John Benson Sr. laughs when he retells the story of how he told his son Johnny that he wasn't going to run in the World of Outlaws because of the money and safety risk. The younger Benson is now driving in the 200 mph NASCAR Winston Series. The...
John Benson Sr. laughs when he retells the story of how he told his son Johnny that he wasn't going to run in the World of Outlaws because of the money and safety risk.
The younger Benson is now driving in the 200 mph NASCAR Winston Series. The elder Benson gets a close look at the speed and danger sometimes serving as the Tyler Jet Motorsports team's second spotter.
Racing, probably more than any other sport, runs in the veins of family members and there's probably no other sport tougher on family.
Most drivers in Sunday's race trace the start of their racing careers to their fathers. The Benson family is no different. John Benson, 60, graced the cover of Stock Car Racing Magazine in 1970. He enjoyed a 28-year racing career and posted more than 75 victories including the "crown jewel" of the modified series at the time. He also started and continues to operate Benson Speed Equipment in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"I really didn't care if Johnny raced or not. I just wanted him to do what he wanted to do in life. As he was growing up, I thought he was going to continue with the family business selling race cars and building parts. We had him in the business pretty early. He showed a lot of interest. He was welding when he was six or seven years old. I let him do what he wanted to do. If he had wanted to do something else I would have let him do it."
"For years we had built cars and one day I was walking by our surface plate where we built the cars and there was a dirt car on it. We didn't have cars on the plate that we hadn't sold so I asked him who was this car for? He said it was for him. Even though we sold a lot of dirt cars I had no background in running dirt cars although I had a lot of feedback from other drivers. That was kind of a shocker to me."
"I still enjoy watching the short tracks but the bigger tracks are a little scary. When Johnny got running good around Marne he came and told me he wanted to run open wheel cars in the World of Outlaws Series. I said that would be fine but he would have to do it out of someone else's garage because I'm not going to do it out of here, simply because of the risk factor and the money factor. I just thought the risk was too high. That's funny because the risk here in NASCAR is probably even higher now than the World of Outlaws.
"When your son is racing you are not only watching him as a fan but as a racer you know all the hazards that are out there. His mother probably isn't as worried as I am because I know what all can go wrong out there. It makes it twice as bad as me being out there. I enjoy watching him though. I don't care what your kids are doing you are going to enjoy it. Especially if they are doing half-way decent. I see a lot of what I would have liked to have done 40 years ago. I probably should have gone the route he did but I was making good money, wanted a family, and didn't want all the travel.
"I don't think I ever get scared. Sometimes at Talladega when the whole field is going down the backstretch about five deep with 30 cars lined up and I know there is no way they are going to make it to the third turn - that gets kind of scary."
Johnny Benson on His Father
"Sometimes he is a good sounding board for what is going on in my racing career. He comes to about a dozen races a year. He likes the races, but I think he also enjoys seeing his two granddaughters. Yeah, he did tell me I couldn't run open-wheel out of his shop. It's funny now because we are running almost 200 mph on the superspeedways. He knows the risks and understands them but I'm sure it is kind of tough on him. But he and mom are used to it. Heck, I tell him it's his fault if he ever complains about my racing.
"Gosh, it's impossible for me to even begin to describe what he has done for my career or even more importantly in my life. If your father isn't there for you in life then that's a tough deal no matter who you are. As for racing he taught me a lot of what I know. But more importantly he taught me discipline, honor, all that kind of stuff that stays with you no matter what you end up doing in life. I don't get to talk to him as much as I like these days but we do talk."
<pre> THE RACE: Pocono 500 Winston Cup Race #15 of 34 for the 2000 season a.. Race: Sunday, June 18, 2000 in Long Pond, PA b.. TV: TNN 1:00pm/et c.. 1999 Race Winner: Bobby Labonte d.. Track/Race Length: 2.5 mile oval, 200 laps, 500 miles e.. Pit Road Speed: 45mph
Practice f.. Practice: Friday, June 16th 11:00am - 2:00pm/et; Saturday, June 17th 9:30 -10:50am/et g.. Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, June 17th, after the ARCA race, TV-none
Qualifying h.. Qualifying Draw: Friday, June 16th at 10:30am/et i.. First Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 1-25, Friday, June 16th at 3:00pm/et, TV-TNN tape delay on Saturday at 9:00am/et and live via MRN radio/internet j.. Second-Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 26th-43rd, Saturday, June 17th at 11:30am/et k.. Track/Race Qualifying Record: Sterling Marlin, June 1999, 170.506mph l.. Last Year's Pole Sitter: Sterling Marlin, 170.506mph
Track Specs: Superspeedway: 2.5 mile tri-oval