Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday Jr. will bring their season long battle for the Craftsman Truck Series championship to a dramatic conclusion Friday night in the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Benson's three-point lead over Hornaday is the closest in the 14-year history of the CTS going into the final race and the second closest in a NASCAR national series. Darrell Waltrip had a two-point advantage over Richard Petty before the last Cup race in 1979. Petty won the championship by eleven points.

"It's pretty amazing, three points," Benson said. "We've got to go down there and beat them. We've just got to go do it."

Hornaday will be attempting to become the first driver to win back-to-back titles and four championships in the series and the first 50-year-old to take a NASCAR national series.

"Three points. I can't believe it," Hornaday said. "I'm feeling good about it. It's going to be (determined by) the guy who has the least amount of problems. Nobody has the advantage anymore in this point battle."

Benson also is trying to make history. He'd become the second driver, joining Greg Biffle, to win the CTS and Nationwide championships. Benson captured the Nationwide title in 1995.

Benson and Hornaday have combined to lead the points standings since the ninth race of the season at Texas. They've exchanged it five times in 15 races.

Benson says he is not varying his approach to Friday's 134-lap race.

"We decided at the beginning of the year running for the championship, we weren't going to worry about anything and we weren't going to put any pressure on," he said. "We're just going to go have some fun and go do it. So, we're making it fun for the fans - I can guarantee you that."

Hornaday has six wins this season, raising his all-time leading CTS total to 39, and holds the advantage in the event of a tie. Benson has five wins and the tiebreaker is most wins this season.

Benson and Hornaday can secure the championship by winning the race, but finishing anywhere else opens the door for multiple possibilities within one or two positions of each other because of the five bonus points for leading a lap and five additional points for leading the most laps.

Hornaday's owner, Kevin Harvick, who will drive a second Kevin Harvick Inc. entry Friday, doesn't believe the championship will be decided until the final 1.5 miles.

"It's going to come down to the last lap," Harvick said. "Hopefully, we will be the one's celebrating at the end."

by Tim Tuttle/Sporting News

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