OREGON, Wis. – Kyle Benjamin was on a nice Sunday drive through the country of southern Wisconsin on a hot and humid late summer day.
Benjamin, a 15-year-old teenager who isn’t licensed to drive on the streets on his own, stole the show from local favorites Ross Kenseth and Travis Sauter by leading the final 131 laps of the ARCA Racing Series Herr’s Live Life With Flavor 200 at Madison Int’l Speedway.
With the victory, Benjamin became the youngest driver to win a race in the ARCA Racing Series.
“You’ve always got to be a little bit scared when Ross is behind you because he’s a really good driver,” Benjamin said. “He’s tough to beat. You’ve always got to worry about him.”
That was especially the thought as Kenseth was racing on his home track, where he’s won five times, in his ARCA debut.
“It’s a big deal to beat Ross anywhere, whether it’s a late model or in a foot race,” Benjamin said. “He’s a great driver. He’s really fast and I respect him a lot. It’s a big deal for me to win the race and beat him.”
Benjamin, a native of Easley, S.C., was already the youngest polesitter in the series’ history, which he accomplished on May 19 at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.
“The car was really good,” Benjamin said. “It was a top-five car in the first run. Then we made that (pit) stop and we changed two tires and (crew chief Kevin Reed) made some adjustments, exactly what I needed to go out and run good in the second (run).
“He’s the best crew chief around. That’s what crew chiefs are for. He gave me a shot to win the race.”
James Buescher was the youngest winner in series history before Benjamin, having won at USA International in Lakeland, Fla., in 2007. He was two days shy of his 16th birthday when he took the checkered flag in an ARCA event. Benjamin won’t turn 16 until November.
“It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Benjamin about just winning an ARCA race. “I’m ecstatic. I’m not going to sleep tonight. I’m not going to sleep tomorrow night. It’s a big deal.”
Justin Boston finished second. Frank Kimmel dropped to 0 for 6 in his attempt to become the series’ all-time winningest driver by finishing third. Kimmel tied legendary driver Iggy Katona after winning at Winchester Speedway on June 30 with 79 victories.
Kimmel has 25 straight top-10 finishes and five straight top-fives.
Benjamin, in a way, almost felt guilty for winning because so many drivers in the series have far more experience than he does, like Kimmel, who has been racing longer than Benjamin has been alive. But Kimmel can’t and won’t deny the teen’s talent.
Benjamin won three straight races at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway in 2012 when he was just 14 years old and won the 37th annual Hardee’s Rattler 250 at the South Alabama Speedway in late March.
“He just does a good job and always has,” Kimmel said. “He did a great job.”
Spencer Gallagher and Mason Mingus rounded out the top five.
The final margin of victory for Benjamin over Boston was an overwhelming 7.09 seconds or almost one full straight away. The race broke two track records for the series: time of race (1:15:44) and average speed (79.21 mph).
Kenseth finished sixth.