Lynn Swann, recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Valvoline will announce a major expansion of Valvoline's NASCAR-themed fundraising efforts on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America this Friday (March 9) at Atlanta ...
Lynn Swann, recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Valvoline will announce a major expansion of Valvoline's NASCAR-themed fundraising efforts on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America this Friday (March 9) at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Swann, the famed wide receiver of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a national spokesman for Big Brothers Big Sisters. During the last two years, Valvoline and NASCAR fans have contributed more than a half-million dollars to Big Brothers Big Sisters, as a result of this "Caring Hands" program.
Johnny Benson, driver of the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac, will be among those at the brief news conference to reveal details of a new "challenge" designed to increase Valvoline's commitment and public awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Although not tracked as closely by the public and media as the Winston Cup driver point standings, NASCAR also awards car owner points throughout the 36-race season. Car owner points are of major importance because that is how NASCAR determines the grid if qualifying is rained out, as well as the garage area hauler parking order, and provisional starting positions. Those highest in owner points are eligible for provisionals, usually spots 37 thru 43 in the lineup.
NASCAR assigns owner points to a specific person, not a corporate name. Valvoline Racing, which co-owns as well as sponsors the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Johnny Benson, lists James Rocco as team owner and NASCAR officially lists Rocco in its owner point standings. Rocco is senior vice president of Valvoline, which is the first major consumer products company to co-own a Winston Cup team.
Special Report: Q&A with Crew Chief James Ince
At 30, James Ince is one of the youngest crew chiefs in the NASCAR Winston Cup garage area, in charge of the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Johnny Benson. Last year, Ince faced the additional challenge of keeping the then-TylerJet team working effectively in the absence of a primary sponsor, and eventual ownership change. The No. 10 finished 13th in points, the highest by a single-car team, and now is co-owned by Valvoline and the owners of Ken Schrader's No. 36 M&M's Pontiac.
Q. With a 36-race Winston Cup season, how many days will you have off this year? A. Wow! Counting Christmas, hopefully, more than two. Crew chiefs and anybody involved in management of a race team right now, we don't get days off, we get hours off. That's what we look at. Vacation time is kind of a joke to us anymore, just because it's something we can't take. We want to make sure we get our guys plenty of time off, though.
Q. What do you do with those "hours" of time off? A. One of my favorite things to do to rest is just go sit in the dark somewhere. Just to get as far away from the race team as you possibly can. You try to build your life to incorporate the race team, because it's what you do, but there's moments where there's no better medicine than to go sit in a theater, watching a movie. Also, spending time with my son (Bobby, 2) is very important to me.
Q. The word "burnout" has become part of the sport's vocabulary in recent years. How big a concern is that to you? A. That's probably the biggest thing we're concerned with. One thing we've done with the Valvoline team is I've managed to figure out a way for there to be a five-day work week for the guys. They may still be 50, 60, 70-hour weeks, but we're doing our best to get the guys two days off a week to be with their families. There's only a certain amount of talent you can pull from in the garage area. We're very comfortable with the people we've got, and we've decided it's a lot better for the Valvoline team to take care of the people we've got, as opposed to a constant turn over of people. The burnout factor is huge. We ask a lot of people. We ask them to give us their lives. You almost have to put the race team before you can put your family in the mix, so we try hard to avoid that.
Q. What's the limit on number of Winston Cup races a year? A. I don't know where the limit is. If we had shorter weekends, maybe we could run 52 weekends a year, I'm not sure. If it was five or six of us going racing, we could make our own decisions to race as much as we wanted to, but you've got a minimum of 50 employees on a racing team now, and that's 50 families you've got to worry about, too. The problem is if it starts to affect life in too many areas. Everybody's got a son or a daughter or a girlfriend that's got something going on away from the sport. As long as you can keep your life balanced between work and a home life, you probably don't experience burnout. I think we could probably race more if we figured out a way to shorten weekends so guys could sleep in their own beds a little more often.
Q. You were married recently. How do you maintain a home life? A. I have a motorcoach that comes to the racetrack and that gives me more time on the weekends at the track with my wife (Denise). At the shop you can work until 10 at night. Nobody tells you to go home. At the racetrack, they (NASCAR) throw you out at 5 o'clock. We try to make the most of the weekend, but it's still tough to do, because you've got the race on your mind. You've got to tie your life together with the sport, and you've got to love it, in order to survive it.
Q. Is there really such a thing as "chemistry" between a driver and crew chief that leads to success? A. I don't know if we can define it as chemistry. We're all looking for a definition. There's definitely something there. If it is chemistry, we do have that with the Valvoline team, and I believe essentially what chemistry is is everybody believing in each other. I believe in Johnny Benson's ability. He believes in mine. We believe in the ability of the guys on the team. It's one team. There's nobody on any different level as far as ego or attitude. We work hard at the chemistry but most of chemistry is just having fun. We're going to make sure we have a smile on our face every day, no matter what. You can be serious and still smile.
Q. What do you look for in team members to make sure they fit in? A. The most important thing I look for is personality. I can do more with harmony than you can with talent.
Q. When did you realize you had "chemistry" with Johnny Benson? A. I think I knew in 1997 when we were both at Roush Racing. We both wanted to race awfully hard there, and didn't have things going in our direction at the time. I believe it was easier for me to believe in Johnny because I've seen the things that he's done. You don't win championships and races and not be a competent race car driver.
Q. What are your realistic expectations for Valvoline Racing? A. I'm fully convinced we can go win races this year. We firmly believe in 2002 we can win a championship. This year, for us, is about putting ourselves in position to at least contend for the championship in 2002 and get stronger as we go.
[NOTE: Image of Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson (left) and crew chief James Ince attached as jpeg file.]
NHRA: Krisher to Test New Eagle One Cavalier
After driving his year 2000-model Eagle One Pontiac Firebird in the season's first two events, Ron Krisher is scheduled to start testing his new Eagle One car care products Chevrolet Cavalier this week in preparation for the March 16-18 Mac Tools Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. Krisher earned two victories last year en route to fourth place in the NHRA Winston Pro Stock point standings.
Informed Sources: Earnhardt and Mansell
The current "Behind Closed Garage Doors" column on Valvoline.com recounts Dale Earnhardt's unlikely friendship with former Formula One and CART champion Nigel Mansell. The column is posted in the web site's Racing section.