2008-11-27 / Sports

Benson And Bowyer, The Other NASCAR Champions


Pictured above are team owner Bill Davis and 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Johnny Benson. Pictured above are team owner Bill Davis and 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Johnny Benson. Johnny Benson and Clint Bowyer have had great seasons. Benson won the Craftsman Truck Series title, and Bowyer held off Carl Edwards to win the Nationwide Series.

Benson was honored as NASCAR's 2008 Craftsman Truck Series champion this past week at the Annual Awards Banquet in Miami.

At 45, it seemed that Benson might have reached the end of his racing career.

It had been 13 years since he won the Busch Series champion (now the Nationwide), so it was only natural for Benson to believe he might have reached the finish line.

But Bill Davis had other plans. He hired Benson on a full-time basis in 2005 to drive his No. 23 Toyota, beginning at Michigan. He finished third in the standings a year ago and was the runner-up to Todd Bodine in 2006. He has 14 race victories during the past three seasons.

"I have to really thank Bill and Gail Davis," Benson said. "They've given me a great opportunity, along with Toyota, to come and do this. It was just awesome. I'm glad that we could get that for them. It means more to me to get that for them. They've done so much for me."

"When we started this deal, the goal was to try to get a championship, and it's been amazing to get 14 wins and now a championship in the last three years. Bill has been in the sport for many, many years. He's put a lot of blood, sweat, tears in this, a lot of money, and he deserves it. He deserves more than one, and hopefully he'll get more than one before this is all done with."

"Words can't describe this. I was kind of crying down the backstretch, but hopefully I'm over it. Just when Craftsman Truck Series director Wayne Auton came over the radio to say congratulations, that's way cool."

"My wife kept telling me that I only had to win by one. She kept saying, 'God already has a plan, it's all set, and it's going to be what it's going to be.' That was my approach going into the race."

Benson announced earlier this month that he was leaving BDR at the end of the season, so the championship provides a perfect final chapter to the past four and a half years.

"You know, it is bittersweet to talk about that, but in the same token, I really want to talk about the championship and what it's meant for us because that's what this is about," Benson continued. "Next year doesn't have anything to do with right now. Right now it's about the championship."

Final top-10 Craftsman Truck Series drivers: 1. Benson-3725, 2. Hornaday 3718, 3. Bodine-3621, 4. Darnell 3412, 5. Crafton-3392, 6. Skinner 3363, 7. Crawford-3315, 8. Setzer 3197, 9. Sprague-3125, 10. Cook- 3072

Bowyer wins Nationwide series by 21 points

No one was hotter down the stretch than Carl Edwards, whose Roush Fenway Racing team won three of the last four races - and finished second in the fourth.

Still, Clint Bowyer was steady and did what he had to do to hang on to the points lead. In the Ford 300 at Homestead, Bowyer's No. 2 Richard Childress Racing crew copied Edwards' two-tire strategy midway through the race, keeping Edwards in sight the rest of the race, and taking the championship by 21 points.

"Carl, he's been a long time friend from our early racing days, and I think it's a true testament to the steppingstones of NASCAR," Bowyer said. "We both came from the Weekly Racing Series, went through the regional touring series and he went to the Truck series."

"We've raced each other for a long time. "He's from the Midwest (Columbia, Mo.). He's last year's champion, and it feels great to be able to beat him."

Edwards, who won seven Nationwide Series races, was the 2007 Nationwide champion.

"If I've got to get beat by somebody, I want it to be a dirt racer from Emporia, Kansas (Bowyer's hometown). Clint is one of the best," said Edwards.

"But we'll be back next year, and I hope Clint will, too. There's no shame in giving 100 percent and finishing second. That's all we could do."

Final top-10 Nationwide drivers: 1. Bowyer-5132, 2. Edwards-5111, 3. Keselowski-4794, 4. Ragan-4525, 5. Bliss-4518, 6. Kyle Busch-4461, 7. Reutimann 4388, 8. M. Wallace-4128, 9. Leffler-4086, 10. Ambrose-3991 Stewart moves to his own team

For awhile Sunday, it looked like Tony Stewart might go out as a winner after he passed Matt Kenseth for the lead with just 22 laps remaining. But it wasn't to be. Eleven laps later, he pitted for fuel and wound up finishing ninth.

It was Stewart's last race for Joe Gibbs Racing after 10 years. He now moves to his own team, Stewart- Haas.

"I wish I could say I'm happy for this but I'm not," said Stewart. "It's something I decided, but as you can see, we're all emotional. It's hard knowing that after 10 years being with these guys, it'll be something different next year."

"I'm excited about what I'm doing, but I'm not excited about leaving these guys."

Greg Zipadelli is the only crew chief Stewart has worked under. Zipadelli will remain at JGR as crew chief for youngster Joey Logano, who will take over Stewart's seat in the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet.

Final top-12 Sprint Cup Standings: 1. Johnson-6684, 2. Edwards- 6615, 3. Biffle-6467, 4. Harvick-6408, 5. Bowyer-6381, 6. Burton-6335, 7. J. Gordon-6316, 8. Hamlin-6214, 9. Stewart-6202, 10. Kyle Busch-6186, 11. Kenseth-6184, 12. Earnhardt-6127

The remaining top-35 Cup drivers: 13. David Ragan - 4,99, 14. Kasey Kahne - 4085, 15. Martin Truex Jr. - 3839, 16. Jamie McMurray - 3,809, 17. Ryan Newman - 3,735, 18. Kurt Busch - 3,635, 19. Brian Vickers - 3,580, 20. Casey Mears - 3,527, 21. Bobby Labonte - 3,448, 22. David Reutimann - 3,397, 23. Travis Kvapil - 3,384, 24. Elliott Sadler - 3,364, 25. J.P. Montoya - 3,329, 26. Paul Menard - 3,151, 27. David Gilliland - 3,064, 28. Mark Martin - 3,022, 29. Michael Waltrip - 2,889, 30. Dave Blaney - 2,851, 31. Scott Riggs - 2,797, 32. Reed Sorenson - 2,795, 33. Robby Gordon - 2,770, 34. Regan Smith - 2,672, 35. Sam Hornish Jr. - 2,523

Robby Gordon gears up for Baja 1000

Proving once again that he never tires of racing, Robby Gordon left this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale in Homestead, Fla., and headed straight for Ensenada, Mexico, to compete in the 41st annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, one of the most grueling off-road races in the world. Gordon, a three-time overall winner, hopes to pilot his No. 77 Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Chevy CK 1500 to his fourth victory.

The Baja 1000 is the world's longest nonstop and most famous desert race. This year's race will be a challenging 631.35-mile journey around the northern Baja California peninsula, beginning and ending in Ensenada. It will be trying even to the most skilled racers as they weave their way over rocky desert landscape and mountain terrain.

Next week: NASCAR's Early Heroes

Racing trivia question: Which Series will Sam Hornish race in 2009?

Last week's question: Who do you think was the "Most Improved Driver of 2008? Answer. According to fan response we received, it was David Ragan.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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