EASLEY, S.C. – Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell and Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman – Kyle Benjamin Racing photo –
With the hometown crowd cheering and a great driver behind the wheel – a lot can go right for a team.
This weekend, those components have lined up for Roush Fenway Racing developmental driver Kyle Benjamin, who will compete in the Kevin Whitaker 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway – a track that is located five minutes from his hometown of Easley, S.C.
“(The race) is so cool because it is like four miles from my house,” Benjamin explained. “So I know a lot of people in this area that are going to be (at Greenville) watching. But, we tested here about a week ago and the car was alright. We fixed it a little bit, so it is going to be interesting to see what happens when we get back on track.”
Despite this being his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Greenville-Pickens, Benjamin says tire conservation will be a major factor in this weekend’s race.
“When we get 100 laps on the tires (at Greenville), those cars do not handle well,” Benjamin said. “I think we are going to see a lot of riding (around). The tires just wear out so fast – 20 laps (on them) and they’re done.”
With it being his home race, the 17-year-old has his mind focused on the winners circle this weekend – as if he can already hear the hometown crowd cheering his name.
“It would be really big for me,” Benjamin said about what a win at Greenville would mean for him. “I have ran two races at Greenville and haven’t done well, so it would be (redemption to come out and win). And also, (it would be big because) it is so close to home. There is so many people I know around that area, so it would be cool to win in front of them.”
Looking past this weekend’s race, Benjamin is holding high expectations for the season. After finishing fifth in the season-opening race at New Smyrna Speedway, he has sights set on the championship – and nothing less.
“We are going for the championship,” Benjamin expressed. “We ran well last season and (even) had a top five at New Smyrna. I think we can really be a threat in the championship battle (this season).”
Benjamin will not chase the championship alone, however. He will have backing and support from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team Roush Fenway Racing, who he has been affiliated as a development driver with the past few seasons.
“(Roush Fenway) has really helped me a lot,” Benjamin said. “There’s a bunch of little things that I have picked up along the way (working with them). It’s just been a big help to (be affiliated) with them.”
Along with the full K&N Pro Series East schedule, Benjamin hopes to compete in select ARCA Racing Series events, starting at Pocono Raceway later this season.
“I think we are going to run Pocono, and we are not sure about Kentucky,” Benjamin said of his ARCA plans for this season. “We will probably run (those both).”
But come this weekend, all that will be in the back of his mind. Benjamin’s attention will be centered on the K&N Pro Series Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville-Pickens, a race that takes the green flag on Saturday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
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For more on Kyle Benjamin, visit http://www.kylebenjamin.com/.