NASCAR champions crowned
NASCAR officially crowned its 2008 champions at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 14-16 and what a year it was for the three championship teams.
The weekend began on Friday with Grand Rapids, Mich. native Johnny Benson capturing the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship, giving him his first series title. Benson, who entered the race with only a three-point lead in the championship standings over Ron Hornaday Jr., managed to put together a solid seventh-place finish in the race at Homestead, thus giving him a seven-point margin of victory over Hornaday in the final standings. Hornaday placed eighth in the race.
It was the first championship for a Michigan-based driver since Jack Sprague of Spring Lake won the truck championship in 2001.
Benson struggled early on in 2008, but got things on the right track when he placed second to Erik Darnell during the Cool City Customs 200 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14. The .005 margin of victory for Darnell over Benson was the closest finish in MIS track history, however, it got Benson moving in the right direction on his way to the championship. Following the MIS event, Benson would vault to the points lead after winning three of the next four races.
“We’re excited that Michigan native Johnny Benson won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship,” MIS President Roger Curtis said. “He seemed to really get his season turned around at MIS in June with his exciting second-place finish to Erik Darnell at what he considers to be his hometown superspeedway.”
Clint Bowyer won the NASCAR Nationwide Series title with a 56-point margin over second place Carl Edwards. Bowyer was awarded for consistency throughout the 2008 season, while Edwards, who won the Nationwide Series CARFAX 250 at MIS in August, made a late run in the points before falling just short. Another Michigan native, Brad Keselowski of Rochester Hills, finished third in the championship standings in his first full year of competing in the Nationwide Series.
“It was great to see Brad finish third in the standings driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and JR Motorsports,” Curtis said. “He’s got a wonderful career ahead of him.”
Jimmie Johnson secured the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with a dominate performance in the Chase for the Championship. With Edwards 141 points behind Johnson heading into Homestead, it was about staying out of trouble for the newly crowned three-time champion.
Johnson kept his nose clean and finished 15th in the race, giving him a 69-point victory over race-winner Edwards. Edwards did everything he could to put the pressure on Johnson by winning the race and leading the most laps at Homestead.
Johnson, who has not raced particularly well at MIS over the years, finished sixth and 17th at the Irish Hills oval in 2008.
“Jimmie Johnson is a great NASCAR champion. The ability to win the championship three years in a row in this sport says a lot for Johnson and the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization,” Curtis said. “All of us here at MIS congratulate Jimmie Johnson and the entire #48 Chevrolet team on his success.”
MIS has restructured some of its pricing for 2009 so fans who are feeling the economic pinch can keep MIS in their 2009 vacation plans. New in 2009 are general admission seats for NASCAR Sprint Cup races that start at just $40 in two grandstands. Children 12 and under may come to the races for free with their families in those seats.
Tickets and camping go on sale to the general public beginning on Sunday, Feb. 15 during the season-opening Daytona 500.
For additional information or to place a $50 deposit for 2009, call the MIS Ticket Hotline at 800-354-1010.