NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Johnny Benson
November 17, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We are extremely pleased to welcome our 2008 Craftsman Truck Series Champion Johnny Benson to the call. For Johnny and his team it's been 7 points the difference between he and 2007 Champion, Ron Hornaday Jr. which works out to the third closest championship finish in a NASCAR National Series since we went to the current point system in 1975.
Now, Johnny was kind of a, I would say a bit of a stressful end of the season as you led by 6 points, 3 points and finally won by 7 points in your final three races. But you've had a couple of days now to sink in, as you're rehearsing for tonight's championship banquet here at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Tell us about your feelings and how they have kind of gone forward since Friday night when you won the Championship?
JOHNNY BENSON: Yeah, it's been a crazy week, I guess you could say. The last couple of races we knew it was going to come down to a great battle at Homestead. I said this the last couple of years, you're not going to know the champion until the checkered flag is thrown and everybody gets across the line. That was no different this year with us having a comfortable point lead, probably four or five races back. Having some mechanical problems in that Ron and their group doing such a great job of running well.
You know, they were closing in on us, and it was making it a great points battle for, one, for the two of our teams, but also for the race fans and for NASCAR. So I'm going into the last race. You know, we knew that the end goal was that we had to beat the 33 to win this championship for the 23.
So that being said, the race started off, and probably wasn't to our liking at the time, but we could always see Ron there always ahead of us throughout the majority of the race. Late in the race, we made a two-tire stop, which put us out in front of him. And we stayed there as long as we could which wasn't long enough.
Then our strategy came into play later in the race with 10, 12 laps to go, the caution came out, and the leaders decided to come down pit road to get tired. We chose to stay out. And at that point in time, the goal of that task was to stay ahead of them and we were able to accomplish that.
Q: Something about going down the last turn of the final lap of the 2008 season as Ron tried to close on you, I guess he was about 100 yards back coming out of turn four. I guess it literally worked out that way?
JOHNNY BENSON: It did. I mean, I really thought I lost it when the 09 got by us through three and four coming for that checkered. We knew we had to finish ahead of them. But he had led some laps and we were able to get some laps on the two-tire stop.
But, you know, you're just never sure. And I knew that was the case because even after the checkered myself and Ron had drove all the way around the track, parked in turn four, and the word hadn't come to us who won it.
So I was at question whether we won it. I'm sure Ron was at question of who won it or not. And then it came over the radio and told us we were the champions it was something that was very, very good to hear, for sure.
MODERATOR: Well, that's great. Little more housekeeping here. You are the tenth different champion of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and of course the final Craftsman champion as they leave our entitlement sponsorship after 14 great seasons and we turn the series over to Camping World beginning in 2009. Also we've not had a repeat champion in the series since Greg Biffle won the title all the way back in 2000. So with that said, if we could go to the phones and take some questions.
Q: You've won championships at several different levels. I was wondering if you could please put just one in perspective. It comes 13 years after the last one you won when you won the Busch Championship. Does it mean anything definitely now because you are older and further along in your career?
JOHNNY BENSON: All of our championships are way cool and rewarding in their own different ways. I think when you win your first championship which is what I did on the late model racing deal when I first started out is, you know, is very cool. It's your first one. It's the first time you've done it. Those are very, very neat.
But you don't get a whole lot of the press aspect. You know, you get yourself gratification of doing it. Of course your families and friends and people out there at that particular racetrack, and some local press over that. So that is way cool.
The second one is when we won the ASA Championship, and of course with that, with the TV it was a bigger deal for myself. Again, very cool to have the opportunity to win that. And that happened only four years after my Late Model Championship. And then going into the NASCAR end of it, going into the Busch Series at the time, winning rookie of the year, and winning the Championship the following year. It was only two years after my ASA Championship.
Very cool. Things felt like they were going, you know, move ago long, moving great. Going good. Extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish.
You know, of course, I went into Cup racing, won rookie of the year deal and I never got the opportunity to run for a championship. But we were close. Only won one race, but I was really close to the Top 10 in points on four different occasions. I think we ran 11th and 12th twice and 13th. Always there knocking on the door, but never had gotten a Top 10.
Of course after I left the Cup series and started running the truck series with Bill Davis Racing, that gave me an opportunity to one, go race and race for wins, and two, race for a championship.
So even though it's been a fair amount of years since my last championship, this one does mean a tremendous amount to me. One, obviously on the selfish side for yourself, but two, for Bill Davis Racing. That's our first championship.
They have won many races there throughout their organization. They've been close on the championship before now to make that happen for them is something that our whole team is extremely proud of and myself to be able to get that done and get that for Bill and Gail is something that that does mean a tremendous amount to me.
Q: If you do run the full truck season next year, what do you think your chances are of repeating? Do you think there is anybody who could challenge you, Hornaday, Skinner, Bodine for the title?
