Formula One fan Johnny Benson won't be able to watch this Sunday's (Sept. 24) inaugural U.S. Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Benson, who next year will drive a Valvoline co-owned and sponsored Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR...
Formula One fan Johnny Benson won't be able to watch this Sunday's (Sept. 24) inaugural U.S. Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Benson, who next year will drive a Valvoline co-owned and sponsored Pontiac Grand Prix in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, will be busy wheeling the Aaron's Pontiac in the MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs. Like other NASCAR drivers, Benson is able to watch the Grand Prix events on TV early Sunday morning, given international time zone differences. Unlike the others, however, Johnny has utilized one of the rarest commodities in sports -- an "off" Winston Cup weekend -- to visit the F-1 paddock. He attended the 1998 Spanish GP and earlier this year went to the British GP. "The technical end is pretty fascinating, the carbon fiber and exotic metals and the light weight of the cars," said this year's near-upset winner of the Daytona 500. "They're the leader of the industry in that area. That's what originally sparked my interest . . . What I couldn't believe is how an F-1 car can go from about 200 mph down to almost a complete stop in less than a second. Formula One is a lot different than what I am used to. I'm always going to prefer Winston Cup racing, but it's hard to argue against a series where drivers make anywhere between $10-to-$25 million! That's pretty cool!" What's Benson's impression of the F-1 drivers? "Michael Schumacher is probably the one guy I pull for. And Rubens Barrichello, not just because he's with Michael (Ferrari teammate), but I had an opportunity, when he was with Jackie Stewart (team), to meet him when we were in Spain. He's just an extremely down-to-earth, nice guy. He took time to sit and talk with us and I enjoyed his company. Knowing the position we're in, with our racing, and their's being a lot more demanding, it was impressive that he did that." He walked the new infield road course before last month's Brickyard 400. "It looks tight, compared to some of the other tracks, because it's fit inside a 2 1/2-mile track. I did get a chance to walk around part of the racetrack and I look forward to watching a tape of the race. I think it's cool they're coming back to the U.S. and what better place to have it than Indianapolis?" Mark Martin drove the Valvoline Ford Taurus to an eighth-place finish in last Sunday's race at New Hampshire and is eighth in the Winston Cup standings. Benson, fastest in Friday practice at New Hampshire, finished 11th after body damage in a late-race incident. BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF AMERICA UPDATE: Mark Martin's on-track performance in the Valvoline Ford, combined with contributions from Valvoline and NASCAR fans, has brought the current total raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters since 1999 to $533,678. Valvoline is donating $5,000 for every Winston Cup race Martin wins, $2,500 for each pole, $1,000 for a top-five finish, and $20 per lap Martin leads in this "Caring Hands" program.
Special Report: Valvoline Batting Over .300 in NASCAR
Like the major-league baseball season, NASCAR's Winston Cup, Busch Grand National and Craftsman Truck Series are heading into the homestretch. Current statistics show Valvoline with a winning percentage of almost 33 in NASCAR competition this year, with five Winston Cup wins -- including Jeff Burton's start-to-finish run at New Hampshire last Sunday, 10 in the Busch Series, and nine on the truck tour. That's a combined 24 victories in 73 events.