It wasn’t hard to notice Kyle Benjamin in the hours before the ARCA Menards 200.
After he won the pole a day earlier for Sunday’s race at Toledo Speedway, the crowds came to the 15-year-old from Easley, S.C. And Benjamin didn’t pause while handling an interview request and autograph requests before the race.
“It’s a big deal to be able to run in this series,” said Benjamin, who drives for Chicago-based Venturini Motorsports. “Driving these stock cars, it’s the closest you can get to driving a Sprint Cup car. They’ve got the same motors, and the same build, and if you can drive these, it’s a really big advantage.”
Benjamin won the pole Saturday with a qualifying time of 15.872 seconds, becoming the youngest pole winner in ARCA history.
“Our car’s been fast,” said Benjamin, who is driving a partial ARCA schedule this season. “It tested fast last week here at Toledo, and it was fast in practice.”
In his third ARCA start, a broken gear ended Benjamin’s bid to become the youngest ARCA race winner. Benjamin went between first and second with race winner Ken Schrader for the first 44 laps, but he slowed coming out of the backstretch on the 46th lap and had to pull onto pit road, where his car continued to be worked on as the race progressed.
Benjamin finished 23rd in the 31-driver field. In two previous ARCA starts, Benjamin finished second to Grant Enfinger on March 9 in the ARCA Mobile 200 at Mobile International Speedway and finished 11th on April 28 in the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem (Ind.) Speedway.
TAKING THE WHEEL: With Nationwide driver and longtime friend Justin Allgaier in attendance, Kelly Kovski finished ninth in the Menards 200, driving for Allgaier Motorsports. Sunday’s race was Kovski’s first on an asphalt track; he typically competes in two ARCA races on dirt tracks each season.
SIGNING OUT: James Hylton drove in his last race at Toledo Speedway on Sunday, one of the final ARCA races of his career, which has spanned 50 seasons.
Hylton, 78, signed autographs, then turned around and asked fans for their autographs. Each person who chatted with the veteran driver took a turn signing his or her name on the hood of Hylton’s red Ford.
Hylton made 602 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts and entering the 2013 season, had made 143 ARCA starts since 1997. Hylton said in March that after the conclusion of his final season, he will continue to own the Hylton Motorsports team, which will field ARCA entries.
In 50 seasons of racing, Hylton has driven in at least one race in all three NASCAR classifications — the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Trucks series.
OUT OF THE RUNNING: ARCA officials said before Sunday’s race that two drivers who drove in Saturday’s qualifying did not enter the 31-driver Menards 200 field.
Robert Bujdoso wrecked during qualifying and did not have a backup car for the Menards 200, while Bo LeMastus also wrecked and could not get his car repaired in time for Sunday’s race.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.