EASLEY, S.C. — In a race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway where NASCAR K&N Pro Series East drivers expected to be able to push harder for longer, hometown favorite Kyle Benjamin instead used the utmost patience to capture the victory in Saturday night’s Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150.
Benjamin started from the pole and led the opening lap, but laid in the tire-tracks of Dillon Bassett for most of the night as he waited for the right opportunity.
That chance finally came with 42 laps to go, when he surged to the inside of Bassett in turns one and two, taking command over the field and never giving up the top spot again.
Not even a green-white-checkered restart — set up after Ronnie Bassett Jr. turned Chase Purdy in turn three fighting for fourth — could keep the Easley native from rolling into victory lane at the end of the night, as he held off the elder Bassett brother in a chaotic finish.
The win was Benjamin’s fifth career K&N East victory and second in a row at Greenville, after also winning last fall’s event at the historic half-mile.
“Man, we were loose to start, but when we tightened it up at the break we found the speed we needed,” Benjamin said after the race. “This (win) means so much. It’s my home track, and I had a lot of people out here watching me tonight. I grew up coming here and the track has so much history … just so many things that make someone want to win here.”
He credited lessons learned from last spring’s K&N East race at Greenville, when he was passed by eventual series champion Justin Haley in the final laps, for his victory on this night.
“When J.J. passed me last year here … he beat us because he made an adjustment for the night-time and it paid off for him. I was thinking about that before the race … and ultimately, that’s what we did tonight and this car came alive. We made the car so much better on the pit stop; it was super fast.
Benjamin led the opening lap from the pole, but was quickly overhauled as Dillon Bassett stormed to the lead off turn two on the second circuit around the half-mile. Bassett quickly opened up a full second’s advantage over the field in five laps, asserting his dominance as the sun began to set.
Caution flew for the first time on lap 10, when Reid Wilson’s Young’s Motorsports entry went around in turn two with help from Collin Cabre, and a second slowdown quickly followed on lap 17 after Salvatore Iovino spun in turn one on the first restart of the night.
A longer green flag run began to break out following a lap 22 restart, with Bassett and Benjamin leading Harrison Burton out front as the top three began to break away from the field.
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