Sauter had a rough day as he chased for his 11th straight feature win at Madison. Troubles with a brake caliper early in the race dropped him to eight laps behind the leader. He finished 16th, 19 laps behind the leader.
“The car just got super, super loose,” Sauter said. “I just tried to ride it to the first pit stop then the brake pedal went to the floor.”
Kenseth’s debut had a lot of excitement surrounding it in the week leading up to the race. There was also a lot of excitement around Sauter, who made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut on Aug. 3 at Iowa Speedway.
The track has a lot of history for the Kenseth family. Kenseth’s father, 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, won a championship on it in 1994. He is a 28-time winner at the track in two divisions. He is fifth on the all-time wins list at the track in the super late model division with 26. Only Dick Trickle (72), Joe Shear (66), Tom Reffner (58) and John Ziegler (30) have more. Kenseth, who was fresh off his victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol the night before, was in attendance.
Ross Kenseth was the event’s top qualifier with a fast-lap time of 18.217 seconds on the half-mile oval. He led the first 51 laps of the race and appeared to be in control of the race.
“We were the best car,” he said.
A crash by William Gallaher on lap 49 brought out the race’s first caution. Kenseth was among a large group of cars to make a pit stop, including Benjamin. Just before the field was going to restart the race, Kenseth returned to pit lane to make a minor adjustment.
It had a major consequence. For the rest of the race, Kenseth struggled mightily with an ill-handling race car.
Kenseth was in second place with 15 laps to go. With four laps to go, he had fallen to fifth. Mingus passed Kenseth on the last lap to break into the top five.
“We made a bad adjustment in the pits,” Kenseth said. “It was 100 percent my call. We should’ve just left it alone.
“We went the wrong way with the adjustment and it really hurt us. We raised the track bar to free it up in the middle and it just killed the right rear tire in the long run. I had the best car here today. I just didn’t get it done.”
The last caution came out lap 67 after contact between Brennan Poole and Michael Lira coming off Turn 2.
Kimmel was the race leader at the time, ahead of Boston and Mingus. They pitted under the caution, while Benjamin stayed out, running in fourth.
Benjamin never relinquished the lead. The green flag came back out on lap 73 and stayed out until the checkered flag flew.
“When you have a long run like that, you’re thinking this is too good to be true to go all the way to the end green like this,” Benjamin said. “It really surprised me. I’m happy.”
Running that many laps without a caution isn’t unprecedented. Last year at Berlin, the series ran 162 consecutive green-flag laps.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” he said about a possible caution toward the end of a race, especially after a long green-flag run. “You’re worried, sitting there thinking, ‘OK. Forty (laps) to go, no caution. Thirty to go, no caution. Please no caution.’
“It was on me because I was out there riding like that. I did not want to see a caution.”
Kenseth was able to give Benjamin a slight challenge just beyond the halfway point as Benjamin struggled with lapped traffic. Once clear of the traffic, Benjamin cruised to the victory.
“We really needed that last caution to come in and put four (tires) on and make that adjustment to where we had it before,” Kenseth said. “It’s 100 percent my fault. It wasn’t broke; shouldn’t have fixed it.”
“The car was fast and everybody knew it,” he added. “We just came up short in the race.”
Right now, Benjamin can only compete on the short tracks. He’s not old enough. However, he hopes the age to race on the bigger tracks is lowered to 16 as he said there has been talk about doing just that.
What a way to end the summer for Benjamin. He starts his sophomore year of high school next week. He is home-schooled.
“I’ll be in a good mood,” he said with a glowing smile.
It also didn’t take long for a NASCAR reference to be dropped in.
“I hope somebody picks me up,” Benjamin said.