EASLEY, SC – Many breakout performances have been the storylines during Florida Speedweeks in February over the years. Whether it was 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne scoring the upset NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win or an unknown rookie like John King winning the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Daytona International Speedway, February in Florida has proven magical for several young drivers.
While his accomplishments occurred on the half-mile New Smyrna Speedway, about 20 minutes away from Daytona, Kyle Benjamin’s performance during the 46th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing has been another highlight on the list of Speedweeks breakouts.
With only one Super Late Model start to his credit before the nine-night World Series, Benjamin turned his experience-building effort at New Smyrna into a championship. He scored three straight wins during Smyrna Speedweeks and never finished lower than sixth in his six races in eight nights to become the youngest Super Late Model Champion in the 46-year history of the New Smyrna World Series.
“We came down here for seat time for the Super Late Model to get ready for the Rattler (March 4th at South Alabama Speedway), but we ended up getting a lot more than seat time,” said Benjamin. “It was a great coming down here. It was a great choice by us to make the trip.
“Three wins and a championship. That’s a pretty good way to start the season.”
Benjamin’s team planned to skip the first few nights of Smyrna Speedweeks and just race the final events to gain experience. Mother Nature aided the title run the first night with a rainout. Then, with Benjamin’s team in New Smyrna, the 14-year-old went out on the track on the second scheduled night of action just to shake the car down. That shake-down effort resulted in a surprising sixth-place effort, spurring the run to the championship.
“We weren’t even supposed to run for points, but I’m glad we made it for that first race. It worked out well. This is definitely my new favorite track. We were pretty fortunate to unload with a good car. We didn’t have to do too much to it.”
To secure the title, Benjamin had to finish ahead of his closest championship rival, Kyle Larson, in the final 100-lap event on Saturday, February 25th. An ill-handling car made it tough, but Benjamin was able to hang on to the No. 71 machine for a sixth-place finish and the title.
“We didn’t have the best car, but we did what we had to do to get the title,” said Benjamin, whose crew later found that three of the four bolts that hold the rear-end of the car together were broken. “It was a great effort all week. The night before, I got taken out by a lapped car and from there I was just trying to get back up there. I knew that in just 30 laps, I wasn’t going to get all the way back up to the front. I just wanted to get back by Larson to get the point lead and have something good come out of the night. That’s what I did and it worked out great.”
Benjamin will have just a few short days to cherish his title. His 2012 season will continue at “The Rattler,” March 2nd through 4th at South Alabama Speedway. Benjamin will be pulling double-duty in the prestigious event with both his No. 71 Super Late Model and Pro Late Model.
For more information on Kyle Benjamin, contact Matt Kentfield at