By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Ricky Benton Racing will make their season debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in March 24th’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway, with veteran Timothy Peters strapping in the No. 92 BTS Tire and Wheel Distributors/Carquest Auto Parts/Valvoline Ford F-150.
It’ll mark Benton’s first Truck Series start this season after spending its early season efforts in the Daytona 500 with David Gilliland in February. In Benton’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut as an owner, Gilliland brought the No. 92 Ford Fusion home in 14th, a lap behind race winner Austin Dillon.
As for Peters, it’ll be his fourth race since Red Horse Racing, a team he raced with for eight seasons and scored all 10 of his Truck Series wins before it ceased operations after the fifth race of the season last May.
In his last three starts, he drove for MDM Motorsports at Texas and Young’s Motorsports at both Las Vegas and Homestead.
“It’s awesome to be going to Martinsville with Ricky and this group of guys,” Peters said. “I’ve known Ricky for a long time; I’ve raced with them in late models and then trucks and they are true racers. (Crew chief) Mike Hester knows Martinsville, as their finishes have proven, and it is one of my favorite places to race and a track where I have a lot of experience.”
In 10 previous Martinsville starts, Hester’s best effort as a crew chief came in April 2016 when he led Parker Kligerman to an eighth-place finish.
Hester said the No. 92 Ford that’s competing at Martinsville was previously used at 1.5-mile circuits, and he and the rest of Ricky Benton Racing have put in the work to give Peters the best truck possible.
“The truck we are running at Martinsville is one we have used at 1.5-mile tracks in the past,” Hester said. “After spending the off season working on the Cup cars for Daytona, the guys in the shop have put in a ton of work to shift gears and get us a great truck for Timothy (in addition to rebuilding a wrecked racecar). I can’t say enough for everything they have done. With a great driver and the truck we are taking, I expect a great run at Martinsville.”
Peters, who captured his maiden win at the “Paper Clip” short track in 2009, believes he has a shot of bringing Benton’s truck its first top-five finish since Kligerman did it at Daytona in February 2016 when he finished a team-high third, and their second top-five at Martinsville after Scott Riggs scored a fifth-place effort in October 2012.
“We have a shot at a top-five finish if we can stay out of the usual Martinsville mayhem,” Peters added. “You definitely can’t win if you end up behind the wall on lap one, so the driver has to run a smart race.”
Last season, Benton’s operation ran 13 of 23 races with Regan Smith, scoring two top-10 finishes at Daytona (sixth) and Dover (seventh). Smith’s 14.1 average finish was good enough to finish 18th in the series standings, the team’s best since entering a Truck back in 2010.
Benton said adding Peters for their 80th series start was a great fit based on his success in the Truck Series, including a runner-up finish in the series standings in 2012.
“Timothy has a great track record in the truck series and is one of those guys who has a chance to win every time he gets on track,” Benton said. “In addition to that, he is a great fit with our team. Like us, he cut his teeth in late models on short tracks. He has been in our shop since we decided to work together at Martinsville and has really hit it off with our guys.”
In 79 previous starts, Benton’s team scored 11 top-10 finishes and only three out of their eight season they’ve ran 10+ races (Clay Rogers in 2011, Kligerman in 2016 and Smith in 2017).
Peters made his Truck Series debut at Martinsville in April 2005, driving for Bobby Hamilton Racing where he finished 18th. Since then, eight out of his 57 top-five finishes came at the 0.526-mile “Paper Clip,” with his last occurring on October 2016 when he finished fifth.