Level Green NASCAR driver Norm Benning savors ups and downs of Eldora
His ribs are a little sore from a late-race crash, but his popularity remains intact among dirt-track fans.
Through good times and bad, it was a memorable night for Level Green’s Norm Benning at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Eldora Dirt Derby this week in western Ohio.
The highlights came early.
The Eldora crowd has supported Benning in full throat since his memorable battle with Clay Greenfield in the last-chance qualifying race at the first NASCAR event held at the venue in 2013. They roared again this year when Benning passed a couple of big-budget trucks and secured his spot in the feature with a fourth-place finish in a qualifying race.
Track owner Tony Stewart was one of the first people to Benning’s truck to congratulate him.
Stewart and Benning have known each other for years. They’re planning to meet this weekend as Stewart’s Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series runs at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway in Imperial on Saturday night.
“It’s pretty cool to have Tony Stewart talking you up and (FS1 guest commentator) Kyle Larson talking you up,” Benning said. “They’re some of the best in the business. They know what kind of accomplishment it was for us in that qualifying race.”
After the qualifying race, FS1′s Kenny Wallace conducted a memorable interview with Benning on the television broadcast. The pair goofed around, promising to meet up after the race for a few beers. Video of the interview spread quickly on social media.
“We did have some beers after the race,” Benning confirmed.
Benning’s fortunes soured once the feature started. He moved up into the top 15 before the first caution, but a tire problem left him in the back of the pack for most of the rest of the race.
With four laps to go, three trucks tangled and spun out in front of Benning. He got off the throttle, while some trucks behind him did not. As he spun, Kyle Strickler plowed into the driver’s side of Benning’s truck.
Strickler is known as one of the country’s top dirt modified racers. Benning took issue with that characterization after the crash.
“If he’s the best there is, we’re in trouble,” Benning said. “These kids can go really fast, but when there’s a panic situation, they don’t have a clue what to do. It’s a shame. It really is.”
Benning is in 19th place in the series points standings. The next race is set for July 28 at Pocono Raceway.