51 Leftovers: NASCAR CW East Tri-County 150
New Track, First Time Pole Winner, First Time Race Winner
By Elgin Traylor
DiBenedetto Adds His Name to the Record Books

Matt DiBenedetto will always remember his first Camping World East Series victory.  Even if he goes on to win a dozen more races in the series, the first one might stick out in his mind as the best.  A back-and-forth battle with Austin Dillon paved the way for a dramatic green-white-checkered finish, in which DiBenedetto made the pass for the win on the white-flag lap.

“It was unbelievable when my spotter said ‘clear’ off of turn two on the last lap,” said DiBenedetto. “So I scooted up there in front of him (Dillon) and I just drove the crap out of it through three and four.  I was excited when I crossed the finish line.”

While DiBenedetto’s name may be a new one for fans and followers of the Camping World East Series, short track eyes in the Southeast opened last year to the young driver’s talents.  He found success in Late Model Stocks prior to landing a ride with the Joe Gibbs Development team for the 2009 season.  A year ago he scored a win at Bristol in the UARA-Stars Series, but his first Camping World East win has replaced that as the top victory on his list of achievements.

“Bristol was great, but nothing can compare to this,” said DiBenedetto.  “It is unbelievable to be in the Camping World East Series and racing with these great drivers and to win here really means a lot to me.  Nothing compares to this.  It was definitely my best win ever.”

Matt DiBenedetto will return to the driver’s seat at the upcoming Camping World East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June. 

Tardiff Makes Some Noise for the Pine Tree State

The Camping World East Series got its start in the state of Maine.  In fact, when you look at the past champions, a total of eight times the title has gone back to the Pine Tree State.  Since the name change to the East Series from the North Series, however, the list of drivers from Maine that enter the events has dropped dramatically.  Alan Tardiff could be considered the last great hope for Maine to win another Championship in the foreseeable future.  The Lyman, Maine, driver turned a lot of heads after he won the pole at Tri-County and finished third.

“We are going to remember this for a while,” said Tardiff.  “Holding onto first throughout the entire time trial period was great, I am happy about that.  Regardless of where we finished in the race, we were going to be happy, but coming out with a top-three finish is definitely memorable.”

Tardiff slipped back during the race and looked to be on his way to a finish outside the top 10.  However, the car came back to him and some key positioning on restarts got him back into the top five for a third-place finish.

Since the race, Speed51.com has learned that Tardiff will be going to the Iowa Speedway event next week.

Dillon Ends Up Second after Multiple Green-White-Checkered Finishes

Austin Dillon admitted he was a little confused after the race. He thought he had won when the final yellow flag came out.  Dillon had taken the lead in turn three, but Camping World East Series rules call for multiple green-white-checkered restarts if necessary, allowing Matt DiBenedetto to get by on the final restart.  Nevertheless, Dillon was satisfied with his run at Tri-County.  

“I don’t know why they didn’t throw the checker, but it’s all good,” said Dillon.  “We just lost our stuff and we didn’t have anything for him at the end.  I just messed up there on the last lap and they got the lead back.  We burnt our stuff up early and Matt just had a little bit more than we did at the end.  It was a good race and a lot of fun.”

Dillon will have a full schedule of racing in 2009. He’ll be at Iowa on May 17th after he runs the ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Kentucky on May 9th.

Bayne Waits On His Future in Racing

A year ago, it was clear that Trevor Bayne was a big part of the future for former Sprint Cup powerhouse Dale Earnhardt Inc.  So much has happened since then within the DEI organization, leaving Bayne without a full-time ride in 2009.  A one-off start at Tri-County returned Bayne to the series in which he won a race in his rookie season of 2008, but the young racer still has to look ahead with uncertainty as to when his next race will be.

“It’s a waiting game,” said Bayne.  “We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait.  The thing that is scary is that you can’t sit around and not do anything.  You have to race.  You have to be in sightline of the people around these series and that’s why we are doing these one race deals.”

