Benson nearly slays Dover monster

If Dover is the "Monster Mile" then Johnny Benson and his MB2 Motorsports teammates were almost monster slayers Sunday afternoon. Benson's dream season in the ...

If Dover is the "Monster Mile" then Johnny Benson and his MB2 Motorsports teammates were almost monster slayers Sunday afternoon.

Benson's dream season in the #10 Aaron's Pontiac took another happy turn Sunday when he led seven laps, and battled back from the middle of the pack to finish only seconds behind Tony Stewart in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' MBNA.com 400.

The second-place finish ties the best performance of Benson's five-year Winston Cup career equaling a second-place finish at Bristol in March.

"We are getting closer and closer and I thought for a while today we might have something for Tony," Benson said as media gathered around the Grand Rapids, Mich. native after the race. "We were either pretty good or pretty bad today. Tires were a big deal. But, some of the changes (crew chief) James Ince and the crew did enabled us finish this well.

"Its funny. At the beginning of the season, our focus was on making races. Now we are walking out of racetracks unhappy that we didn't win. We really shouldn't be unhappy today because we had a great run. But dang it, we want to win one of these things soon."

Benson began Sunday's race in third and led a few laps early but the tough concrete highbanks took its toll on teams as leaders Jeff Burton, Jeremy Mayfield, and Jerry Nadeau all hit the wall or suffered a mechanical failure. As the Aaron's team struggled to fix its handling problems, Benson dropped to about 19th place midway through the race.

Just past the halfway mark, Benson started to make his charge.

"We were struggling there in the middle but then we pulled a spring rubber out of the right rear and got a set of tires that seem to suit us and that car was like a rocket," Benson said. "I wish all that would have happened earlier in the race, but I'm just glad it happened."

By lap 279, Johnny Rocket moved up to eighth.

"You are faster than the leader by two or three tenths," said Ince. "You keep doing what you are doing and you are going to win this race."

He was almost right.

Benson ate up cars like the Monster Mile ate up cars Sunday.

By lap 296 he moved up to sixth passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. and then passed Bobby Labonte for fifth then Rusty Wallace for third. Throw in a pass of Bill Elliott on lap 302 and the makings for a dramatic finish appeared at hand. A quick 15-second pit stop enabled Benson to leave the pits close behind Ricky Rudd who he passed for second laps later.

Now the race was down to Benson and Stewart. Neither driver spoke on the radio over the last 90 laps as Benson appeared to slowly whittle Stewart's five-second lead.

"Keep doing what you are doing," Ince reminded him. "You are catching him a tenth a lap."

However, as the laps wound down the second-year driver appeared a bit too strong and kept the gap from closing down and even increased it a bit and won by about six seconds.

"There at the end we realized we weren't catching him. We didn't want to give up second to Ricky Rudd so we were as worried about him as we were catching Stewart."

Benson moved to 14th in car owner points and 13th in driver points. Less than 50 points behind 11th-place Matt Kenseth in the owner standings.

"Our goal at the start of the season was to finish in the top 10 and we still have a chance for that. If we can run like when did today then we are going to have a fun rest of the season."

Benson and his teammates return to action Sunday at Martinsville.

JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON TIRE MANAGEMENT) "It's pretty tough to be easy on the right front here. This track is extremely fast and you need to make the car semi-comfortable getting into the corner, so you've got to have some spring there. You've just got to be smart and be smooth. We were loose enough all day; I don't believe we ever had a right front problem. I know a couple guys did, but I think it was less than what we've had normally. I don't know without seeing it. It seems like every time we are here we have a small problem, but all in all our Goodyears looked good all day. The last couple of sets were really matched up good and they were great. Our wear was good. The car was still a little loose, so we weren't worried about the right front at all."

(ON WORKING HIS WAY THROUGH TRAFFIC TO GET TO THE FRONT) "I think everybody was really smart this time. I think everybody really raced pretty smart today. Dover has become a two-groove racetrack now, so you've got a choice. You don't have to have too big of a problem. You can run the top or bottom and find a spot that works good for you. There is a lot of room to pass here, although today it did get extremely hard to pass on the bottom. That usually hasn't been a problem here in the past, but today it was a little tough running the bottom, at least trying to complete a pass."

(ON THE FINAL PIT STOP) "I made sure that I got on pit road without wrecking as fast as I could. I think that's where I made my time up because I could see where they slowed up and I just made sure to go a couple car lengths further in each part of that section to try to catch up before I got to pit road speed. I think we managed to get a couple there and our stops got faster the whole day. We started off a little slow because we were making a lot of adjustments. But then when we got our adjustments right and we weren't making adjustments on the car, the guys whipped off a couple good stops. I'm real proud of those guys and everybody on the Aaron's Pontiac. They just did a tremendous job today."

