Fans attending Friday night’s Ford 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race won’t have to worry about any complicated formulas to figure out who will be crowned the champion following the event under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Just watch the No. 23 Toyota of Johnny Benson and the No. 33 Chevrolet of Ron Hornaday – and the driver in the lead at the end is in position to capture the title.
Friday’s Ford 200 will determine the first of three 2008 NASCAR championships to be awarded during Ford Championship Weekend. The Nationwide Series champion will be crowned on Saturday following the Ford 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, before Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards battle in the final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sunday in the Ford 400.
Benson and Hornaday enter the finale only three points apart in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings. While bonus points for laps led may play a role, for all intents and purposes the highest finisher of the two will be the champion on Friday night. Hornaday leads the series with six victories, one more than Benson.
“I’m not saying we don’t play the points, but tomorrow is going be a points day where I have to go out and race Johnny,” said Hornaday, driver of the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Camping World Chevrolet. “The awesomest race we can have is for me and Johnny racing 100 laps side by side together. I trust him, and I hope he can trust me. I know Rick Ren brought me a great truck, and we’ll go out there and see what we got.”
Benson enters the finale with a three-point lead in the No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Exide Toyota – the second-closest race in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions since the current point system was implemented in 1975. Benson looks forward to racing without worrying about a complicated points situation.
“That doesn’t make it easier, but it’s definitely made it a lot of fun,” said Benson, the 1995 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion. “It’s been fun racing with Ron for this title, and no matter how it plays out, it’s been a great year for both teams. I’m enjoying it. I’m really looking at this race the way Ron is – we’re going to go out there and have a good time, and we’re going to race hard. That’s all you can ask for at this point in time. The fans are looking to see a great race, and it will be great if we’re both battling for the lead at the end of the race. I honestly hope neither of us have problems – I’m hoping we’re both going to have to race for it.”
Last week, Benson entered the race at Phoenix International Raceway six points ahead of Hornaday. On the first lap of the race, Hornaday crashed while leading – with Benson sustaining damage in the race. Running in position to take a comfortable lead in the standings, Benson was taken out in a late-race incident that left him one position behind Hornaday at the finish.
“All I think about is how stupid I was on that first lap,” Hornaday said. “I’ve never done anything that stupid. It looked like I’d never run for a championship before. It was probably the stupidest thing I’ve done racing. Kyle (Busch) said he’d let me lead. Coming off of two, I had a good lead on him but he got a good draft. I drove it into three like I always did, and I don’t know how he rolled around me, but it sucked the air off me. I could have probably backed off and passed him later down the road – I knew I had a good enough truck – but I wrecked a good truck and my foot came off the brake coming off the wall and it got in front of everybody else. That’s a shame for everybody working so hard on their trucks. The great thing about it was everybody coming down and helping us. That says a lot for NASCAR and the Craftsman Truck Series.”
Benson said he’s not angry about last week, but he hasn’t forgotten it.
“Basically, we both made mistakes last week. It’s made it very exciting. We tried to fix out truck and we had some issues getting it done. When you’re sitting there and you know you made a mistake and you’re waiting for your guys to get it fixed, it can get you motivated for next week, strictly knowing that I was the one who put it in the position for them to go through all of that work.
“I don’t think I’m any more determined – or any less determined – than Ron is to win the championship. I think we’re both very motivated to do that. It’s going to be a great race, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. And, we’re both going to have to work extremely hard.”
Great seats are still available for Ford Championship Weekend, Nov. 14-16, on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval. The NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series all will crown champions under the lights. To secure individual or group tickets for NASCAR's finale, call (866) 409-RACE or click here.