CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Johnny Benson lost his ride Monday when Red Horse Racing folded his team because it couldn't find sponsorship for the defending Truck Series champion. | Auto racing page
"This leaves me without a ride, I'd say, and not a lot of time to put something together," Benson said.
He said the team notified him Monday morning that the No. 11 Toyota would not finish the season. Red Horse will continue to field the No. 11 truck for T.J. Bell, who has some funding but is not fully sponsored.
"We gave it our best shot, and we tried as long as we could, but nothing materialized," team owner Tom DeLoach said. "This is a tough economic climate, and the cost of fielding a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team with essentially no support other than our manufacturer is too much for Red Horse Racing to bear alone."
It's the second time in seven months that Benson has been hurt by the sagging economy. He won the Truck title last year driving for Bill Davis Racing, but informed Davis before the season finale that he was moving to Red Horse because of the financial instability at BDR.
Davis sold his race teams and engine-building operation in January, and the new owners have not entered a NASCAR race this season.
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Benson said he believed Red Horse gave him a good chance to defend his series title, but the team had not lived up to his expectations. Benson, who finished fourth in Friday's race at Texas Motor Speedway, is currently seventh in the standings with four top-10 finishes this season.
"The decision to close the team is a bit surprising because they told me they wanted to build a championship-caliber race team," he said. "They hired a champion driver and a champion crew, and then decide to close the team instead of building the organization around it. So I am a little confused."
Benson said he doubts he'll be able to line up a ride in time for Saturday's race at Michigan International Speedway, his home track.
The economy has taken a toll on race teams in all three of NASCAR's national divisions, and even the healthiest organizations have not been immune. Many teams went through multiple rounds of layoffs, while others needed mergers to survive the downturn.
Sponsorship has been difficult to find for some of the smaller organizations, and some teams are struggling to make it to the race track. The field for last weekend's race was three trucks short of capacity, and 10 of the entries were "field fillers" that had no intention of competing for the entire event.
Norm Benning ran just three laps before ducking off the track with a handling issue, but earned $10,255 for the effort. Wayne Edwards outlasted the other field fillers to make it 26 laps before leaving with an ignition problem. He earned $11,155 for finishing 24th.
Benson downplayed Saturday night's field as an indicator of the series' health.
"There's always been field fillers in all three series, always. I don't think this is new," he said. "But we're all nervous about the economy in every series. It's down and it's making it tough on a lot of people. But the series is still good."