NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series: Benson Breaks Through at Michigan
Johnny Benson held off a charging Mark Martin over a green-white-checkered overtime trophy dash to win Saturday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway. It was Benson’s first win in the series from 60 starts, making him the 17th driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s major touring series.
Benson’s Toyota seemed to be better on short runs, while Martin’s Ford was better-suited to long runs. Things played into Benson’s hands with four cautions in the final 28 of the scheduled 100 laps, denying Martin a chance to get wound up. Martin was close to making a pass for the lead after a Lap-93 restart, but was foiled when the race’s final caution flew on Lap 97. The final restart took place on Lap 101, and Benson, a Michigan native, was able to hold on to take a very popular victory.
Former Nextel Cup champ Bobby Labonte, guest-driving for Bobby Hamilton Racing, finished third behind Martin, with points leader Todd Bodine and Matt Crafton filling the top five. Rick Crawford, Ron Hornaday, Dennis Setzer, Terry Cook and Jack Sprague completed the top 10.
The series heads to Beer City next weekend for a double-header with the Busch Series at the historic Milwaukee Mile.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Top Five:
1) Johnny Benson, No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Toyota Tundra, 102 laps
2) Mark Martin, No. 6 Roush Racing Ford F150, 102 laps
3) Bobby Labonte, No. 4 Bobby Hamilton Racing Dodge Ram, 102 laps
4) Todd Bodine, No. 60 Germain Racing Toyota Tundra, 102 laps
5) Matt Crafton, No. 88 ThorSport Chevrolet Silverado, 102 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Todd Bodine, 1650; 2) David Reutimann, 1472; 3) Ted Musgrave, 1469; 4) Johnny Benson, 1443; 5) Jack Sprague, 1337.
Champ Car: Allmendinger’s Topsy-Turvy Week Ends With a Win at Portland
A.J. Allmendinger’s week couldn’t have been scripted better if you hired Steven Spielberg. A week ago last Friday, he was summarily fired from the RuSport team, which had been built around him by CART co-owner Carl Russo, and replaced with 2002 series champ Cristiano da Matta, who had been driving for backmarker Dale Coyne Racing. On Monday, Forsythe Championship Racing fired Mario Dominguez, who had taken out teammate Paul Tracy in first-lap crashes twice in four races this year. On Wednesday, it was announced that Allmendinger was replacing Dominguez. On Friday, Dale Coyne Racing announced it had signed Dominguez to replace da Matta.
That same day, Allmendinger took provisional pole for Sunday’s race at Portland International Raceway. On Saturday he fell to second in final qualifying. When the green flag flew for Sunday’s race, Allmendinger jumped out into the lead and held it throughout the race except for pit stops. He held off a stern challenge from Justin Wilson, his former RuSport teammate, and went on to become the first man other than two-time and defending series champ Sebastien Bourdais to win a race this season and the first American to win a Champ Car race since Ryan Hunter-Reay at Milwaukee in 2004.
After the second round of pit stops at Portland, Wilson closed in dramatically on Allmendinger, but locked up his brakes and flat-spotted a right-front tire, causing a vibration that forced him to make his final pit stop early. He then had to fend off a hard-charging Bourdais to settle the final podium spots. Polesitter Bruno Junqueira, who had a bad start to the race, finished fourth ahead of da Matta, in his best result of the season. Rookie Dan Clarke (who got a great start and ran as high as third before a flat tire spoiled his day), Allmendinger’s new teammate Paul Tracy, Nelson Philippe, Andrew Ranger (one lap down) and Oriol Servia rounded out the top 10.
The series heads back east for the wide-open spaces of Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport next weekend. As for young Mr. Allmendinger, in addition to the winner’s money and hardware, he collected a $100 bounty from writer Robin Miller for beating Bourdais and is probably headed to Las Vegas, given his turn of luck. It was truly a Cinderella story, worthy of a movie. Too bad “Driven” wasn’t this good.
Champ Car World Series Top Five:
1) A.J. Allmendinger, No. 7 Forsythe Championship Racing Lola/Ford-Cosworth, 105 laps
2) Justin Wilson, No. 9 RuSport Lola/Ford-Cosworth, -5.420sec
3) Sebastien Bourdais, No. 1 Newman-Haas Racing Lola/Ford-Cosworth, -6.005sec
4) Bruno Junqueira, No. 2 Newman-Haas Racing Lola/Ford-Cosworth, -36.368sec
5) Cristiano da Matta, No. 10 RuSport Lola/Ford-Cosworth, -
Driver’s Championship: 1) Sebastien Bourdais, 162; 2) Justin Wilson, 105; 2) Mario Dominguez, 132; 4) A.J. Allmendinger, 102; 5) Andrew Ranger, 89.
ACO: Diesel Audi Wins Le Mans
Audi added to its winning legacy at the world’s most significant sports car race on Sunday, winning the 74th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its brand-new twin-turbo-diesel V12-powered R10. It was the sixth win in the last seven years for the German manufacturer, and the first ever for a diesel-powered car.
In the headlining LMP1 class, it was supposed to be a battle between the two Audi R10s and a pair of Courage-based, Judd V10-powered Pescarolo C60s fielded by four-time winner and French legend Henri Pescarolo. The French cars were fastest in the pre-race test and practice, but the Audis brought the heat when it counted, sweeping the front row in qualifying and consistently running 2-3sec a lap faster throughout the race. In addition, the Audis could run two laps further (at 8.3 miles per lap) on a tank of fuel. The winning No. 8 Audi of Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner had a largely untroubled race, taking the lead in the third hour while the sister No. 7 of Allan McNish/Tom Kristensen/Rinaldo Capello had a number of problems that relegated it to third at the end. Finishing second in class was the V10 Judd-powered No. 17 Pescarolo C60 of two-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, Super Aguri Formula 1 driver Franck Montagny and French veteran Eric Helary. With the win, Audi resets the record for number of race laps and Biela and Capello become four-time Le Mans winners.