Continued from part 1
Q: Coming off a championship and being motivated by the challenges that you've mentioned and by how much fun you've had in this series, do you think you could really go to a part-time schedule and be fulfilled with that? Or are there just other things that you're thinking about?
JOHNNY BENSON: Well, there's all kinds of things to think about when this, you know, a few months back when I decided not to come back to Bill Davis's was the fact that I was considering doing either retiring or doing a part-time schedule and going and playing with my late model, and going and playing with my super modified. Messing around, running a limited truck schedule. Maybe catch a couple of Nationwide races, maybe a couple of Sprint Cup races. I didn't have a plan.
It was just a deal where the schedules and the travels and everything is getting to the point where I'm 45 years old. I really got to think about what I'm going to do in the future. I can't race forever. It's very hard to feel and think about when that time will be. But when I told Bill that, it ended up that I didn't want to put him in the situation when I come at the end of the season, and we get to the banquet and go, oh, by the way, I don't want to run full-time.
So I wanted to make sure he could move forward and do the things he needed to do to make sure that the 23 will be strong again next year. When that had come around and I decided that's what I was doing, it's kind of hard to step back and say hold on, I don't want that now. Or, hey, I still want my ride back or whatever.
I stuck with the fact that that's what I told him I was going to do, and we've had opportunities come along. I've turned down at least four opportunities and then there's been a couple presented in front of me that looked fairly enticing to possibly come back and run a full season.
So it's in the works. Hopefully in the future it all gets done and we can move forward and make announcements. But at this point in time everything is not done, and, you know, we're just going to see what happens. There are some things that still have to happen, so...
If it's part-time, I'll be happy. We'll go have fun, and I'll race my other thing and spend time with my family, because that's one thing that I was appraising in this part.
Q: Your thoughts about the testing, and how that will affect competition in this series?
JOHNNY BENSON: You know, it's not going to help the competition in this series by eliminating testing. But it will save them money. It will save the smaller teams money for sure. It will give an opportunity for the bigger teams to save a little bit of money, although they'll find out ways to get around and spend more money on the engineering aspect of the program.
But from the competition aspect of it, we'll probably separate the big teams from the smaller teams even more. They have to do something on the cost aspect, because if that guy can't afford to come to the racetrack, all the testing in the world isn't going to do him any good anyways.
Q: How much is Toyota playing into your decision to return full-time to the tracks and knowing how big they are in the series? I'd have to think they'd want the champions back in the Toyota full-time.
JOHNNY BENSON: Toyota's been a part of that. I can guarantee you, they were definitely afraid I was going to go to another manufacturer and run part-time or full-time, so, yeah.
Their influence there has been great. Well appreciated. On my behalf, I appreciate everything that they've done. I appreciate everything that Bill Davis has done. So, yeah, they've had some influence for sure.
Like you say, time will tell what the full plans will be, whether it be part-time or full or whatever. But, yeah. They're, you know, pushing hard to have me continue on for sure.
Q: The question more in a general sense about the truck series, what do you see the niche of the series going forward? For the last few years it's been so heavily dominated by older drivers in the 40 and up crowd. But in this off-season you look at Sprague, Ted Musgrave, Setzer, Cook, some of these guys who are without rides. Where a lot of young drivers are bringing in their own sponsorship, maybe they're untested as drivers, they seem to be locked up for next year. What direction do you see the series going forward?
JOHNNY BENSON: The direction I would see all racing going, not just truck series going. If somebody's got money, they will have a ride. I think that's bad for the sport, but what is the owner to do when the economy is the way it's at today? They have to make that decision to either put somebody in that has the driving talent, the ability to assemble good people around them. The ability to grab workers that want to work with a talented driver.
Those things for an owner are easy to work with. But to find the money is a tough challenge. If a guy comes knocking on the door and he says I want to drive your car, here's our sponsor. Well, the hardest challenge has just presented itself with the money aspect, because right now that is the bigger challenge.
Then, you know, they have to figure in to fact that the rookie may have some struggles not have any experience, means that you're possibly going to wreck some vehicles. Some experienced drivers can do the same thing, but maybe on a lesser fashion. So there are positives and negatives in both places. But with the way the economy is, they're going to choose money over the other aspects.
It puts us in a tough situation. Like you say, with Jack Sprague, and Ted Musgrave, and Dennis Setzer who are all great racers. But with them not getting the money, it makes it very difficult for them to establish a ride.
I feel for them, and I feel for me. This is going to happen to me, too. It's sometimes very difficult to just accept the fact that they're going to choose money over some of the talent that's there.
I think what they're hoping for is the kid's got talent.
