Westmoreland County native Benning puts up fight in Daytona
By Ralph Paulk
Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 1:51 p.m.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Just as Norm Benning began to maneuver through heavy traffic at Daytona International Speedway, an oft-inevitable crash left trucks scattered about the racetrack.
Benning, a Green Level native, did what he does best on the 21/2-mile oval. He avoided the melee - save a slightly wounded left front fender - by smartly threading his way through debris and mangled machines.
Ultimately, the consummate escape artist survived to finish 17th in the season-opening Camping World Truck race. It was a splendid run for Benning's under-funded program that landed a major sponsor only two weeks before Nextera Energy Resource 250.
Benning started 32nd in the 36-truck field. He slipped back to 35th before finding a groove on the outside of the racetrack that enabled him to reel in the frontrunners midway through the 100-lap race.
"The low line wasn't working for me because the truck was loose all night," Benning said. "I could drive it loose up top, but these trucks don't like having another truck on the left-side quarter panel.
"Everybody knows they can win if the draft works in their favor. I shot up there quite a few times but the hole would close. I could force the issue and possibly wreck or hit the brakes. I rather finish than take a huge risk."
Benning was cautious, mostly because he doesn't have the backup cars or equipment of heavily funded teams like Turner Motorsports and Kyle Busch Racing.
Yet, near the end, Benning found himself pushing Busch toward the lead as winner Johnny Sauter threatened to pull away uncontested over the final 12 laps following a 5-car crash on Lap 88.
As Benning pulled out the restrictor plate and pressure relief valve to give to a NASCAR official, he said he was appalled that Busch hadn't wandered through the garage to thank him for a second-place finish.
Benning, though, was more annoyed at himself. He passed a number of trucks, including Sauter, but was forced to race conservatively to save his truck for his next start in April.
"We were in the hunt all night long," Benning said. "The engine was so fast own the outside by myself. It didn't sort it out enough for me to go to the front. I had a truck that could have won the race.
"We don't have a huge budget, so we will be out of business if I wreck my truck. I have to do what best for my equipment even though it kills my ego. I want so bad to stick my nose into those places."
"I'm not satisfied. I came here to win. The cards didn't fall right, especially the cautions at the end. I could have blasted my way through there and had a top 10 or a top 5 - or a wrecked truck. So, until
I have a serious budget, this is how I drive."
Still, Benning left DIS afterward feeling good about his chances of competing this year.
"This gives us a huge momentum," said Benning, who hopes to mentor a young driver. "I just live for this moment - to have a competitive truck and being in contention."
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police charge Westmoreland County priest in $124,000 theft case
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Pittsburgh police to tear up parking tickets written ‘erroneously’
- Small plane crashes at Washington County Airport
- Pittsburgh’s Rubber Duck to be redeployed to Norfolk
- URA nears consultant deal to analyze Produce Terminal options
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract
- Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip
- Woman sues UPMC over pregnancy drug test
- Pittsburgh council introduces resolution to pay Rocco’s vet bills
- Ordinance requires Pittsburgh government to publish data online