It hasn't exactly been a seamless transition to a new team for Johnny Benson, who stands twelfth in the Camping World Truck Series standings with one top ten finish after three races this season.
Benson wasn't entirely starting over at Red Horse Racing, as he arrived with crew chief Trip Bruce and several over crew members who had helped him win the 2008 championship at Bill Davis Racing, and he remained with the same manufacturer, Toyota.
Bruce and his crew spent the winter building a new batch of trucks for Benson, including the Toyota he'll drive Saturday in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway, and the 250-lap race on the paperclip-shaped 0.526-mile track should be a good gauge of how quickly Benson and his team have come together. Benson's most recent victory was in last October's race, and he was running second last March when contact with Kyle Busch knocked him back to 25th.
“Martinsville has been a good track for me, so we look for this weekend to be a good one for us,” the veteran said, “Last year, we had a truck to win both races, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. Winning at Martinsville last fall was really cool. I have run well there in the past, but that was my first win there, so it was special.”
Benson was caught up in a multi-truck wreck and finished 26th at Daytona, and had an uneventful and uncompetitive run to twelfth at California, but the #1 truck showed more speed at Atlanta as Benson started 18th and ran sixth for most of the second half of the race. He was then penalised for speeding exiting the pits on his final stop 15 laps from the end, restarted 13th and climbed to finish ninth in the eight-lap green flag dash to the chequered flag.
Busch, who took responsibility for hitting Benson in this race last year, will be going for his third straight victory in Billy Ballew Motorsports' Toyota, but has never won in five truck starts at Martinsville, where his best finish is the fourth he took last fall.
Busch is the current series points leader, but won't run the full season because of his Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series commitments. Todd Bodine, with a first, a second and a third this season, is second in points, but had said in Atlanta that the #30 Germain Racing Toyota would not be entered at Martinsville unless sponsorship were found. Whelen Engineering has kept Bodine's season going with a one-race deal.
Kevin Harvick, second in his first truck start this season at Atlanta, will also race at Martinsville, joining three-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr and rookie Ricky Carmichael in Kevin Harvick Inc Chevrolets.
by Tim Tuttle
Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service