Benson Bristol preview

When ...

When #10 Valvoline Pontiac Driver Johnny Benson walks through the Winston Cup garage or makes an appearance in public you can count on several people coming up to tell the 5-year veteran that his turn to visit victory lane is coming soon. Benson's Valvoline Racing team has challenged the leaders at every race in the 2001 season and is tied for second in the 2001 point standings. Benson and team visit Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend where he finished second last year. Bristol's half-mile highbanks make survival almost as difficult as winning. Last year Crew Chief James Ince's strategy of asking Benson to drive "at only 80 percent" the first three-quarters of last year's race paid dividends when Benson stayed on the lead lap then staged a late rally to claim second place - his best career finish.

Johnny Benson On Anticipating A Victory:
"I like the attention we're getting from the fans and media. That means they are noticing that we are running good and that is great. You always like being complimented. I'm glad people take an interest in our team. We think we made a lot of fans last year as we overcame all the adversity that we had to overcome. Then this year, by adding Valvoline as an owner and a sponsor then running like we have we gained more fans. I have no doubt a win is going to come. As long as we keep running as well as we are, a win will take care of itself."

How Do You Feel About Michael Waltrip And Kevin Harvick Winning This Year?
"It gives us a renewed confidence. Michael's win at Daytona was special because he is my friend and we know how much he has gone through in his career. Kevin's win at Atlanta was so cool just because of the situation with his team. I have said those guys at Richard Childress Racing were amazing by just showing up at the race track after all they have been through. But to show up and still win is even more remarkable. Seeing what they have done gives us confidence that we can go and accomplish the same thing."

Benson On Secret To Success At Bristol This Weekend?
"Patience. That's what Bristol is all about. That and survival. You don't race so hard in the early going that you get in trouble and kill your chances at the end."

Benson On Last Year's Second Place Run At Bristol:
"James asked me to give 80 percent, and I thought, 'Man, you don't ask a driver that.' But I did. I admitted later that I stayed about 90 percent. I wasn't going to give them anything. I was just patient all day. Anybody that has seen this race knows what can happen if you're not patient here. James just kept me calm in the car and we ran well all day. We were able to stay on the bottom. He made great calls all day long- on the tires and it was just a matter of being there at the end of the day, and we were."

Crew Chief James Ince On Secret To Success At Bristol This Weekend?
"Basically I had a pretty long talk with Johnny the morning of the race last year. I've come to Bristol here a lot and fortunately I've had success here. I've got to credit that to Steve Hmiel for teaching me about this place. But this is a place where you have to race the racetrack. You can't race a hundred percent all day. If you do you're not going to be there at the end. I asked Johnny race morning just to give me 80 percent of what he normally would and we would give him 120 percent on pit road. The plan was that I would let him know towards the end of the race when he could go race. That's hard to ask a race car driver to do. But Johnny listened and you saw what happened."

Ince On 2001 Season:
"I think everybody is pretty pleased with our performance, even though we're disappointed with two seventh place finishes in the last two races, but that's a good sign for us. We want to win and I hope we are never satisfied with anything else."

Valvoline Racing Owner Jim Rocco On Watching Valvoline's Car Run At Bristol:
Watching Bristol this year as a first-time owner will be like watching my 16-year-old daughter take my car out for the first time. You know it's just a matter of time before she runs into someone else or someone runs into her. But at the end of the night, you're just glad she survived. All we want to do is survive Bristol. If we're there at the end, like last year, we should be in a position to win."

<pre> Food City 500 Winston Cup Race #6 of 36 for the 2001 season Race: Sunday, March 25, 2001 in Bristol, TN TV: Fox 1:00pm/et(pre-race at 12:30pm/et) Announcers: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds Pit Reporters: Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum, Steve Byrnes, Jeanie Zelesko

Posted Awards/Purse: $3,591,445 (was $2,307,231 in 2000) 2000 Race Winner: Rusty Wallace, 88.018mph Track Race Record 1st Race: Cale Yarborough, Apr 1977, 100.989 Track Race Record 2nd Race: Charlie Glotzbach, July 1971, 101.074 Track/Race Length: 0.533-mile concrete oval, 500 laps, 266.5 miles Pit Road Speed: 35mph

Qualifying Draw: Friday, March 23rd at ?:30am/et Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-36, Friday, Mar 23rd at 3:30pm/et, TV-FSN(Fox Sports Net) and live via PRN radio/internet

Track/Event Qualifying Record: Steve Park, Mar 2000, 126.370mph Last Year's Pole Sitter: Steve Park, 126.370mph

Track Specs: 0.533-mile concrete oval Degree of banking in corners: 36 degrees Degree of banking in straights: 16 degrees Straightaways are 650 feet long. Concrete racing surface is 40 feet wide. Seating capacity: ~147,000 Bristol has two pits roads: 21 pit stalls on the front stretch and 21 on the back stretch(1 must be shared)

-Drew Brown

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Series NASCAR-CUP