Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stuck in the Middle of Two

No way was Scott Speed going to miss friend, mentor and teammate Johnny Benson battle it out for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship. He wanted a front-row seat Friday night and came from the back — twice — to get it.

A transmission change scratched a seventh-place qualifying effort at Homestead, and Speed started from the back in the No. 22 Red Bull Toyota. He charged to 15th within 40 laps, but was caught speeding entering the pits two laps later. Again, he went to the back.

The second progression forward put Speed in the middle of one of the closest championship battles in NASCAR history.

In a green-white-checkered finish, Speed restarted eighth — behind Bill Davis Racing teammate Benson and ahead of Ron Hornaday, each needing to beat the other for the title. Speed’s No. 22 was enough of a buffer, as Benson stayed one position and seven points ahead of Hornaday to win his first Craftsman Truck championship.

Speed finished 10th, another in a long list of strong runs for the first-year stock car driver. In the 10 starts since his June victory at Dover, Speed earned a pole, three top fives and six top 10s to close the season.

The 25-year-old couldn’t have been happier with the result. “Johnny B” has been instrumental in helping Speed adjust to heavy, full-bodied cars.

“I’m really happy that Johnny won the championship,” Speed said, “not only because he’s my teammate — he’s one of the nicest guys out there. He helped me out so much initially, so it was really cool to see him win. He definitely deserves it.”


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