(WAS HE CONCERNED ONCE HE GOT TO SECOND PLACE THAT HE MAY HAVE A PROBLEM?) "I didn't know anybody else running second had had a problem, so I didn't have that in my mind. But I saw us catching him there for a little bit and then I felt the car starting to slide around a little bit more than I wanted to see. Then eventually James (Ince) came on (the radio) and said, 'He's getting you by half-a-tenth, and then a tenth,' so we just wanted to make sure we finished the race and didn't have any problems and made sure that we finished second. I had to run pretty dang hard to stay in second. I thought we had a good shot, but we didn't. Tony (Stewart), Zippy (Greg Zipadelli), everybody at Gibbs Racing did a tremendous job and our guys did a tremendous job, too, so we're pretty happy to come out of here in second place."

(WAS THE PACE BETTER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE OR AT THE END?) "I think the pace was better at the beginning because the track was clean. With all the rain, we didn't have any grease and oil on there. Once that started getting on the track that slowed the pace down a little bit. So at the end it felt like I was running a lot faster and a lot harder at the end, but I know our times weren't quite as fast as the beginning."

(HOW TOUGH AS THE SEASON BEEN, REGARDING SPONSOR AND OWNERSHIP CHANGES?) "It's been real tough. We've been on a very strict budget. We didn't have a budget, but not the good way. We had it the bad way. Everybody is just working really hard. We haven't tested as much as we would have liked. We haven't been to the wind tunnel as much as we would have liked. When MB2 bought us out, that was a really good deal for us. That's helped. I think we've helped them (Ken Schrader's team) tremendously and I think they've helped us. That's been a good thing. Aaron's coming on board was a great thing, but not enough - not enough for what we need to do and go out do a lot of things. But it did enable us to run the rest of the season and that's what counted."

