Ricky Benton Racing Set To Make Its First Daytona 500 Appearance With Gillilandby Hunter Thomas February 16, 2018 0 comments
DAYTONA, BEACH, Fla. – Ricky Benton Racing has found success in the Hooters Pro Cup Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but on Sunday, the team will field a car for the first time in the Daytona 500.
The small team that’s based in Cerro Gordo, North Carolina is located just about an hour and a half from Darlington Raceway. Team owner Ricky Benton has fielded a truck in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for 79 races over the course of eight years. Most recently, Regan Smith piloted the team’s No. 92 truck for 13 races during the 2017 season. A conversation held just outside of the tunnel at Martinsville Speedway last season led to David Gilliland driving the No. 92 Black’s Tire Service/Carquest Auto Parts Ford for this year’s season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
“I raced a couple of years ago for him (Ricky Benton) in the Truck Series and had a lot of fun and had some good runs,” Gilliland said. “I ran into him at Martinsville, I was there to watch my son race a truck and they were running a truck, and I ran into Ricky on the way in, and I had heard about them putting something together to come here (Daytona Intentional Speedway) and race. Ricky stopped me just outside of the gate, and we stopped and talked, and he said, I’m thinking about doing it, and I said that sounds like fun, and then he said the only way I’m going to do it is if you’re driving it though.”
Gilliland who competed full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series from 2007 to 2015 has seven starts with Ricky Benton Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. During the 2015 season, he piloted Ricky Benton Racing’s No. 92 truck to a sixth-place finish during the season opener at Daytona and later that summer, he finished seventh at Kentucky Speedway. Gilliland said that this weekend’s opportunity is “special”. The veteran driver is very honored to be chosen to compete for Ricky Benton at Daytona this weekend.
“It’s special,” Gilliland said. “Ricky, he has done so much for the motorsports world, you know in all of his racing at the short tracks all over the East Coast, and he has been so successful on so many different levels, so to be part of his first Cup start is super exciting.”
Over the years, Gilliland has found success at Daytona International Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In 2007, he sat on the pole for The Great American Race, and throughout the years, he has captured two top-10 finishes at Daytona. His best Daytona 500 finish came in 2011, when he crossed the finish line in third. This weekend marks the first time that he has started a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since Daytona in July of 2016.
“It feels good,” Gilliland said to be back behind the wheel of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race car. “It has been a while, I think about a year and a half. That’s the longest I’ve gone in about, I don’t know, probably 12 years. It feels good, a little bit different, but there are so many familiar faces, and the cars don’t drive much different than they did.”
Unfortunately for Ricky Benton Racing, Gilliland was caught up in an accident during the Can-Am Duels on Thursday night. Gilliland was riding around towards the back of the pack saving his equipment, when the crash occurred. Gilliland’s car got either aero loose or there was slight contact when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dove out of line to make a pass on him. Gilliland lost control and crashed in Turn 1. The primary car was absolutely destroyed, and now the small team will compete in a backup car. Gilliland is set to start the 60th running of the Daytona 500 in the 39th position on Sunday; however, he believes that the team has a shot to capture a solid finish despite being the underdog.
“You’ve just got to put yourself in position in the end to have a good finish,” Gilliland said. “I’ve been second crossing the white flag and then ended up sixteenth, seventeenth, and I’ve been sixteenth, seventeenth and ended up third. Anything can happen, you’ve just got to be there. You’ve got to put yourself in position there at the end. I think a top-ten finish is by no means out of the stretch of what this team can do.”
Photo Credit: Andy Cagle/ Ricky Benton Racing PR