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KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips

Ross Kenseth (25) and Johnny VanDoorn battle during the Winchester 400 Sunday at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)

WINCHESTER Ind. — The disqualification of the winner at any auto race is a bummer, especially when it happens at a major event.

Fans seem to get cheated not really knowing the outcome of the race and finding out the final judgment via an internet website, etc. even though the witnessed the race with their own eyes.

That’s exactly what happened last Sunday at the historic Winchester Speedway as apparent winner of the 41st annual Winchester 400, Kyle Benjamin, was stripped of his victory laurels with the win being awarded to Ross Kenseth. A post-race inspection found a rev limiter infraction aboard Benjamin’s Ford. Reportedly, the setting of the rev limiter had not been changed since Benjamin’s last race at Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 6. Ironically, Kenseth won that rain-shortened contest.

Benjamin, the 14-year-old baby-face speedster from Easley, S.C., muscled his way by Kenseth in the final turn of the last lap to seemingly grab the $15,000 victory in the ARCA/CRA Super Series event.

Benjamin enjoyed all the fruits of a winner — the cheering crowd, victory lane ceremonies and photos, media interviews and congratulations and pats on the back from all around. Meanwhile, a dejected Kenseth, the 19-year-old son of NASCAR Sprint Cup star, Matt Kenseth, sat on the pit wall, receiving words of encouragement from supporters.

“That’s not racing,” Kenseth simply stated about Benjamin’s pass for the lead and apparent win. “That is not the way you do things around here. I think he’ll learn one of these days that’s not how you race guys. We really got one (victory) taken from us.”

Benjamin was the seventh fastest qualifier for the event with Kenseth, a full-time student at South Carolina’s Clemson University, being the 12th. Both drivers were among the leaders all day, battling for the top spot most of the race with Kenseth in command since lap 370.

“I didn’t think I had anything for Ross,” Benjamin said after the race. “I started to close on him and he really slowed down in the center of the corner and I started to catch him. (On the last lap,) I was close enough to run him up the track in the center of the corner and pull off the win. I had to bang him up a little bit. I think he understands. It was for the 400.”

Once all post-race technical inspections were completed, Kenseth was now the winner with Chase Elliott of Dawsonville, Ga., son of NASCAR great Bill Elliott, finishing second.

Newly crowned ARCA/CRA champion Johnny VanDoorn of Coopersville, Mich., was credited with third place, followed by Georgia’s aPollard and Michigan’s Jay Niewiek.

The top five finishers were the only drivers in the 41-car field to complete all 400 laps. Former two-time Winchester 400 winner, Butch Miller, directed the pit activities and strategy for Kenseth’s winning Blain’s Farm and Fleet-sponsored Ford Fusion.

VanDoorn picked up his third career Super Series driving title, guiding his Kaos Motorsports-owned, JEGS/Magic Transportation/McGunegill Engine Performance-sponsored Chevrolet Impala to four victories during the season.

Female racer Kenzie Ruston, a native of Oklahoma, finished second in the final ARCA/CRA standings behind VanDoorn. Ruston qualified 14th for Sunday’s 400 and was at one-time running in second place. A crash put her on the sidelines for a while, but she returned to the track and finished 20th, 90 laps behind the winner.

Sunday’s field was probably one of the strongest in recent Winchester 400 history. Fifteen states and Canada were represented in the starting lineup with the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota noticeably absent.

Former winners in the field included 2011 winner Boris Jurkovic, Chase Elliott (2010), Kyle Busch (2009) and Scott Hantz (2006).

Jurkovic, the Chicago area racer, started 15th in the race and was concerned about not starting nearer to the front, worried about one of those Winchester chain reaction crashes. Jurkovic was involved in a lap nine tangle which pretty much ruined his idea of a repeat winning performance.

The lap nine crash was triggered when race leader and fastest qualifier Rick Turner got into the wall off of turn four with a number of cars collected in the fracas. The wreck put the veteran Indiana driver out of the race, in addition to Busch and young Anderson Bowen, who was the event’s second fastest qualifier.

Rain washed out the scheduled qualifications on Saturday with drivers taking to the track on Sunday morning for time trials with overcast skies and high winds being present. Turner’s lap of 15.364 seconds (117.157 miles per hour) around the high-banked half-mile paved oval was good for fast time. Sunday’s race was Turner’s 200th in Super Series competition.

With rain hampering them, ARCA/CRA officials worked hard all day Saturday, attempting to get in all of the day’s preliminary events. The wee hours of Sunday morning saw the last checkered flag fall.

Keith Sterkowitz of Cedar Lake, won the 30-lap CRA Late Model Sportsman division headliner. Sterkowitz was last year’s division champion, but ran only a limited schedule this year. Rain played a factor in Sunday’s 400 lapper as a brief shower caused the race to be stopped with track-drying efforts needed to get the track in racing condition again.

One of the oldest raceways in the nation, Winchester Speedway is the subject of a new book – 100 Years of Speed The Centennial History of Winchester Speedway 1914 – 2013. Veteran motorsports writer Bill Holder does a great job chronicling the history of the famed speed plant through photos, stories and remembrances. Visit www.tachmometerpress.com for more information.

The address for news and comments is 9618 Cypress Ave., Munster, Ind. 46321-3418 or e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by on Oct 16 2012 Filed under Columns, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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