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<HTML><HEAD> <STYLE></STYLE> </HEAD> <BODY bgColor=#ffffff> <DIV><B><U><FONT face=Arial size=5> <P>Benson & Company Nearly Slay Monster Mile </P></B></U></FONT><I><FONT face=Arial> <P>Aaron’s Pontiac Crosses Finishes Second Just Behind Tony Stewart </P></FONT><FONT face=Arial size=2></I> <P>If Dover is the "Monster Mile" then Johnny Benson and his MB2 Motorsports teammates were almost monster slayers Sunday afternoon.</P> <P>Benson’s dream season in the #10 Aaron’s Pontiac took another happy turn Sunday when he led seven laps, and battled back from the middle of the pack to finish only seconds behind Tony Stewart in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series’ MBNA.com 400.</P> <P>The second-place finish ties the best performance of Benson’s five-year Winston Cup career equaling a second-place finish at Bristol in March. </P> <P>"We are getting closer and closer and I thought for a while today we might have something for Tony," Benson said as media gathered around the Grand Rapids, Mich. native after the race. "We were either pretty good or pretty bad today. Tires were a big deal. But, some of the changes (crew chief) James Ince and the crew did enabled us finish this well.</P> <P>"Its funny. At the beginning of the season, our focus was on making races. Now we are walking out of racetracks unhappy that we didn’t win. We really shouldn’t be unhappy today because we had a great run. But dang it, we want to win one of these things soon."</P> <P>Benson began Sunday’s race in third and led a few laps early but the tough concrete highbanks took its toll on teams as leaders Jeff Burton, Jeremy Mayfield, and Jerry Nadeau all hit the wall or suffered a mechanical failure. As the Aaron’s team struggled to fix its handling problems, Benson dropped to about 19<SUP>th</SUP> place midway through the race.</P> <P>Just past the halfway mark, Benson started to make his charge.</P> <P>"We were struggling there in the middle but then we pulled a spring rubber out of the right rear and got a set of tires that seem to suit us and that car was like a rocket," Benson said. "I wish all that would have happened earlier in the race, but I’m just glad it happened."</P> <P>By lap 279, Johnny Rocket moved up to eighth.</P> <P>"You are faster than the leader by two or three tenths," said Ince. "You keep doing what you are doing and you are going to win this race."</P> <P>He was almost right.</P> <P>Benson ate up cars like the Monster Mile ate up cars Sunday.</P> <P>By lap 296 he moved up to sixth passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. and then passed Bobby Labonte for fifth then Rusty Wallace for third. Throw in a pass of Bill Elliott on lap 302 and the makings for a dramatic finish appeared at hand. A quick 15-second pit stop enabled Benson to leave the pits close behind Ricky Rudd who he passed for second laps later. </P> <P>Now the race was down to Benson and Stewart. Neither driver spoke on the radio over the last 90 laps as Benson appeared to slowly whittle Stewart’s five-second lead.</P> <P>"Keep doing what you are doing," Ince reminded him. "You are catching him a tenth a lap."</P> <P>However, as the laps wound down the second-year driver appeared a bit too strong and kept the gap from closing down and even increased it a bit and won by about six seconds.</P> <P>"There at the end we realized we weren’t catching him. We didn’t want to give up second to Ricky Rudd so we were as worried about him as we were catching Stewart."</P> <P>Benson moved to 14<SUP>th</SUP> in car owner points and 13<SUP>th</SUP> in driver points. Less than 50 points behind 11<SUP>th</SUP>-place Matt Kenseth in the owner standings.</P> <P>"Our goal at the start of the season was to finish in the top 10 and we still have a chance for that. If we can run like when did today then we are going to have a fun rest of the season."</P> <P>Benson and his teammates return to action Sunday at Martinsville.</P></FONT><FONT size=2> <P>JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:<BR>(ON TIRE MANAGEMENT) "It's pretty tough to be easy on the right front here.<BR>This track is extremely fast and you need to make the car semi-comfortable<BR>getting into the corner, so you've got to have some spring there. You've<BR>just got to be smart and be smooth. We were loose enough all day; I don't<BR>believe we ever had a right front problem. I know a couple guys did, but I<BR>think it was less than what we've had normally. I don't know without seeing<BR>it. It seems like every time we are here we have a small problem, but all<BR>in all our Goodyears looked good all day. The last couple of sets were<BR>really matched up good and they were great. Our wear was good. The car was<BR>still a little loose, so we weren't worried about the right front at all."<BR>(ON WORKING HIS WAY THROUGH TRAFFIC TO GET TO THE FRONT) "I think everybody<BR>was really smart this time. I think everybody really raced pretty smart<BR>today. Dover has become a two-groove racetrack now, so you've got a choice.<BR>You don't have to have too big of a problem. You can run the top or bottom<BR>and find a spot that works good for you. There is a lot of room to pass<BR>here, although today it did get extremely hard to pass on the bottom. That<BR>usually hasn't been a problem here in the past, but today it was a little<BR>tough running the bottom, at least trying to complete a pass."<BR>(ON THE FINAL PIT STOP) "I made sure that I got on pit road without<BR>wrecking as fast as I could. I think that's where I made my time up because<BR>I could see where they slowed up and I just made sure to go a couple car<BR>lengths further in each part of that section to try to catch up before I got<BR>to pit road speed. I think we managed to get a couple there and our stops<BR>got faster the whole day. We started off a little slow because we were<BR>making a lot of adjustments. But then when we got our adjustments right and<BR>we weren't making adjustments on the car, the guys whipped off a couple good<BR>stops. I'm real proud of those guys and everybody on the Aaron's Pontiac.<BR>They just did a tremendous job today."<BR>(WAS HE CONCERNED ONCE HE GOT TO SECOND PLACE THAT HE MAY HAVE A PROBLEM?)<BR>"I didn't know anybody else running second had had a problem, so I didn't<BR>have that in my mind. But I saw us catching him there for a little bit and<BR>then I felt the car starting to slide around a little bit more than I wanted<BR>to see. Then eventually James (Ince) came on (the radio) and said, 'He's<BR>getting you by half-a-tenth, and then a tenth,' so we just wanted to make<BR>sure we finished the race and didn't have any problems and made sure that we<BR>finished second. I had to run pretty dang hard to stay in second. I<BR>thought we had a good shot, but we didn't. Tony (Stewart), Zippy (Greg<BR>Zipadelli), everybody at Gibbs Racing did a tremendous job and our guys did<BR>a tremendous job, too, so we're pretty happy to come out of here in second<BR>place." <BR>JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:<BR>(WAS THE PACE BETTER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE OR AT THE END?) "I think<BR>the pace was better at the beginning because the track was clean. With all<BR>the rain, we didn't have any grease and oil on there. Once that started<BR>getting on the track that slowed the pace down a little bit. So at the end<BR>it felt like I was running a lot faster and a lot harder at the end, but I<BR>know our times weren't quite as fast as the beginning."<BR>(HOW TOUGH AS THE SEASON BEEN, REGARDING SPONSOR AND OWNERSHIP CHANGES?)<BR>"It's been real tough. We've been on a very strict budget. We didn't have<BR>a budget, but not the good way. We had it the bad way. Everybody is just<BR>working really hard. We haven't tested as much as we would have liked. We<BR>haven't been to the wind tunnel as much as we would have liked. When MB2<BR>bought us out, that was a really good deal for us. That's helped. I think<BR>we've helped them (Ken Schrader's team) tremendously and I think they've<BR>helped us. That's been a good thing. Aaron's coming on board was a great<BR>thing, but not enough - not enough for what we need to do and go out do a<BR>lot of things. But it did enable us to run the rest of the season and that's what counted."<BR></FONT>###</P> <P> </P> <P> </P> <P> </P> <P> </P> <P> </P></FONT></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , Jerry Nadeau , Johnny Benson , Johnny R