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Brandon McReynolds will start on the pole at the Iowa Speedway for the Thanks Kenny 150. McReynolds posted a time of 23.959 seconds around the 0.875-mile oval. The North Carolina native captured his fourth career NASCAR K&N Pro Series pole.

McReynolds had some help from a cloud that covered the track.

“We caught a little bit of a cloud and I think that helped us,” McReynolds told SpeedwayDigest.com. “We’ll see what we got during the race. Hopefully the track will gain some grip when the sun goes down.”

James Bickford will start the race right beside McReynolds. Bickford posted a time of 23.971 seconds around the Iowa Speedway. The California native will make his sixth top five start of the season in the West division. Bickford was just 0.012 seconds off of the pole.

Rico Abreu will take the green flag in the third starting position in his No. 98 AccuDoc Solutions Chevrolet. Abreu posted a time of 24.002 seconds on his first of two laps of the afternoon. The 23-year old led both practice sessions earlier in the day.

William Byron will have some work to do when the green flag flies. The series points leader in the East division will take the green flag in the 16th starting spot. The 17-year old comes into the weekend looking to capture his fifth victory of the season.

Chris Eggleston, who leads the series points in the West division, will also have some work to do. Eggleston will take the green flag in the 15th starting position in his No. 99 NAPA Auto Care Toyota. The Colorado native comes into the weekend looking to capture the third win of his career.

A total of 38 cars will start the race on Friday. There were no DNQ’s.

 

Travis Pastrana hasn’t been involved in NASCAR since 2013 when he ran the full XFINITY Series schedule. On Friday, the former driver made a rare appearance at a NASCAR-sanctioned track. The former NASCAR XFINITY Series driver was looming around the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series garage after the opening Cup Series practice.

When a former driver shows up to a race track it brings up the question on whether or not that driver is going to make a return. Will he come back? When will he come back? Why is he here?

Pastrana never ruled out a return to NASCAR. But, after struggling in his lone season behind the wheel of a Roush Fenway Racing Ford he still thinks about making a return to some sort of NASCAR division ranging from K&N East races to the Camping World Truck Series and everything inbetween.

“I’ve been really happy,” Pastrana said of his post-NASCAR career. “I just ran out of money and talent. I definitely talk to these guys about running the K&N Series here and there and then try to get in a truck race from time-to-time. This year we just didn’t have much time, but we’ll see what happens.”

The former Roush Fenway driver has had no serious discussions with any current teams about getting back behind the wheel in NASCAR.

“No serious discussions,” Pastrana said. I’ve got an off weekend on Dover for the K&N race or Las Vegas truck. Hopefully, we can talk to someone about getting behind something. 

Even with the few off weekends, he does still keep in contact with the drivers and crew members of Roush Fenway Racing.

“Quite a bit,” Pastrana said about remaining friends with his former teammates. “Crew chief Chad (Norris) calls quite a bit and we’ll bet on football games, so yeah I still stay in contact with them.”

Though Pastrana hasn’t raced in NASCAR since 2013, he has kept extremely busy in the past two years.

“It’s gone really good,” Pastrana said about his 2015 season. “We’ve really just been doing Nitro Circus. We’ve done 45 shows this year all over the world. It’s good to get some time off.

Pastrana did mention that he really liked his first stint in NASCAR.

“I really liked my short lived career in NASCAR,” Pastrana said. Just walking up and down here, all of the truck drivers and the crew chiefs, everybody really took me under their wing and I really had a good time just getting to know the sport and what it’s all about. I could have asked for better results, but at the end of the day I needed to do more homework. I always like jumping into the deep end.”

It will be interesting to see if this is a one appearance deal or if the former X-Games Gold Medalist is serious about strapping up and giving it a second-go in NASCAR. 

NKNPS: Thanks Kenny 150 Preview

Written by
Published in Racing News
Friday, 31 July 2015 13:24

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series will invade the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway for the Thanks Kenny 150 on Friday night. The event marks the second of the two combination events between the East and West divisions of 2015. Brandon Jones, who is not entered in the Thanks Kenny 150, is the defending race winner.

The entry list features 38 different drivers. Some of these include Jesse Little, Kenzie Ruston, JJ Haley, William Byron, Brandon McReynolds, David Mayhew, Scott Heckert, Dalton Sargeant, John Wood and Rico Abreu.

East

William Byron continues to lead the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings by 29 points over Austin Hill. Byron has captured four victories throughout 2015, including at Iowa back in May. Hill has one victory that came in the season opener at New Smyrna. Scott Heckert, Kyle Benjamin and Dalton Sargeant round out the top five.

