Pontiac Racing May 8, 2001 JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: DID THE DRIVERS RECEIVE A "GAG ORDER" FROM NASCAR DURING YOUR MEETING AT RICHMOND? "I don't think the meeting we had had a whole to do with that. It was...
Pontiac Racing May 8, 2001
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
DID THE DRIVERS RECEIVE A "GAG ORDER" FROM NASCAR DURING YOUR MEETING AT RICHMOND?
"I don't think the meeting we had had a whole to do with that. It was more about making sure that things are right and things are safe in the car, and just keeping in mind that anytime that you're racing or anytime that you're driving on the street or whatever it is to just keep safety in mind. Outside that we're just trying to keep things on a positive note. "I think there are a lot of great things going on in NASCAR Winston Cup racing right now. The meeting was more about, 'Let's focus on what is going to be done in the future. We can't do anything right now about what has been done in the past.' We're looking forward to [the future]."
ON RUNNING THE UPCOMING EVENTS AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY
"We're looking forward to it. At Charlotte, we've had some pretty good runs - especially with James [Ince] being the crew chief. We're looking forward to going there again. We finished in the top 10 last year in the fall there. There is some good energy for us going into Charlotte this year, especially as consistent as what we've been. We're trying to take that million dollars from Winston. We want the victory and we want the trophy, but if there is an extra bonus in there, we're looking forward to it."
ON THE PROGRESS OF THE SAFETY PROCESS IN NASCAR
"The thing you've go to remind everybody is that the safety issue in auto racing is something that is an ongoing process. It is a dangerous sport. We all realize that, and I believe the fans realize that. I think these cars are safe and probably can be made safer. But anytime that you've got new things coming in, there are tests that need to be done and things that you really need to look at, and I think that there is a lot of that going on. It's an ongoing process that is never sitting at 'idle.' I think they are doing everything that they can and they're just trying to do it in a positive way. They're trying to get feedback from anybody that has got some availability on things that will help us in the area of safety."
ON VALVOLINE PLAYING AN OWNERSHIP ROLE IN THE TEAM
"It's a fortunate situation for ourselves. We were in a situation last year where we didn't have a sponsor, we were out of money and we were pretty much shut down and out of business. MB2 came along and purchased half of the race team and Valvoline purchased the other half. Aaron's came on board and let us finish out the year, which was a great thing. It's just a different situation. We're not the first ones to do it. Jasper Engines is another one that has done the same thing. It allows Valvoline to go ahead and do their own marketing. They can see what they want. When we bang on the door and we want more money, they can look and say, 'OK, I can see where we need that,' and not have such a big issue. This way the sponsor isn't wondering where the money is going. They've got a pretty good idea. I think for James and the guys it's got to be a pretty good situation for them, too."
WHAT HAS CONTRIBUTED MOST TO YOUR TEAM'S SUCCESS DURING THE PAST COUPLE SEASONS?
"Going into this season we felt a little bit more comfortable. You've always got the pressures of racing on you a little bit, but I think last years was as pressure-packed as you could get. We were sitting with a great race team and no money - almost to the point of shutting our doors. We had a good group of guys that didn't want to leave. They didn't want to go find other jobs. They wanted to stay there until we all got thrown out together. That was a huge thing."
"Of course, working with James Ince has been a pleasure for me because he is a racer. He has grown up in racing, worked on his own cars, built cars and still does that today - not only in Winston Cup, but in other areas. It's kind of scary because we can almost read each other's minds. We can kind of tell the direction that we want in a short period of time. I think you can contribute a lot of James' success [as a crew chief] to being organized and knowing what I want in a race car. That makes life a lot easier."
DOES RUNNING UP FRONT GIVE YOU MORE SHOTS AT A WIN?
"I think it's a situation where we have a good race team and we are consistent. When you start running in the top 10 and in the top five, you're going to win one of these races. That's how you've got to look at it. I don't want to be 30th in points, having one good week and one bad week, then a couple of bad weeks and then out of the blue you win one. I would just as soon be able to run consistent like we've been and try to win more than one of these. I think once our first one comes it's going to be a good relief for us. I think then we can go on and win a couple more."
