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Kyle Benjamin Leads NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Standings After Five Races

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Kyle Benjamin won the first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race

Kyle Benjamin won the first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race of his career at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee in 2015.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver Kyle Benjamin and his team are considering changing their course after the first five races. Benjamin leads the K&N Pro Series East standings after a fourth-place finish at Virginia International Raceway on April 30. When the season started, the race at Virginia was not on Benjamin’s schedule. His team, Ranier Racing with MDM, scheduled seven K&N Pro Series East and seven ARCA Series races for Benjamin.

Kyle Benjamin won the pole and was the runner-up at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race

Kyle Benjamin won the pole and was the runner-up at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Greenville Pickens Speedway in March.

Even though Benjamin has yet to win a race, he is the leader for the K&N Pro Series East championship. He has four top-five and two runner-up finishes. His latest race on the road course in Virginia proved that he can post impressive results off the ovals. Now his team has a tough decision to make: Keep racing toward the K&N Pro Series East championship or focus on winning races in the ARCA Series.

“He’s a phenomenal little driver,” said Lorin Ranier, the team owner. “He’s very experienced. He’s been racing at a high level in late models since he was about 14 and winning races. At 18 now, he’s a very experienced young driver with a couple of ARCA wins. He’s got one K&N win and obviously a lot of good finishes. It’s a real good race team, a championship group.”

Benjamin won his first K&N Pro Series East race in 2015 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. When Benjamin returned to Bristol in April, he was the runner-up to Chad Finchum. More importantly, Benjamin had the lead in the K&N Pro Series East standings by three points over Justin Haley.

Kyle Benjamin, in front row second from left

Kyle Benjamin, in front row second from left, is one of 11 drivers recently selected to the NASCAR Next class.

“We had a real fast car. We were beat all day by Chad Finchum. He had a really strong car. He just had us beat,” said Benjamin, one of 11 drivers recently selected to the NASCAR Next class. “It is one of the coolest tracks on the schedule. It’s just a really big deal to win that race. I really wanted to get that win again. If you can win twice at Bristol it means a lot.”

Kyle Benjamin won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2015

Kyle Benjamin won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2015. He started eighth and took the lead on lap 45 in the PittLite 125.

The drivers in the NASCAR Next class are considered to be the future stars of NASCAR and stock car racing. They are selected by industry executives, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Council, and media.

After Bristol, the team was preparing for its next ARCA series race. The plan was to skip the K&N Pro Series East race at Virginia. Two days before the race, the team changed its mind. Ranier leased a car and took it to Virginia International Raceway. With no practice and little track time, Benjamin qualified seventh, finished fourth, and fell into a tie with Haley for the lead in the K&N Pro Series East standings.

“You have an opportunity to go for it,” Ranier said. “That’s kind of where we are. Don’t want to give up the ARCA schedule. We have to weigh our options.”

Winning a K&N Pro Series East race would make Ranier’s decision a little easier. His team’s budget only afforded 14 races split between the K&N Pro Series East and the ARCA Series. Winning a race would increase the team’s budget. Benjamin said his team’s confidence is high, but winning that first race has been elusive.

Kyle Benjamin raises the trophy at Bristol Motor Speedway

Kyle Benjamin raises the trophy after winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee in 2015. He led 81 laps, the most of any driver in the race.

Winning a K&N Pro Series East race would make Ranier’s decision a little easier. His team’s budget only afforded 14 races split between the K&N Pro Series East and the ARCA Series. Winning a race would increase the team’s budget. Benjamin said his team’s confidence is high, but winning that first race has been elusive.

The next race in the K&N Pro Series East at Dominion Raceway in Virginia later this month will be pivotal in Benjamin’s future. If he wins, the chances of Benjamin continuing his pursuit of the championship will improve greatly. If he still has the lead in the standings, his team might add some more K&N Pro Series East races to his schedule. Regardless, racing in the K&N Pro Series East is preparing Benjamin for the next level in NASCAR.

“I’m really glad to pick the K&N series to race in,” Benjamin said. “It’s really stout. The competition is stout. There are a lot of good drivers, a lot of good teams. The field has a lot of depth. It’s really difficult to win. Each race it takes a lot. It’s such a strong effort. I know how strong the K&N series is.”


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