Dalton Sargeant continues to seek his first win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East ranks. Sargeant has brought home two runner-up finishes across eight different starts in the series in 2015. The Florida native has captured four top five and five top 10 finishes in his rookie season so far. He holds one victory in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West division at Kern County Raceway Park.

Rico Abreu enters the Iowa Speedway riding on a top 10 finishing streak in the series. The rookie driver has finished inside the top 10 in the last three races in the East division. He has one victory, one top five and five top 10 finishes through eight races. Abreu will certainly be one of the fan-favorites coming into Friday’s event.

West

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West points tighten as the series invades the Iowa Speedway. Chris Eggleston, who currently leads the standings by one point over Noah Gragson, has two victories across the seven competed races this season. Rookie driver Gracin Raz currently sits third by three points. Ryan Partridge and David Mayhew round out the top five.  

Eggleston comes into the weekend with two back-to-back finishes just outside the top 10. The Colorado native led five laps in his No. 99 NAPA Toyota at State Line Speedway but ended up 11th when the race completed. He brought home a third-place finish the race prior at Sonoma.

Noah Gragson comes into the Iowa Speedway looking to finish just one more position on Friday. Gragson brought home a runner-up finish on July 11 at Sate Line Speedway in his No. 7 Ford. The Las Vegas driver holds four top five and six top 10 finishes this season.

You can watch the Thanks Kenny 150 on Friday, August 6 at 2:30 p.m. Et. on NBCSN. The NASCAR Home Tracks site will have live updates from Speed51 and timing and scoring.  

Former Ohio State Wide Receiver Joey Galloway will serve as the Grand Marshal for the Honda Indy 200, taking place July 31-August 2 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

 

Galloway will perform the standard Grand Marshal duties for the Verizon IndyCar Series race that headlines the weekend, which include giving the famous “drivers, start your engines” command to start the race.

 

"We are thrilled to have Joey join us as Grand Marshal for the Honda Indy 200," said Craig Rust, President of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "Ohio State pride runs deep here at Mid-Ohio and our team looks forward to welcoming Joey to the track. We are proud that he will serve in this very special role.”

 

Galloway played college football at Ohio State University where he earned many honors and finished in the top five all time in many of Ohio State’s receiving records. He finished his college career fourth in both career receptions with 108 and receiving yards with 1,894, and second in touchdown receptions behind Cris Carter with 19. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks eighth overall in the 1995 NFL draft and enjoyed a career that spanned 16 years. Galloway is currently a college football analyst with ESPN.

 

The green flag will fly for the Honda Indy 200 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 2. Tickets for are available for purchase at the gate, with free general parking and free admission for children 12 and under. Visit midohio.com or call 800-MID-OHIO (643-6446) for more information.

The International Hot Rod Association™ (IHRA) will make stop number nine on the 2015 Nitro Jam tour at US 131 Motorsports Park. Plan to be in Martin, Michigan August 7-8 to view one of the most interesting seasons of Nitro Jam competition as they begin the final stretch of a tight points competition in the AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car presented by Aeromotive, Mountain Motor Pro Stock, Crower Pro Modified, Nitro Harley, and Jet Dragster competition.

 

Although many of the Nitro Jam events leading up to this race have been plagued by rain, fans at the Northern Nationals will be treated to not only the two days of IHRA Nitro Jam competition, but will also be a part of the conclusion of the previous Maryland International Raceway President's Cup Nationals fueled by Sunoco which was cut short by remnants of Tropical Storm Bill. The IHRA Pro Stockers completed two rounds of competition while the Nitro Funny Car, Pro Modified and the Nitro Harley classes each finished only one round of competition.

 

Jet Dragster fans will enjoy a huge bonus as the weekend's competition will not only include the completion of the Maryland International Raceway competition, but also the Cordova International Raceway Summer Nationals where Jet Dragster eliminations were cut short as well. In addition to the exciting Jet Dragster competition, Dave Modder and Dragon's Fyre 1940 Ford pickup truck will be a popular added attraction at the Northern Nationals. The flame-belching, ground-pounding passes never fail to drop the jaw of even the most jaded motorsports fan.

 

New this season, the wildest class in drag racing returns to its birthplace - the IHRA. The Crower Pro Modified category features these wildly bodied nitrous oxide, turbocharged, and supercharged powered supercars rocketing the cars down the US 131 Motorsports Park quarter-mile at speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour.

