Johnny Benson equaled his best career finish here at Dover Downs last September when he drove to a second-place finish (matched 2nd at Bristol, March 2000). Benson, who is 10th in the NASCAR Winston Cup points, was eyeing a top 10 starting spot for tomorrow's 400-mile event after turning the 14th fastest lap in practice, but instead will start a surprising 37th.
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
THREE OF THE FINAL FOUR CARS IN QUALIFYING PRACTICED FAST ENOUGH TO MAKE THE RACE, BUT ENDED UP TAKING PROVISIONALS...WAS THERE A PROBLEM WITH THE RACETRACK AT THE END OF THE SESSION?
"I don't know, but I was bad. I about wrecked. I was like, 'Man!' I couldn't get a hold of anything. I know Mark Martin was the same deal. He went out three cars after we did and he said, 'I'll tell you what: that is the worst I've ever been around here.' It looked like the last four or five guys all had that same problem, so I don't know. We were 14th on the practice sheet and figured we had a pretty good shot at qualifying in the top 10, and I don't even know where we ended up. It was 41st at the time. I just really don't know what happened."
HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING HERE? "I think if you've got a good race car, you'll be in good shape. You've just got to make sure you don't get caught up in anything and then you've got to make some early progress. You've got to be patient, but you can't go a lap down. You've just got to be careful at the beginning and let the track groove widen out. Then as the race gets going, try to work your way up to the front."
DOES STARTING IN THE BACK PUT A LOT OF PRESSURE ON THAT VERY FIRST RUN OF THE RACE? "Yeah, it's tough. You're sitting in traffic and [the leader] is sitting in open air. You've just got to hope that he is off a little bit at the start of the race and isn't lapping the field right away. "It's going to be a long day Sunday, but I feel confident in what James [Ince] and the guys have done and how we're going to approach the race. I think we're going to be in good shape, but we've got to hit the setup pretty good.
"The key is -- there are a lot of cautions here and the key is making sure you're not in them. We just have to keep out of trouble, be patient and do the best we can and stay out of trouble at the start. I'd rather be a lap down and stay out of trouble than to have it the other way around. I've been a lap down here before and still finished in the top 10. For whatever reason, there aren't a lot of cars that finish on the lead lap at Dover, so you can still have a good day. You've just got to be careful."