Kyle Benjamin hopes last scheduled NASCAR start brings more opportunities

Unless you’re a real big NASCAR fan, you probably haven’t heard much of Kyle Benjamin. That’s not to say Benjamin isn’t talented, because he is, but he hasn’t been gifted with opportunities like some up-and-coming drivers. Though Benjamin had another big opportunity to prove himself on Saturday, when he took the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 car.

Kyle Benjamin hopes last scheduled NASCAR start brings more opportunities

The Easley, SC native would first drive in the Hattori Enterprises No. 1 K&N car for the East-West combination race at Iowa on Friday night. It was the first time Benjamin has been in a NASCAR stock car since February 24, when he ran for Gibbs at Atlanta.

“It’s been a lot of fun [driving different cars],” Benjamin said. “I knocked some of the rust off and got what I needed [on Friday night].”

For Benjamin, the opportunities have been sparse. He hasn’t run a full schedule in one of the top five NASCAR touring series (including ARCA), besides his 2016 run in the K&N Pro series. In his one full season of performance, Benjamin won three races on the 14-race schedule, finished in the top 12 in all but one race, and earned second place overall for the year.

“It’s been a typical road to late models and going through that to get into ARCA and K&N,” Benjamin said. “That’s how I came up.”

Though since 2016, Benjamin hasn’t been able to get a full-time, weekly ride in a big series. He’s just been running late models in his spare time.

“It’s just hard,” Benjamin said. “There’s a lot of politics involved. All you can do is the best you can do. Hopefully you get in front of the right people at the right time.”

Benjamin got one shot on Saturday though in the No. 18. He spent most of the race in the top five and even lead five laps of the U.S. Cellular 250.

“It means a lot to me to get this opportunity,” Benjamin said. “[You get to] showcase your talent. You know you’ll have a good car. Just going out and performing to the best of your ability knowing that your car is going to back it up is a really good feeling.”

Benjamin found himself in the second row during the final overtime attempt on Saturday. He tried to go to the inside and make a dive-bomb like move on the leader, but was run into from behind and couldn’t lock up the win.

“The 42 (John Hunter Nemechek) locked up my back bumper and nailed me in the center and just killed what I had for an exit,” Benjamin said. “If I could’ve gotten it slowed down and made that turn it would have been great.”

Though Benjamin salvaged an impressive third-place finish.

“I don’t have anything lined up right now,” Benjamin said. “Hopefully that was enough.”

It’s hard to say whether Benjamin will get more opportunities to prove himself this season, but if what he did on Saturday was any indication of his potential, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

“I did what I wanted to do,” Benjamin said. “Go out and have a strong run. I was hoping for a win, but hopefully that’s enough to carry me into next season or maybe get something at the end of next season. As of right now I don’t have anything.”

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