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LAKEVILLE, Conn. – NASCAR Camping World Series East rookie Ryan Truex completed the road-course sweep in the Mohegan Sun 200 Saturday at Lime Rock Park to move into the driver’s seat for the series title.
Matt DiBenedetto, who sat on the pole and led a race-high 56 laps, was caught up in an accident on Lap 70 and Truex – second place at the time – assumed the lead for the second time in the race. The 17-year-old from Mayetta, N.J., then held off series veteran Eddie MacDonald on the final two restarts to earn his third victory of the season.
Truex and DiBenedetto – both development drivers – have had a few battles already this year, and Truex anticipated another on Saturday, but at Lime Rock it was not meant to be.
“I really think we had the best car,” Truex said. “It would have been a lot closer of a finish, I probably would have caught him [DiBenedetto] right at the end. It was unfortunate [the wreck] for him, it would have been fun to race him.”
Truex, a Michael Waltrip Racing development driver, earned his first career victory on a road course at Watkins (N.Y.) Glen International in June and took the points lead for the first time after his first oval track win at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway in July. On Saturday at Lime Rock, Truex’s win extended his lead in the championship standings to a season-high 50 points over MacDonald.
While MacDonald record his best career effort at the 1.53-mile road course, several other contenders struggled.
Defending race and series champion Matt Kobyluck, who entered the day 60 points behind Truex, had a frustrating weekend. In Friday’s qualifying, the car had water in the gas tank and he was not able to turn in a lap. Then after starting at the tail end on Saturday, engine troubles forced Kobyluck off the track after two laps.
Kobyluck was able to return to the track 32 laps down and got 38 circuits in before being involved in the Lap 70 accident that eventually caught up race leader DiBenedetto. He had to settle for a 17th place finish and is 133 points behind Truex with just two races remaining in a bid to repeat as NASCAR Camping World Series East champion.
Brett Moffitt (ninth), Steve Park (11th) and Jody Lavender (13th) all entered the event within 100 points of Truex but lost considerable ground.
Jason Holehouse earned his best career NASCAR Camping World Series East finish with a third-place effort on Saturday. He was followed in the top five by Alex Kennedy, with a new career-best finish as well, and Mike Olsen. Jesus Hernandez, Ryan Duff, Dustin Delaney, Moffitt and Jeff Anton rounded out the top 10.
DiBenedetto, a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver, was relinquished to a 16th-place finish. He had a lead of more than nine seconds on the field with 12 laps to go before making contact with Kobyluck’s spun car.
In years past, the Lime Rock Park date has gone a long way toward determining the eventual champion. The 2009 edition proved to be yet another crucial event as Truex now maintains the largest lead any driver has had all season. With three wins in the last five races, Truex’s feels good about the remaining schedule.
“I’m pretty confident with the rest of the year,” Truex said. “Every week we’ve got awesome race cars, I’ve just got to go out there every week and run good.”
The next-to-last race of the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Series season will take place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Heluva Good! Fall 125 is slated for Friday, Sept. 18.
RESULTS | LAP-BY-LAP RECAP | POST-RACE VIDEO WITH RYAN TRUEX | POST-RACE VIDEO WITH EDDIE MACDONALD | POST-RACE VIDEO WITH RYAN TRUEX'S CREW CHIEF MIKE GRECCI | POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE AUDIO WITH RYAN TRUEX | POST-RACE AUDIO WITH EDDIE MACDONALD AND JASON HOLEHOUSE
Below, Matt DiBenedetto led 56 laps but had a nine-second cushion wiped out when he was caught up with a wrecked car. Howie Hodge/NASCAR