DOES THIS SEASON FEEL AT ALL LIKE YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP YEARS DID IN ASA OR BUSCH GRAND NATIONAL?
"It sure does. There is something that I saw in this race team at times when I went over there before I starting working there. It's the attitude that they have towards racing and the people that they've got there. It has been a joy to work with them. It's a group of guys that are all racers, which most of the race teams have. But when you get people that won't leave a race shop when we're financially strapped and almost going to close the doors, and they want to stick together and show up on their off days, it really gives you a good feeling - an not just from my standpoint, but James' standpoint, as well. We've got guys that want to race and want to win and want to do what it takes to be up front on a weekly basis. That's important for the driver and it's important for the crew chief, but it's also important for the race team. That is what I think that we have is a good race team that communicates good and wants to work together, and not just collect a paycheck and then go home."
HAS VALVOLINE BEING IN PLACE ALLOWED YOU TO CONCENTRATE MORE ON THE RACES?
"As we raced last year without any money, it didn't really affect how we went to the racetrack and tried to compare for the races. But what Valvoline has allowed us to do it to do a little bit more research and a little bit more development stuff in other areas that we couldn't do in the past that are real important to having a good race team and then turning it into a great race team. That is what having a sponsor like Valvoline is enabling us to do is to be able to work in these areas that we need to get stronger in and be better at, and be able to spend money in these areas to improve them."
JAMES INCE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON SOFTENING THE FRONT END OF THE CARS?
"Basically the thing that we're always looking at, as far as the safety of things, is that we don't necessarily know what is soft enough and what is stiff enough. The only thing that we have to go by is experience. The harder a race car hits a wall or the more sudden that it stops, if there is more crush in the race car, that would naturally help dissipate some of the energy away from the driver. Unfortunately, I don't know if the thing we've got today is the right thing for Winston Cup cars or isn't the right thing. That is one thing that NASCAR is doing a real good job with right now is looking into trying to improve on that. In the same token, if you have a car that the front of the car is too soft, we could have the same problems with motors or tires or other things coming back on the driver. That is something that I think we've all got to go down the road together on. NASCAR is really putting a lot of effort into that right now to figure it out. I think the future is going to tell us more about what we need in these race cars."
WHAT ARE YOUR OPINIONS ON OTHER SAFETY MEASURES?
"I think we all feel like anything we can go do to help make this racing safer would be a great thing. I believe that what we've got right now is awfully safe. There are a lot of crashes and a lot of things that people go through weekly that prove that the cars are safe and the racetracks are safe. But if there is anything that there is out there to look at, I'm sure NASCAR is looking at it. I know that we're looking at it to make the sport better - not only for the drivers, but for the crews and the fans and everybody involved. We don't want to be like the gladiators were back in the coliseums. We want our race car drivers to come home every week. I feel like we've got that now. It's just unfortunate that we've had these tragedies in the past two years. Anything we can do to improve it, we welcome."
ON YOUR APPROACH TO THE TEAM MEMBERS THAT WORK FOR YOU
"Really the only pressure that this team has is the pressure that we put on ourselves. There is no pressure from the sponsor, there is no pressure from the owner - luckily they are the same people. "Right now we have a group of people that want to go win races. We want to go do this together. That is the most important part. We're all just very determined that at the end of the day, regardless what has been thrown on our plate or what we've had to go through, we want to make sure that we've got a smile on going back to the house. We make sure that we get these guys plenty of time off. We've got a five-day work week that we implemented around there. This is a group of racers that, every single one of us at some point in our lives went up and down the road and was maybe gone for two months at a time with a race car and was working on it in a motel parking lot. We all know we're very fortunate to be in the position we're in. We're very fortunate to be with a driver that we want to be with and the guys we want to be with working on the race car, so our life is pretty good. We're going to make sure that we do everything we can within our ability the best we can. But the things we can't control, we can't let those get us down and dwell on those points. It's a lot of fun for us right now."