JOHNNY BENSON: I'm hoping if things get set and we run a full season things of this nature, depending on what's going on, it's going to be tough. I think it's tough to run for a back-to-back championship no matter what team you're with, no matter what you're doing.
Even if I was here with Bill Davis Racing, we saw that with Ron Hornaday, how difficult it is to accomplish that. So I always feel that we'll be a threat for wins, and if we ever get to that point where we're going to run for a championship, I feel we'll be a threat for that.
Now whether that's next year or not, I don't know. But there's a lot of great drivers out there. Lot of great championship teams, and a lot of people that can win races. It would be very difficult for anybody to say that they could go out there and defend a championship and go win it the following year, unless you're talking to Jimmie Johnson. Apparently that seems a little bit easier (laughing).
But for anybody in the truck series, it's very competitive. I think the history shows that it's very difficult to be a repeat win error a back-to-back winner.
Q: Obviously, if you do it you'd be with a new team. What would be the extra challenges of trying to repeat at least under a different banner?
JOHNNY BENSON: I think the challenges would all be the same. You have to be consistent week in and week out. You have to win races. You have to not have problems, and if you do have problems, you've got to battle and rebound from the problems.
I think the 23 Team has done a tremendous job of that. And in that kind of where it lies. It's what's all around you. I felt that the four years that I've been there, as far as the driving part, you know, I feel I can be a championship contender, provided everything around you is something that you communicate good with. People that you communicate good with, and how well they handle your good times and your bad times and what you can and tend to do, or what can you do to overcome when you have the bad times to come back and be a strong contender for races.
Q: Is there anybody out there you feel is knocking on the door as far as joining the top guys who have kind of been vying for the title the last few years?
JOHNNY BENSON: It's difficult to say. I really think if you would go back two, three years ago, I don't think they would have counted the 23 Team as a championship contender team. To sit there and look down through the list to find out who that next team is going to be is very difficult to do.
We saw Erik Darnell up front the majority of the year. I know they fell a little bit at the end. Same with Matt Crafton, I think they'll be the new guys that are going to be up there. Of course, you still have Ron Hornaday, you've got Todd Bodine. You've got Jack Sprague, depending on what he's going to do. You've got Mike Skinner. You know, Ron Hornaday, I mean, the list goes on and on of who could put a bid in for this.
It really depends on communication, and all of the things that we just talked about if they're going to be a championship contender team. You know, the Roush trucks, they'll be tough. There's a bunch of them.
This year was an odd year for everybody. Me and Ron were just talking about this yesterday. If you look at the last three seasons with the problems that myself and Ron had, any of those other three seasons, we'd be running for fifth and sixth in points, not for the Championship lead. So anything can happen throughout the season to put somebody in that situation to be a contender.
Q: First question is the easy one. Are the trucks where you want to be in 2009? And the second question, being from the area, being from Michigan, should the government come to the aide of the big three? If they don't, how do you see it affecting NASCAR in the coming years?
JOHNNY BENSON: Well, for one, I thoroughly enjoyed running with the truck series. Got to really thank Craftsman for promoting the series and helping it be where it's at today. That's a difficult task. And I think NASCAR and craftsman did a tremendous job with that. I would like that to be the home for a couple more years anyways, whether it be part-time or full-time.
So I enjoy doing it. It's a lot of fun. It's like Saturday night racing. The races are obviously shorter. We get a little bumping and banging. When it's all said and done we're all in the garage area having fun, and talking about the race that just happened.
As far as the other question, I really don't know the answer on what they need to do to help the big three companies. There are probably a lot of things that need to happen. There are a lot of things, I'm sure, that are happening.
We do know it's going to have an effect on racing. We understand the advertising aspect of it. And understand they need to continue advertising, and we understand NASCAR's probably the best place to advertise. So hopefully that doesn't go away, you know, being selfish in the racing business.
But it still feels like, you know, if you win on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, that it helps you sell vehicles on Monday. I still believe that happens. Some people may argue it, some people may say it doesn't help as much as it used to. And it may not help as much as it used to, but I still think it's a huge plus with the advertising they do.
So hopefully they won't cut back too much on that, and hope that they find ways to help their companies.
I don't believe in the bailout. I don't -- a company needs to run on its own. It needs to fix its problems whether good, bad or indifferent throughout their deal and take actions where it needs to happen.
Like we watch on the news about the bonuses. I don't understand why anybody should get a $25 million bonus no matter what they do. So those are areas that I know they'll look at and they'll fix.
Maybe it's because I've never gotten a $25 million bonus, I don't know (laughing). But I don't think it would be something that anybody deserves no matter how much you work.
That's part of it. You've got to have pride in your work, and a bonus is great. But some of them are a little out of hand. Hopefully they'll fix some of those things in the future. All companies, not just the big three.
Hopefully the big three will be around for a long time, and the Toyota being along. And whoever else comes with the sport. I just hope they continue to sponsor. They continue to support it, and continue to help the economy.
Continued in part 2