Benson Takes Con-way Freight 200Share
If Michigan native Johnny Benson could pick a race track where he would most like to win, it would be Michigan International Speedway. If there is one driver he would like to beat for that victory, it would probably be veteran Mark Martin. It was mission accomplished on both fronts today as the Grand Rapids native held off Martin on a series of restarts toward the end of the race to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Con-way Freight 200 at MIS. Benson's margin of victory was 0.112 seconds, or a little over two car lengths. Bobby Labonte finished third, followed by Todd Bodine, Matt Crafton, and Rick Crawford. The race ended on a green-white-checkered two-lap sprint following an incident on lap 98 of the 200-lap event. It was the last of four caution periods over the final 25 laps. "The last few laps weren't bad, it was the ones before that I was getting a little worried about," Benson said. "I figured we were going to have a long green run and Mark's truck was pretty good on long green. I thought ours was decent, but his was pretty good." "I'm glad I got by Mark when I did (lap 73) because he would have been hard to pass for sure," he continued. "I know I was going to make it just as hard on him if that's what it came down to. Mark is the best guy in the world to have behind you. He's going to race you clean and if you make a mistake he's going to get you. If he's faster he's going to get you, but he's not going to knock you out of the way to get it." Benson is well aware of that because the last time he won a NASCAR race was Nov. 3, 2002 at Rockingham when he registered his only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series triumph. Who was second? Mark Martin. "It's kind of funny that it ended up like the last race I won," Benson said. "I was a lot more nervous then, then I was today. I was real excited and a little nervous today . I just wanted to win a race. Winning here on my home track, the only way it would have been better would have been to win here a year ago." It was also Benson's first win in the Craftsman Truck Series in his 60th career start. He competed in 271 NEXTEL Cup races and won the Busch Series championship in 1995. Martin had won three of the six Craftsman Truck Series races he competed in this season, and led the most laps of any driver even though series regulars had competed in three more races. Martin knew what he wanted to do over the last few laps, but Benson wasn't about to give up the real estate both wanted. "He wasn't much going to give the inside lane up so I had to try to make the top work, which was my second choice," Martin admitted. "It made it a chore when Johnny was as strong as he was. Congratulations to Johnny Benson and his team, they were really strong today. Their strong suit was shorter runs. My truck's strong suit was longer runs and it didn't play out that way. The more we had a chance to race the better my chance was. Johnny was really strong and he was taking that groove that might have been my preferred groove. Today was his day." Unlike Martin, Labonte welcomed the restarts toward the end of the race, but he still couldn't catch Benson and Martin. "We were really good on restarts all day and when that last yellow flag came out I figured if I was going to have a chance to do anything this was it," Labonte said. "But I kind of used up a few things getting from about 12th to third . Those guys were just too fast. I ran in the top three all day so that was pretty good." Reserved tickets are still available for the 3M Performance 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race on Sunday. Call 1-800-354-1010.
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