 

Another new feature for 2015 is the inclusion of IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am racing at the US 131 Northern Nationals. An IHRA event typically held as a separate event is now formatted into IHRA Nitro Jam format, where fans can watch standout sportsman racers in Stock, Super Stock, Hot Rod, Super Rod, Quick Rod plus the very popular Good Vibrations Top Dragster, and Good Vibrations Top Sportsman.

 

Did you know?

  •  The      leading news going into the US 131 Motorsports Park Northern Nationals      presented by Aeromotive is the tight 2015 Nitro Jam points' race. The IHRA      Nitro Jam world championship points chase for ALL categories could be a      major "game changer" at this single event.
  • In      Nitro Funny Car, only 45 points divide Mike McIntire leading with the Mac      Attack '72 Camaro and Jason Rupert in his Black Plague '69 Camaro Funny      Car. At the last few events, Rupert has been on the verge of breaking the      current IHRA ET record that is currently held by McIntire.
  • Crower      Pro Modified currently sits with only six points dividing leader Ruben      Tetsoshvili and Dina Parise for the IHRA Nitro Jam world championship      point's competition. Less than 100 points divide the top 5 competitors.      Attending his first IHRA Nitro Jam for 2015, Billy Harper is the current      #1 qualifier from the Maryland International Raceway President's Cup      Nationals with a 5.79 ET at 239mph. Harper, hailing from Paducah,      Kentucky, could use these performance levels to totally shake up the      current Crower Pro Modified point's chase.
  • The      Nitro Harley class is making a unique appearance for the Michigan region.      US 131 Motorsports Park fans will witness 200 mph nitro-powered Harley's      rocketing down the quarter-mile drag strip on one wheel. Only 23 points      divide three major riders. The 2014 IHRA Crewchief of the year, Jay Turner      is the current leader while Tracy Kile trails by only three points and      2014 World Championship runner-up Randal Andras rounds out the top-three      leaders.
  • With      over 100 points accumulated between qualifying and elimination for those      racers who do well at each Nitro Jam event, the current points spread for      IHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stocks features a tight five-way point's      competition. John Montecalvo, Cary GoForth, John DeFlorian Jr., JR Carr,      and Kevin Bealko are the current top points leaders in the 800+ cubic inch      powered monsters of the IHRA quarter-mile.

Noteworthy items:

  • The      Northern Nationals is the ninth race on the 2015 IHRA Nitro Jam Drag      Racing Series North American Tour. There are two events remaining before      the Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series championship finale at Memphis      International Raceway in October.
  • Tickets      to the Northern Nationals presented by Aeromotive at US 131 Motorsports      Park can be purchased at the gate on the day of event or online at      www.us131msp.com. Nitro Jam is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m.      Saturday. For more information, please visit www.nitrojam.com,      www.us131msp.com or call (269) 672-7800.
The Trans Am Series has released an all-time series record entry for the Next Dimension 100, presented by First Energy, Round 7 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with 81 cars expected to participate over the course of the weekend this coming month.   The entry overtakes the previous record, set at Road Atlanta earlier this year, by 11 cars.  

                                    The entry, consisting of 21 TA, 37 TA2 and 23 TA3 class cars represents the largest event entry ever for a Trans Am weekend— one that will see two races take place alongside the NASCAR Xfinity Series, a TA2 exclusive race at 4:45 pm ET on Friday August 14 and the TA and TA3 class race at 12:50 pm Saturday, August 15.  

“We’re obviously very pleased with the entries,” said John Clagett, President of The Trans Am Race Company.  “This is one of our marquee weekends on the circuit, and we’re excited to put on a display of the modern Trans Am Series in full force for the fans watching at both the racetrack and at home on CBS Sports Network.” 

The 23 TA3 cars constitute the largest entry ever for their class, while the 20-car TA and 37-car TA2 class entries are the second largest entries of the year.   Likewise, the total number of participants represents another in a long line of record setting fields over the course of the 2015 Trans Am Season that has seen over 90 unique competitors take part in a Trans Am race, all that prior to the upcoming Mid-Ohio race which will see eleven additional drivers take the green flag for the first time this  year—amounting to over 100 competitors taking to the track in Trans Am so far in 2015. 

“I’m confident in saying this will be one of the best Trans Am shows we’ll see all year,” said Clagett.  “The growth we’ve seen, both in sheer car count and in the quality of drivers participating, makes for a great spectacle and an even better show.  This success and unprecedented growth is all due to our competitors, teams and partners—they’ve come together to make Trans Am one of the most attractive road racing properties out there.”   

