.’s No. 33 Chevrolet
Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series Banquet is Monday, November 17th at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.