#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson hopes this year's Brickyard 400 has a bit more passing than races of previous year's. But that's only if he isn't in the lead. Benson said Indy still carries the prestige it always has and is as difficult to drive as any in racing. Because momentum is so important at Indy, the slightest slip or the smallest change in weather can hamper lap times. Benson visits Indy just days after leading seven laps and finishing fifth at Pocono.
* Benson has posted eight top-10 finishes in 2001. He has scored two top-10 finishes in his five races at Indy. In 1996, his rookie year, Benson led 70 of the race's 160 laps. He finished 25th there one year ago. He is 10th in the 2001 driver standings.
* Benson's Valvoline co-owned and sponsored Pontiac will appear at the Brickyard in striking red, silver and white colors, with classic James Dean images on the hood and quarter-panels. Dean, who was born in Marion, Ind., starred in 1950s classic movies "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause," and "Giant." Benson's Valvoline NASCAR Winston Cup racer is the centerpiece of several Dean-related promotions, which includes a collectible die-cast model car from Action Performance, and September's "James Dean Run" in Fairmount, Ind. TNT, which has joined with NBC to televise the second half of the Winston Cup season, will premier a new film on Dean's legendary life Aug. 5.
"I think Indy is always a neat place to go. There's no place with the history and tradition like Indy. Plus, the Brickyard has a lot of people and the race pays a lot of money so there is plenty of incentive to win there. Heck, we'd race there just for the trophy and maybe to kiss the yard of bricks after the race."
"The weather has such an effect on the track. In the morning you can post some pretty good speeds but when the afternoon comes you slow down like you wouldn't believe. When evening comes you produce some pretty good times again. Why is that? I think it's because Indy is such a momentum race track that if you lose even just a little bit in the corners that shows down those long straight-aways. There are other tracks that are similar. But Indy is not a track where you can slip and slide very much because you can't make up that time. To run well at Indy you have to be right on the money."
"I sure hope this time is different. Especially for us. We haven't won here yet so maybe we can this year.
"The first year (1996) I raced there I saw some passing on the outside, but that's difficult. Especially now since our competition is getting closer and closer the passing has gotten harder and harder to do at Indy. That's frustrating for the driver. You work on the guy in front of you trying to pass him by doing a few different things and if you lose your momentum doing that three or four guys pass you."
Do You Notice The Crowd At Indy?
"Not when you are in the race car. Before the race and maybe on the parade lap you notice all the fans, but once the green flag drops you have your hands full."
How Important is Qualifying At Indy?
"It's huge to qualify good there. Someone said five of the seven races at Indianapolis have been won from a top-10 starting position with four from the top four. That's enough to tell anyone how important Saturday will be to the race on Sunday. We know we have to qualify well to stand a chance to win."
Benson On James Dean Paint Scheme:
"I think the car looks pretty neat and I'm sure it can't hurt that we will be racing in Dean's home state of Indiana. I hope that he can ride with us to victory lane at Indianapolis. I know he had a lot of fans across the country and maybe some of them will root for us now."