Both races will receive their own independent broadcast on CBS Sports Network, with the TA2 Class race, the First Energy Muscle Car Challenge presented by 3Dimensional Services Group, airing on Saturday, August 29 at 12:00 PM ET and the TA and TA3 class race, the Next Dimension 100 presented by First Energy, airing Saturday, September 5 at 10:00 AM.  

Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman & Company, announced that Derrick Walker, President of Competition & Operations, INDYCAR, has decided to leave the company effective Aug. 31, 2015, in order to pursue other professional opportunities. A search for his replacement is under way.

Walker has made several important contributions that advanced INDYCAR as a sanctioning body. During his tenure, he greatly assisted in securing Boston as a new event on the 2016 schedule, successfully introduced the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis in 2014, spearheaded additional investment to improve technology in Race Control and led innovation of the new Indy car aero kits. His focus on continuous safety advancement resulted in changes to the Indy car underwing, making the cars more stable and strengthening sidepods, further protecting drivers.

"We have benefited from Derrick's extensive racing experience, his tireless effort and his passion for INDYCAR, and he will be missed," said Miles. "We appreciate the thoughtful way Derrick has planned his transition and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Commented Walker, "I have appreciated the opportunity to work closely with the team owners, drivers and the team at INDYCAR. After two and a half racing seasons, I believe the timing is right to move on to other opportunities."

South Dakota is known for its celebrations of all things motorcycles, and on this special Tuesday night, Aug. 4, it will be a celebration of speed and fierce AMA Pro Flat Track racing action in Rapid City on the Half-Mile oval at Black Hills Speedway.

 

Current points leader and defending Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines champion Jared Mees will aim to reach the podium for the sixth time this season as the No. 1 Las Vegas Harley-Davidson pilot has been sharp all year, accounting for three second-place finishes.

 

No. 42 Crosley Radio Kawasaki rider Bryan Smith is another competitor who has thrived in the premier class so far in 2015. Smith has won three of the four Mile races this year and the Flint, Mich., native will look to put together another strong performance on the Half-Mile surface in Rapid City. Smith finished eighth in the only Half-Mile event so far this season at the Lima Half-Mile and he currently sits second in the points.

 

Sammy Halbert has yet to finish outside the top ten in any round so far in 2015 and he will look to continue that streak next Tuesday when the lights go green in Rapid City. The No. 7 Briggs Auto Harley-Davidson rider sits third in the point standings after seven rounds.

 

Perhaps no other rider on the AMA Pro Flat Track circuit is coming into Rapid City with more confidence and momentum than that of the No. 6 Factory Harley-Davidson pilot Brad Baker. The 2013 Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines champion has won two of the last three main events and he will look to keep rolling on Tuesday night. Baker currently sits fourth in the points.

 

Three-time champion Kenny Coolbeth Jr. has been in a bit of a funk as of late, as the No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson competitor has finished 17th and 15th in two of the last three main events. Despite sitting fifth in the points, Coolbeth still has his sights set on his fourth-career Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines championship.

 

Sitting sixth in the point standings entering Round 8 at Black Hills Speedway is Brandon Robinson. The No. 44 Latus Motors/Triumph Bonneville competitor has looked stellar at certain points during the 2015 season, particularly at the Sacramento Mile, where he finished a hair-length behind Smith for a second-place finish.

 

Briar Bauman, mounted on the No. 14 Hart Racing Kawasaki, recorded consecutive ninth-place finishes at Du Quoin and Indianapolis and he will strive for better results on Tuesday in an effort to improve on his seventh-place position in the Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines point standings.

 

GNC2

 

It's no surprise that Davis Fisher has asserted himself as one of the up-and-coming stars of AMA Pro Flat Track. The 17-year-old second-year rider missed the GNC2 championship by a single point in 2014 and he has come back with a vengeance in 2015. Fisher, pilot of the No. 67M Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda, is the current GNC2 points leader and he will look to build on his lead in Rapid City.

 

Fisher isn't the only young talent in AMA Pro Flat Track's feeder class, as Nick Armstrong, pilot of the No. 44E Southland Racing Honda is right on Fisher's tail in the point standings. Armstrong also has momentum in his favor after his Indy Mile win last round on July 11.

 

No. 27U Jamison Minor is another GNC2 competitor that has shown tremendous success in 2015 so far. Minor is responsible for three top-five finishes and currently sits third in the points.

