With a wide, 71-year-old grin, NASCAR Trucks Series driver Norm Benning had a simple explanation for his out-of-nowhere 10th-place finish during Thursday’s practice session at Daytona International Speedway.
“Eh, the throttle stuck,” he told TobyChristie.com.
Of course, that line was delivered by someone who goes by the nickname: “Never Lifts.”
Meaning he never takes his foot off the accelerator.
Surrounded by a media horde Thursday, Benning seemed to enjoy the attention.
Even if he didn’t understand it.
#NASCAR News: NormBenning6 all smiles after 10th-place effort in @NASCAR_Trucks practice at @Daytona with @g2g_racing.
Benning jokes he was so fast because "the throttle stuck," and vows to be the show if he makes it into the show on Friday night: https://t.co/JEUgSpnQJl
— TobyChristie.com (@TobyChristieCom) February 17, 2023
Norm Benning Having Blast At Daytona Beach
What’s the big deal?
“I haven’t done anything yet,” he joked during a live pit-row interview. “I don’t know what everyone is so excited about?”
Well, let’s start with the smile and the underdog attitude.
The fact that two weeks ago, Benning didn’t know he would be racing again, let alone attempting to qualify for Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 at the 2.5-mile track.
He was having a blast at the Florida beach.
“I’m excited,” he said. “This is a dream come true. G2G, and Tim Viens, and Bill and my sponsor MDIA, I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Piloting the No. 46 Toyota for regular driver Johnny Sauter, Benning turned in a top lap of 48.321, edging Ty Majeski (48.349) and Travis Pastrana (48.444) to earn top-10 status. Rajah Caruth placed first at 47.760.
Stealing the spotlight, however, was Benning, the Pennsylvania driving legend.
Does anyone deserve this moment more?
Norm Benning was 10th in #NASCAR Truck practice at
He shared his feelings about the run and a possibly additional race he might be at:
(via @PitLaneLT) pic.twitter.com/6sLwmuLvMk
— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) February 16, 2023
Norm Benning: ‘
Despite his “Never Lifts” mantra, Benning has struggled to field competitive cars from his small shop. From 1997-2010, Benning attempted to qualify as an open entrant for the Daytona 500 eight times. Eight times he failed in the Duels, never finishing higher than 20th.
Denning has four career Cup Series starts, the final coming in 1993 when he completed one lap. He experienced three Busch (Xfinity) Series starts during 2003 and ‘04 but completed just 46 combined laps. His average finish was 41.3.
After spending parts of 17 seasons on the Truck series (2002-21), Denning did not register a top-10 performance in 244 events and did not lead one lap after 25,185 combined rotations.
Denning competed in 281 ARCA Series races (1989-2009), but did not win earn one checkered flag, compiling five top-five finishes and 32 top-10s. Of 32,262 laps, he led just 21.
Still, in the garage area Thursday after his practice run, Denning held court for Fox Sports and nearly 20 journalists clamoring for an interview.
He just smiled when asked about his doubters on social media.
“I’ve lived that my whole life,” Benning said. “I’ve never had big, big money. But somehow I make what I have work.
“It’s been a dry spell for a while, but this is very exciting.”
Even if he didn’t understand it.