LONG POND, Pa. — After a day in which he started on the pole and contended at the front of the field for almost the entirety of the Pocono Green 250, disappointment was etched in Kyle Benjamin’s face when he climbed from his car.
Benjamin, making just his second-career NASCAR XFINITY Series start, led the first 21 laps and clawed the lead back from eventual winner Brad Keselowski on a restart with 44 to go, before the race’s next and final restart showed him what veteran experience in the series can do.
A caution flag for Brandon Jones’ crash with 22 laps left allowed Benjamin and the other Joe Gibbs Racing cars, who had just pitted for green-flag service prior to the yellow, to stay out and roll to the front of the field.
Benjamin lined up sixth, hoping to capitalize on the momentum of the top lane in the draft to pick up some positions and contend for the win he missed out on in April at Richmond.
Instead, the 19-year-old from Easley, S.C. was bounced out of the pack like a ping-pong ball when the green flag flew, putting him in the extreme high lane along with Keselowski as the duo fell back like rocks through the field.
While Keselowski was able to work his way from 12th back to the win, passing Larson on the final lap, Benjamin was not as lucky.
The teenager could only pick up one position in the closing laps, ending up 16th after falling 11 positions on the last run.
Still though, Benjamin looked at the positives from his day, after leading a total of 28 laps during the 100-lap race and finishing second in both of the first two stages.
“We had a great car all day and got a lot of experience out there,” Benjamin said. “I got to race around a lot of people and learn the aero (of these cars) a little better, which helped me a lot in just my second start.”
“The Hisense Camry was really good, but we just got some damage a little bit on the left side on the last restart. It made it to where I was wrecking loose at the end, and the balance was way out of whack. I did what I could … just didn’t have anything for them there.”
Benjamin also reflected on his first-career XFINITY pole, scored earlier in the day with a lap of 52.070 seconds (172.844 mph) around the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
“It meant a lot to get the pole here at Pocono,” he said. “It gives us a lot of confidence … even though I already had a lot of confidence in the team. They’ve done great things and we’ve had fast Camrys all year.”
“That run today just really helps us build on things and take some momentum to Iowa, which is my next race with the team.”
Benjamin will return to Joe Gibbs Racing on June 24 at Iowa Speedway, moving over to the No. 18 Toyota, which he will pilot for his remaining three scheduled races this season.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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