 

Dan Bromley, riding the Bromley Brothers KTM Racing machine, and J.R. Addison, pilot of the Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda, each sit fourth and fifth in the GNC2 point standings, respectively.

 

All of the AMA Pro Flat Track action from Rapid City can be viewed live, in high definition on http://www.FansChoice.tv. For tickets and more information regarding the Black Hills Half-Mile, please visit https://www.sturgisharleydavidson.com/.  

The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, August 13-16 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, will feature an abundance of sights and sounds of hundreds of historic race cars throttling around the race circuit, being worked on in the pits or seen driving through the bustling paddock. It is unlike any museum. 

For auto enthusiasts, a visit to Automotive Alley is also part of the story-telling experience. Located in the garages underneath the premier pit row suites, automakers will share their heritage and new models that represent not only the present, but sometimes the future.

Custom-designed interactive displays from BMW, Porsche, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Chevrolet, Nissan, Acura and Michelin will engage with fans. For example, visitors will be among the first to preview the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, while Acura showcases its exciting new twin-turbo V6-powered NSX supercar. It’s an area not to be missed.

With the Shelby GT350 as this year’s featured marque, the Ford Motor Company is unleashing its impressive performance lineup to the tens of thousands of appreciative fans in attendance. In addition to an elaborate heritage and performance display in the paddock, the automaker’s presence in Automotive Alley will present a complementary contrast between two performance icons.

Inside, Ford showcases its spectacular all-new GT that is making its Monterey debut sitting next to one of the first-generation cars that wore this famous nameplate. This new ultra-high-performance supercar serves as a technology showcase for top EcoBoost® performance, aerodynamics and lightweight carbon fiber construction.

“Racing has propelled the success of Ford Motor Company and our products since 1901,” said Henry Ford III, Marketing Manager, Ford Performance. “We believe that the spirit of competition can drive innovation and we have taken learnings from the track and applied them to the vehicles you see on the road today.”

Alongside the revolutionary new GT will be the 1966 Ford GT40 (chassis no. 1015) that Ken Miles and Denny Hulme famously raced and finished second overall at Le Mans. This is the car that should have won, but team orders called for a photo-op finish, thus technically finishing second to Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren in Ford GT40 chassis no. 1046 and just ahead of Ronnie Bucknam and Dick Hutcherson in a third Ford GT40.

The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is frequently described as a museum springing to life and is a celebration of motorsports history. Together with the renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the two events anchor the Monterey Classic Car Week. Attracting visitors from around the world, the festivities make it the largest social event on the Central Coast.

For full ticket information and event schedule, visit MazdaRaceway.com or call the ticket office at 831-242-8200. Tickets begin at just $50 for a Friday general admission and range up to $510 for a three-day ticket inside the luxurious Premier Pit Row Suite.

Angel Benitez Jr. had placed the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series into his mental rear-view mirror when he received a phone call in early June.

 

Venezuela native Benitez finished second in the Platinum Cup class of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned Single-Make Series in 2014, just eight points behind champion Colin Thompson. Benitez led the class with five victories.

 

Benitez had moved in 2015 to another IMSA-sanctioned Single-Make Series, ready to shift gears in his racing career after three seasons in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, which included a Gold Cup championship in 2012 and a third-place finish in the Platinum Cup standings in 2013.

 

But the offer on this phone call was impossible to resist.

 

Jeremy Dale, owner of longtime series powerhouse JDX Racing, was on the line. Former standout sports car driver standout Dale wanted Benitez to drive his Hertz-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for the rest of the 2015 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season, starting with Rounds 5 and 6 at Watkins Glen International. It didn't take long for Dale and Benitez to make a deal.

 

"I wasn't looking at all," Benitez said of job prospects in the series before Dale's call. "That's life. When you're not looking for something, it appears. When you're looking, when you really want them, it normally takes you awhile and hard work.

 

"This one wasn't that tough. So I'm happy it came that way. I'm just here having fun and trying to make proud all of the people who put everything together."

 

Angel Benitez Jr.

Benitez repaid Dale's faith in him immediately. He made his season debut in late June by sweeping both races at Watkins Glen in the No. 05 JDX Racing Porsche.

 

Winning was nothing new for Benitez in this highly competitive series. He has earned 12 victories in Platinum Cup since the start of the 2013 season, five more than any other driver.

 

But this was different.

 

Benitez drove last season for his family-owned Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport, led by his father, Angel Benitez Sr. But driving was only one of his many roles for the small, plucky team.

