Saturday, August 12, 2017

Winchester Dominated by Kyle Benjamin

Kyle Benjamin dominated at Winchester
The ARCA racing series paid its annual visit to the "World's Fastest Half Mile" last weekend and despite 200 laps of close door to door action, former series regular Kyle Benjamin took a dominant win. This year's race was moved to the first weekend in August after being the last weekend in June the last few years. As an ARCA series photographer, I like the two day format as it gives me more time to experiment and edit. Plus I get to sleep in my own bed since the track is only 70 miles from home! Getting to see all the historic race cars is an added bonus, although I still wish we would race under the lights on Saturday night. I guess I will have to wait for Salem in September for that. 

Zane Smith (55) fought Benjamin hard to keep the lead
The MDM team that Kyle Benjamin drive for has turned into quite a force this year in the select few races they have run. Kyle put that 28 car (which reminded me a lot of the old Havoline paint scheme run by the late Dave Allison in NASCAR) on the pole and was the fastest car all weekend. Even after dropping back to 7th following a late pit stop, there was never any real doubt that he would get back to the front. He was passing people high and low, with an occasional nudge from the chrome horn, but never enough to spin anyone out or get them too out of shape. He absolutely stalked Zane Smith who did everything he could to keep Kyle behind him but his efforts were to no avail. I imagine Zane's 55 car used up his tires trying to use all the track while he was mirror driving to hold off Kyle's 28. And the fateful final restart was just too much for the 55 as the transmission broke under Zane to solidify his heartbreak over running so well once again with little to show for it.

Christian Eckes ended up second after Zane Smith broke
Behind those two was a battle royale for the rest of the top 5 spots as Christian Eckes wound up second, points leader Austin Theriault stayed clean to take third ahead of the WVU Mountaineer Travis Braden at the wheel of A. J. Fike's 27 car. Gus Dean fought everyone off for fifth after several close calls while running the high line. For anyone who's been to an ARCA short track race, none of this should surprise you as the racing is always close and positions are hotly contested among the first ten finishers. What I find different now compared to a few years ago is how clean the races have become on the short tracks. It used to be a battle to see who could win with the most bear bond tape but the level of talent and equipment has risen so much that those days appear to be long gone. I'm sure the teams are glad to see that since it costs them less!

One of my experimental photos made Winchester look like a road course
There's no ARCA race this weekend but the next six weeks will be crazy busy, starting at the mile dirt in Springfield, Illinois next weekend which is a one day show. Then in succession are Road America (three days), DuQuoin mile dirt (Labor Day), Salem Speedway (a Saturday night race), Chicagoland Speedway (the Thursday after Salem) and then Kentucky Speedway 9 days later. This means six races over 33 days spread across the Midwest. After Kentucky there's a four week break before the season finale at Kansas Speedway in October, so the time for teams to make a push for points is now. I am blessed to be able to work all these races and it means I will be on the road a lot with hardly a day off from shooting or teaching between now and September 22nd. So I plan on enjoying this weekend at home, riding my bicycle, writing a grant application, and trying to get my house in order, both figuratively and literally. You can bet I will have much more to share before it's all said and done, so stay tuned. Or come on out to the races. It's a lot more fun being there than watching on television. Until then, here's a few of my photos from Winchester to tide you over.

Green, green, green!

That's some close racing between Zane Smith (55) and Kyle Benjamin
Veteran Bobby Gerhart lost in thought before the start of the race
Series points leader Austin Theriault is all business during practice

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