Johnny Benson's ...
Johnny Benson's #10 Valvoline Pontiac will have at least a million dollars and one trophy on its mind when the green flag drops late Sunday afternoon in Charlotte. Benson's third-place finish at Las Vegas makes him and four other drivers eligible for a $1 million bonus if he were to win Sunday. The 600-mile race is the longest on the NASCAR Winston Cup Circuit. The 5:45 p.m. starting time ensures the race will begin in warmer daylight conditions and end under the lights when the track is much cooler. Adding to the challenge is a new rule imposed by NASCAR this week. Teams cannot begin the race with spring rubbers in the front springs. The rubbers are normally added or removed during a race to adjust the spring tension and dramatically change the handling of the car. The new guidelines were implement to prevent teams from mounting a car body on the frame. Benson and crew chief James Ince hope to take lessons learned last weekend and apply them this weekend.
* Benson started and finished first in the Winston Open Saturday night then finished ninth in the Winston. He became the 13th different driver to win in 16 editions of the Winston Open and made his first start in the All-Star event.
* Crew Chief James Ince will bring a different Valvoline Pontiac to Charlotte this weekend. Benson raced car #28 on Saturday in the Winston and will race car #27 this weekend.
* No Pontiac driver has ever claimed the $1 million prize
* Benson is fourth in points, 79 behind leader Dale Jarrett, 65 behind Jeff Gordon, and 17 behind Rusty Wallace.
Benson On How He Plans To Spend $1 Million:
"I don't know what I would do if we won the million. I try not to spend money before I get it."
Will The $1 Million Change Strategy?
"No it doesn't change a thing. I mean it's great we have the opportunity to run for the million dollars. But it isn't going to change the way we look at the race. If it were going to make a huge difference we would have burned a test up here. But, that was what the Winston was all about. We aren't looking at this race any different that we have all the other races this season. The million dollars would be nice but we are looking for the trophy.
"This race is all about making adjustments because you start in daylight and end under the lights. The new rules saying we can't have rubbers in the front springs before the start of the race makes it tougher. This is the worse place you could have that rule because the track changes so much once the race starts. A lot of people are going to struggle because of the new rules. We are going to have to think about our setup a little bit differently this race. They moved the race up 15 minutes, but that has no impact. If it was an hour or two hours that might be different. Fifteen minutes isn't enough to worry about.
"You have your mindset for a 500-mile race and your mindset for a 600-mile race. A 600-mile race is tougher on equipment but as a driver there isn't that much of a difference. You have to stay patient but you also have to stay on the lead lap. That's the trick."
Crew Chief James Ince On Lessons Learned Saturday And Applied To The 600:
"The biggest thing we learned is that we are racing the right kind of race cars at Charlotte. The Winston for us was a little uncharacteristic of what we are usually working toward because we don't normally equip our cars for just the short run. And that's all the Winston was at the end. That's a one-time deal. Now we can get back to normal as far as setting up the car. Believe me, we are excited about going back for 600 miles this weekend.
"We raced car #28 in the Winston which is the car we ran third with at Texas. We decided for this weekend we are going to bring Car #27 which has been a more consistent more reliable car for us. We have run it a lot with Johnny in the last two years. The car we had over here the other night is a good car but the one we are bringing this weekend is more familiar to us. As we go into a race that starts in the afternoon and ends at night, and since NASCAR has taken away our use of spring rubbers before the race we need something that we know how it's going to react when we make our adjustments. We think car #27 is that."
Ince On Expected Cooler Temperatures For Thursday Night Qualifying:
"I hear it's supposed to be a high of 65 degrees and might be down in the 50s at night. If it is that cool then the qualifying speeds should pick up quite a bit. We sat on the pole for the Open last week with virtually no qualifying practice. We won the Winston Open with no race practice at all. So we are just going to keep doing what we have been doing and adapt to whatever NASCAR, the track, or even Mother Nature throw at us."
Will The Spring Rubber Rule Play A Role Sunday And The Rest Of The Season?
"Absolutely. The spring rubbers are something we have used all year long. Now it isn't there for us so we have to throw away our notes. We have to be perfect now. All I know is that is now my built-in excuse if we fall out of fourth in the points. That's what I'm going to blame it on."