 

"I was a team owner, team manager, driver," Benitez said. "All the pressure was on me, and if I didn't win, it was because of me. Too many things together. It was so difficult. I'm happy that even when I couldn't deliver the championship to my dad, we had this second place and the most victories in the championship.

 

"We showed them you didn't have to have a lot of money, you don't need 10 cars, you don't need a bunch of infrastructure. You just need the passion."

 

That passion always showed during the crucible of the four-man Platinum Cup title fight last season between Thompson, Benitez, Michael Lewis and Sloan Urry. But the stress of balancing so many roles sometimes took its toll on the affable, popular Benitez, whose racing heart beats through the Nomex fabric of his driver's suit.

 

So the chance to concentrate on driving within the well-established infrastructure and sponsorship of Dale's team lured Benitez immediately, even if it meant doubling his workload due to commitments in another series.

 

"My work is just to deliver good feedback to the engineers, to put the car together, and I think we're bonding as a team," Benitez said. "We have good people here working. It is like going from hell to heaven.

 

"Right now I'm more relaxed. I'm living the experience again, but a lot less stress."

 

The transition from sweating every detail of multitasking with his family-owned team in 2014 to focusing on driving and data in 2015 manifests itself in so many ways, big and small.

 

Benitez no longer needs to book hotel rooms for the team. He no longer needs to check the team's tire inventory with Yokohama. He has a dedicated engineer, with an assistant, to pore over data after each session.

 

"Last year (engineering) was with my dad," Benitez said. "We looked at the video. We didn't know how to do the data ourselves with the Pi system. So it was like, 'What do you think?' 'Well, I felt this.'

 

"I know I was giving good feedback, but the data doesn't lie. I might be wrong at some little points. It ended up working, but right now but it's more about learning and enjoying the experience compared to last year."

 

Still, Benitez admits it took awhile for him to silence the voices in the back of his head asking if his lighter workload this year with JDX would result in slower lap times.

 

Angel Benitez Jr., left, returned to the series with two victories in June at Watkins Glen.

Sweeping Watkins Glen quelled most of that doubt. And two runner-up finishes at the next two rounds, in mid-July at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, ended those thoughts for good. Benitez has scored 76 points in the last four rounds, four shy of perfection and 11 more than any other driver in Platinum Cup.

 

"I'm learning that I can be as quick as I was last year without that much stress on me," Benitez said. "It's actually better. I can drive longer without the stress. I don't get tired as quickly. Racing is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical."

 

That strong performance vaulted Benitez, a Miami resident, to fifth in the standings despite missing the first three rounds of the season. He is 45 points behind championship leader Elliott Skeer with nine rounds remaining.

 

A championship charge is possible, but a long shot. Benitez probably must win nearly every remaining round to have a chance of overhauling Skeer, Jesse Lazare, Kasey Kuhlman and Andrew Longe in the standings. But he knows how to find the top step of the overall podium better than anyone in the class, which provides another mental boost.

 

"I like to win," Benitez said. "I think all the racers love to win. But I have tasted it. So I'm confident with what I can do. And with the proper people next to me, we don't need to push ourselves. We just need to make sure we always do our best, and the results will come."

 

Meanwhile, Benitez is savoring every moment of his unexpected fourth season in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. He's in a different place, a good place, grateful for the sweat and sacrifices by his father in the past and excited about the future with JDX.

 

If Benitez turned this hot streak into an improbable championship charge, he insists the title would simply be a repayment to Dale and the JDX crew for their belief in him, not the sweetest possible vindication due to the incredible circumstances.

 

"I would be happy and excited because I will be rewarding the people who trust me," Benitez said. "That's the important part. Honestly, I feel like I won the championship last year. I don't need the bigger trophy. I won the most races, smaller team, I was all by myself; we didn't do any data. I feel like a champion. I fulfilled my dream last year.

 

"Right now I'm just trying to get into that pro side of racing. If you trust me, I'm going to deliver to you what you are looking for in a driver. I don't even want to think what's going to happen with the championship because it's going to be a fun story if it happens. If not, I just plan to win as much as I can and enjoy the experience and enjoy being in a really good series. I'm just grateful with life and with the people who trust me here. I'm just going to deliver what I was brought here for."

 

Rounds 9 and 10 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama are scheduled for Aug. 7-9 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

 

For more information about the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, visit www.gt3cupchallengeusa.com, follow hashtag #GT3USA @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.

 

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