Q: First of all you mentioned this before about Bill Davis and what it means to them. What do you think personally it means to him with everything that's been going on with him and his cup team and everything that's going on in the economy and all of that?
JOHNNY BENSON: Well, it's a very difficult time for him, I'm sure. I'm sure he didn't want me to leave, and it's visible. I can tell that he's not real happy over the situation. But I just hope he appreciates the hard work, and I'm sure he does, of everything that we were able to establish the four years I've been there. Winning 14 races and a championship for him.
It's very well deserved for Bill Davis and Gail Davis, and Bill Davis Racing to win a championship. And I hope he grasps on to that and I hope he enjoys it. I know next year's going to be very different for him.
They'll move forward as a race team. This is not the first time they've been in this situation before, so I'm sure they'll carry on next year and everything will be smooth and fine for them. I know he's in the process of looking for sponsorships for the 22 team and things of this nature on the Cup side. The truck side seems to be very strong for him. So I don't see any problems on the truck side at all. On the cup side, I don't know. That's on the other side of the street.
Q: Knowing all that, how weird is it to celebrate with him and the rest of the team tonight knowing all that's going on?
JOHNNY BENSON: Say that again?
Q: How weird is it to celebrate with Bill and Gail and knowing all of that was going on?
JOHNNY BENSON: It's not weird. It should be enjoyable. I'm going to enjoy myself tonight no matter what. I mean, this isn't new news. This is something we've known for a long time that I wasn't going to be there. So the newness aspect of that news is gone for us. It's just not for the media aspect.
It was fairly quiet for a long time about it. If run fifth in the points it would be a non-issue. Because winning the points it seems to be a little bigger of an issue. But I can tell you I am going to enjoy my night because I am proud of what the 23 Team's done. I'm proud of what Bill and Gail has done, and it's pure pleasure to be able to get this done for that organization.
Q: Have you had time to work on the speech at all, or are you going to just wing it tonight?
JOHNNY BENSON: I'm going to wing it. Because half of my information didn't come in until this morning that I needed. I'm going to laugh about it. I have no time between 11:00 and the banquet today. It's been nonstop since 11 this morning and we're having fun. I'm going to put down my points of interest. So it's either going to be really bad or it's going to be really good.
To me it's going to be what it's going to be, and that is kind of my theory on the whole championship season this year. I said, looking guys, let's have some fun. Let's go race, win races, but let's have fun. Let's enjoy what we've got going on here. They knew it was a good race team coming in.
Two years ago we ran second in the points, a year ago third in the points. So I said let's enjoy this, especially with what's going on.
Especially after my announcement a couple of months back about leaving there, you know. It was really important to tell those guys that we need to continue having fun. They did throughout the whole deal, except for the last two races were a little stressful, but that's understandable.
Q: A couple years ago you and I talked in the garage at Michigan International Speedway, and at that time you said things were really going hectic with your schedule. Well, now that you're a champion, wow, the increased demands on you. How much more do you think this is really going to explode your entire schedule?
JOHNNY BENSON: I don't think it will change the schedule that much one bit whatsoever. I think we'll probably gain a couple of appearances here and there and things of this nature. You know, you're going to get more interviews, I think when you know the first part of the year being the defending champion. You're going to get a little bit of that.
And, of course, when you're hitting your home stretches in your hometowns, it's going to be a little bit more hectic. But I don't see a change in it a tremendous amount.
Q: When I saw the tears in your eyes after you found out you had won, I would have liked to share some crazy jokes that you and I shared at Michigan International Speedway, and I thought, gee, I wish I was there right now standing next to him. I've got a couple for him. Congratulations.
JOHNNY BENSON: Thank you.
Q: Do you think that you have common traits that you share with other NASCAR champions? And what do you admire most about other champions?
JOHNNY BENSON: Well, I admire all race car drivers no matter where they're at. Whether it be a local level. IndyCars, drag racing, motorcycles, it doesn't matter.
I think when it gets down to the champions, you all share a common goal as far as being, one, obviously having some talent. But two, having the ability to work with people, to surround yourself with good people, and enjoy the fruits of having a tremendous season.
So I've got a lot of respect for every champion, no matter what it is or what they do or even what sport it's in. You know, you train hard, you work hard, the people around you work extremely hard.
And it's something that when the end of the day comes, you can look back and go, you know what? That's a pretty proud moment for everything that happened. I think that's no different for every champion. I think they can look and say this is a proud moment for whether you do it on your own, as far as some sports or if you do it with a group of people like we do it here.
So I think the common trait would be being proud of the people that took you along that journey.