Bayne drove a one-race deal for Dave Davis Motorsports and finished sixth at Tri-County.  At this point, there is nothing laid down in concrete for any upcoming events for Bayne.

“You have to make these count,” added Bayne.  “We didn’t get to run the whole second practice because of a broken sway bar.  It was a good weekend.  Hopefully we can run with them again.” 

MacDonald Fast in the Beginning

Eddie MacDonald was the fastest car at Tri-County prior to qualifying.  However, the night went nothing like it was planned.  After a sub-par qualifying effort, MacDonald ended up 12th.

“We definitely missed something,” said MacDonald.  “We ripped of some great laps in practice and I guess we thought we were going to be a lot better than we were.  It’s too bad and we just didn’t have the car right.  We will just have to come back next time and do a little better.”

Kobyluck Leads Early, Struggles Late

A 10th-place finish is not what Matt Kobyluck was looking for at Tri-County.  The 2008 Camping World East Series Champion was looking to pick up the slack after what he called a poor outing at Greenville.  Kobyluck did lead 59 laps before he faded to finish a distant 10th.  He will be looking to get back on track at Iowa Speedway, a place were he finished in the top 10 a year ago.

Armstrong Coming Along After Seventh Place Finish

USAC driver Dakota Armstrong is settling in nicely to the Camping World East Series. The 17-year-old has been running his events with Ken Schrader Racing.  After his second-straight top-12 finish at Tri-County he thinks he is coming along smoothly.

“Getting seat time is the main thing,” said Armstrong.  “I have been running open wheel stuff, so I am not really used to the big cars.  We are getting the hang of it and I have a great team.  I believe that sooner or later we are going to be up there winning some races.”

Armstrong currently sits seventh in points after a seventh-place finish at Tri-County.  

Fowler Happy after First CW East Event

Kyle Fowler is an accomplished Late Model driver from Georgia.  At Tri-County he added Camping World East to his résumé.  The 17-year-old from Smyrna, Georgia was running a one race deal for Ken Schrader Racing.

“This was a great deal for us and I have to think Mr. Schrader for giving us this opportunity,” said Fowler.   “I started 17th and our plan was to just take our time going up through there and not make anyone mad.  One time I ran through there a little too hard and I learned a little bit.  That put us back a little bit.  The car was great.  It was a winning car, but we were just boxed in behind everyone.” 

Fowler ended up with a 12th place finish at Tri-County after running in the top 10 in the final laps. 

Park Wishes East Series Was This Way Back in the Day

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner Steve Park is still having fun in a racecar with the Camping World East Series.  The series is not what it once was when Park was winning races back in the Northeast 10 years ago.  Park wishes that the series had the exposure back then like it does now.  Perhaps his career could have been different if he had been discovered at an earlier age.  

“The way the series is now makes it somewhat of a stepping stone to get to NASCAR,” said Park.  “When I was younger, I wish we had a feeder series like this.  I had to win over a hundred races in order to get Dale Earnhardt to look at me.  We never had a series that allowed us to showcase our talent in front of the Cup guys.”

Back in 1996, Steve Park ran five races in one weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  That caught the eye of Dale Earnhardt, who singed Park to run his cars in the top levels of NASCAR.   Nowadays, the Cup teams are using the series as a training ground for their development drivers.

“It’s important for these young guys that are trying to make a name for themselves,” said Park.  “It is an opportunity that some of us older guys did not have.” 

Park had an off day at Tri-County and finished 15th, but he plans on making the trip to Iowa for the next event.  

Matt DiBenedetto in victory lane after winning his first Camping World East Series race.  (51 Sports Photo)
Alan Tardiff won the pole and finished third.  (51 Sports Photo)
Austin Dillon finished second.  (51 Sports Photo)
Trevor Bayne isn't sure when his next race will be. (51 Sports Photo)
Matt Kobyluck sideways in turn two.  (Ken Spring Photo)
(#4) Dakota Armstrong finished seventh. (Ken Spring Photo)
Steve Park remembers the old days of the East Series.  (51 Sports Photo)