Johnny Benson, who announced this week he is leaving his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ride with Bill Davis Racing at the end of the season, still has some unfinished business behind the wheel of his No. 23 Toyota Tundra.
With two races remaining, including tonight's Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, Benson holds a 6-point edge on Ron Hornaday Jr. in the battle for the series championship.
"Obviously, I'd really like to get a championship, so if we can get that done this year, that would be great," Benson said during a SIRIUS radio interview.
Benson drove in NASCAR's Cup series from 1996 to 2003, so is he planning a return to the stock-car racing's top rung in 2009?
"What I'm going to do next year, I really don't know," he said during the radio talk show. "There's a couple things that some people had laid out in front of me that are tempting. So, that's where I stand."
A return to Cup racing, even on a part-time basis is an option, but so is retirement or another ride in the Truck series, said Benson, winner of the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series.
Meantime, there's a truck title on the line and Hornaday also has the goal of a championship. He's trying to collect his fourth title in 11 seasons on the circuit, in what is the tightest points battle with two races remaining in the series' 14-year history.
Both drivers say they are expecting a clean fight to the finish at PIR and at the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway next weekend.
"Johnny and I have never had an incident on the track," Hornaday said. "I want to race him as clean as I can."
However, if Benson wants to play bumper trucks, all bets are off.
"If he makes the first move, game's on," Hornaday said. "We are going to race to win; we are going to race hard."
Hornaday was fastest in Thursday's final Craftsman Truck Series practice, running a best lap at 130.690 mph (27.546 seconds) around the mile oval. Qualifying for tonight's Lucas Oil 150 is at 2:30 p.m., while the race is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
Pole sitter Bobby East of Brownsburg, Ind., led wire to wire to win the 25-lap Copper World U.S. Auto Club Midgets race. Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind., finished 18th and saw his series points lead shrink from 39 to 17 points over Cole Whitt (eighth) of Alpine, Calif., heading into the season finale Thanksgiving night in Irwindale, Calif.
USAC SILVER CROWN
Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, the 2006 and 2007 USAC National Midgets champion, added a USAC Silver Crown championship Thursday night by finishing ninth in the Copper World Silver Crown 100-lap feature race. He had entered the season-ending race with a 20-point cushion over Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind., who placed third to whittle Coons' final margin to 5 points. Coon's championship overshadowed the second race victory of the night for Bobby East.
FRIDDAY'S DRIVER APPEARANCES
Former NASCAR Cup champion Rusty Wallace and his son, Nationwide Series driver Steve Wallace, will sign autographs 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Exxon On the Run, 315 N. Litchfield Road, Goodyear.
Sprint Cup driver Elliott Sadler's pit crew will be at the Circle K, Third Street and Osborn Road in Phoenix, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.Friday giving VIP pit stops to motorists wearing their seat belts, part of Allstate's safety campaign.
Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne will attend Budweiser's "Off the Track, Off the Record-One Night Stand Event" 8 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Friday at Tempe Marketplace.