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Benson wins championship as Bodine captures Ford 200

Nov 15, 2008 - 7:39 AM HOMESTEAD, Florida (Ticker) -- Johnny Benson won the war as Todd Bodine took the battle in Friday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final race of the year.

Benson's Toyota finished seventh, enabling him to edge Ron Hornaday Jr. - who was eighth in a Chevrolet - by seven points for the series championship.

"Words cannot describe it," an emotional Benson said. "This man right here (Hornaday) makes it meaningful. He's the best racer in the sport."

Benson received words of encouragement from his crew throughout the race.

"We ain't the fastest," Benson was told over the radio from the pits. "We will do what we have to do to be the smartest."

Meanwhile, Bodine grabbed the lead late in the race in his Toyota and held on for the victory.

"We had a terrible truck," Bodine said. "It was not handling well. We made a lot of spots up on pit road."

Brian Scott finished second in a Toyota and Kevin Harvick was third in a Chevrolet. Kyle Busch came in fourth in a Toyota and Dennis Setzer rounded out the top five in a Dodge.

Hornaday led an early lap to pick up five bonus points. At that stage, it left him two points ahead of Benson, who was back in the pack after starting eighth.

The first pit stop led to some trouble for Benson, whose team was told it had to get tape on the spoiler in the next visit or face a penalty.

Meanwhile, Hornaday dropped back to fourth as Harvick and Busch battled at the point.

"I had one eyes backward and one eye forward," said Harvick, who co-owns Hornaday's car.

Hornaday moved into third place past the halfway mark as Benson sat in eighth. At that point, Hornaday had a 30-point cushion.

The key pit stop came on lap 91, when caution waved. The field came in and Benson's crew had to get the tape on the spoiler and get him out to keep up with Hornaday.

It accomplished the feat while taking only two tires, gaining eight places and moving to the lead - an enormous gamble. The move enabled Benson to gain five bonus points for leading a lap.

When the green flag waved with 40 laps left, Benson was in the lead, with Hornaday in second.

Hornaday surged ahead with a bit of an assist as Harvick pushed him to the front from behind. Benson then regained the top spot - and the points lead - as Busch joined the battle.

The lead was changing on almost every straightaway, with Busch, Benson and Hornaday taking turns.

With 30 laps remaining, Busch took control. Hornaday was in second and Benson third, leaving Hornaday two points up in the battle for the title.

The two-tire move hurt as there was a long run under the green. The other cars performed better and Benson slipped back to seventh with 25 laps to go, leaving the points gap at 16.

Benson was desperate for a caution as his left-side tires were feeling the wear of the run. He got it, as Mike Skinner's Toyota blew its right front tire with 10 laps left.

Benson did not pit as Hornaday headed in for four tires. Benson was sixth and Hornaday 13th when the green flag waved with five laps remaining, meaning Benson had regained the points lead by 29.

The pair was separated by two positions with three laps left. Benson moved past Busch as the caution waved again, and the championship - and race - came down to a green-white-checkered finish.

Hornaday dueled Scott Speed in the pack while Benson remained ahead with one lap left.

At the finish, Hornaday was a bumper behind Benson, who was participating in his final event for Bill Davis Racing.

"Well, they definitely worked as teammates with Kyle when he raced me when Johnny was up in the lead, and then Scott (Speed) kept me in the mirror just to make sure he slowed me up," Hornaday said. "The green was out and he just waited a long time to go. I don't know what you do in situations like that. It gave Johnny just enough for two or three trucks, and maybe it would have helped coming up off the corner, but heck, you don't know.

"It was a good race. Johnny and I raced hard. It was just one of those things. Track position meant everything."

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