Columbus Co. racing team prepares for Daytona 500 qualifier

Columbus Co. racing team prepares for Daytona 500 qualifier

CERRO GORDO, NC (WECT) - An auto racing team from the area is trying to qualify for one of the biggest races in NASCAR.

The Ricky Benton Racing Team in Cerro Gordo will compete Sunday for a spot in the Daytona 500. The owner of the team, Ricky Benton, said the crew has had a winning history racing trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for years.

"This is just the next marketed tool hopefully to make the Daytona 500. It's about like the underdogs with the Eagles," Benton said, referring to Philadelphia beating New England in the Super Bowl.

Although the team calls itself an underdog, it may have a secret weapon.

Car chief Ronnie Griffin has competed in the Daytona 500 17 times, and won once. Griffin was with different crews for most of those races, but said he now wants to help his hometown crew qualify.

"It's been a little bit exciting even though I've been in the series before because it's exciting for them," Griffin said. "I'm excited for them and for me because I'm home. This doesn't happen around here."

If the team doesn't qualify on Sunday, it has another shot on Thursday. The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 18.

Benson owns Black's Tire Auto Service, which is one of the crew's vendors. He said other sponsors also helped along the way.

According to Griffin, the Daytona 500 is a tough race, but he thinks the team is prepared.

"It might be stressful a little bit at times because they're not used to the way they do things on the cup side, but they're a very good truck team," Griffin said. "They know the knowledge of racing and that's a big part of it."

On Thursday, they'll pack up the car and its parts into the trailer and drive to Florida, hoping not just for a win at the qualifiers, but at the 500, too.

"That would be my ultimate goal in life: a local team finishes first in the Daytona 500," Griffin said. "That would be a dream come true. All we want to do is run every lap and hope to put ourselves in position to do the best we can.

"In other words, being there is a win and wouldn't that be icing on the cake if you could?"

And if they go all the way? They said a win won't change them.

"Well, hey, we'll still be the same bunch of country boys in the South that like racing," Benton said.

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