Kyle Benjamin has had a start to the 2009 season that many racers on any level long for. With three wins in his first six starts and two runner-up finishes in the races he didn’t win, Benjamin has emerged himself as the early favorite for the 2009 Pro Challenge Series National Championship.
Benjamin took another step forward toward the “Champion” title with a dominating win in the first Pro Challenge North Region National Point event of the 2009 season, Friday night at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, North Carolina. Benjamin led all 35 laps, which on paper sounds like an easy win for the young South Carolinian, but Meghan Dillner stayed right in Benjamin’s tire tracks throughout the event to make Benjamin’s victory a hard-fought one.
“It feels good to win here at Tri-County,” said Benjamin. “It was a great race. Meghan was right on my bumper. I was driving the wheels off of it to win this one.
“We’ve had a great start to the season. I just have to thank Toby Porter, Michael, my grandpa – everyone that helped me get to this point.”
Benjamin set quick time for the 35-lap feature and started from the pole, but a slip-up on the opening start of the event jostled up the entire field as the front-runners stacked up three-wide into turn-one. Benjamin eventually emerged with the lead with outside-polesitter Trevor Edwards in second and Dillner in third for the first handful of laps.
Dillner used a bottom-shot move to get past Edwards for the runner-up spot early in the event and set her sights on the back bumper of Benjamin. Dillner eventually reeled Benjamin in, giving the three-time series winner a run for his money.
“I started looking in my mirrors and saw that everybody was starting to catch me,” added Benjamin. “I just had to drive the wheels off it from there if I was going to keep them behind me.”
A lap-22 caution flag bunched the field up one final time. The single-file restart was Dillner’s opportunity to pounce if Benjamin slipped up again like he did on the opening start, but it was also Benjamin’s opportunity to keep the rest of the field behind him if he got a solid fire at the drop of the green flag.
Much to Dillner’s chagrin, Benjamin got the perfect restart that he needed and went on to victory.
“Of course I wanted to get by that #71 car (Benjamin) in front of me,” said Dillner. “I was looking at all the options. If he slacked off a little bit, maybe I could get a good jump on him. But, he got a great restart just when he needed it and I followed right behind him. I knew that if I had an opportunity, I was going to take it, though.”
“I had my fingers crossed for a good restart and I got it,” said Benjamin. “They were counting it down for me, and I was really hoping the laps would go quicker and it’d be over.”
Dillner followed behind Benjamin for the final laps before Brady Boswell flipped a switch and started reeling the top-two in. Boswell’s rally was slowed with a scrape of the wall, but the third-place finish was still a positive one for the young Pro Challenge South Region regular.
“My car was really coming in, but then it started falling off again at the end,” said Boswell. “The front end would push up, then that would make the back end come around. Then I scraped the wall and that kind of messed me up and I started falling off, so I couldn’t catch them at the end.”
Stephen Bergh, Jr., racing with a broken right foot for the second-straight race, finished an impressive fourth, while Trevor Edwards followed in fifth.
The next Pro Challenge North Region event is the second of the four National Point races in the region on Saturday, May 30th, at Dillon Motor Speedway in South Carolina.