Benson Atlanta preview

University of Georgia graduates Tom Beard, Read Morton and Nelson Bowers along with Valvoline own Johnny Benson's ...

University of Georgia graduates Tom Beard, Read Morton and Nelson Bowers along with Valvoline own Johnny Benson's #10 Valvoline Pontiac and the three Georgia businessmen solely own Kenny Schrader's #36 Pontiac. The trio are awaiting their first Victory in NASCAR Winston Cup racing and while they won't refuse a victory anywhere, they certainly wouldn't mind winning in front of the home folks this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Beard, the managing director an at Atlanta investment bank; Morton, a senior partner in a local law firm; and Bowers, a successful entrepreneur with diverse interests surrounding the retail automotive industry, attend nearly all of the 36 Winston Cup races.

While the owners would like to do well in Atlanta for personal reasons, the Valvoline team has a bit of revenge on its mind this weekend. The team missed this Atlanta race in 2000; a particularly tough blow considering it was 11th in points before Atlanta. Rain cancelled second round qualifying on Saturday that weekend and NASCAR used the 1999 standings to determine provisionals. The team was too far down in points from last year to claim a provisional. This year the team returns to Atlanta sixth in the driver standings and determined to rid the demons from last year. It got off to a good start in November when Benson finished tenth in the Fall Atlanta race.

Johnny Benson on missing 2000 Atlanta race:

"I don't know how hard it was hard to watch the Atlanta race in March because I didn't watch it. I took my daughters out to lunch that day and to a fun park that afternoon. So we made the best of it that day. I hope th only fun park they are going to get to go to this Sunday in Atlanta is Victory Lane. We are extremely confident. James said he doesn't like this track, but we ran tenth in November and I think we will be even better Sunday. Everyone is pretty enthused around the shop these days. We finished fifth at Rockingham and fourth at Las Vegas in the last two weeks. This team is far from hitting its stride and we are turning in some pretty good finishes. This is the most optimistic I have ever been in my racing career without a doubt."

Crew Chief James Ince on missing 2000 Atlanta race:

"It hurt to sit home and watch that race on television. We knew we were better than half those team racing there that day. If it did anything it struck a fire under us to go out in the rest of the races and prove what we can do. We will be better this weekend. In fact I don't ever expect to have to endure what we did here last year. That was a nightmare than just won't happen again."

Ince on how tough is Atlanta?

"Geez, I think without a doubt Atlanta is the toughest track to set up a car. For some reason I have always had a tough time getting my cars to run there. We missed the show there last year with Johnny. I don't know why that is. Atlanta may look like Charlotte and Texas where we run well, but for some reason we haven't figured out the first race at Atlanta. We finished tenth there in the Fall last year so I think that shows we are figuring it out. Maybe this will be the week we get the Atlanta monkey off our backs."

Owner Tom Beard on how special winning Atlanta would be to him:

"We look at Atlanta as just another race really. We want to get a win anywhere, but it would be special to get our first one at Atlanta. We buy a lot of tickets for friends and family, and until this year we had a 30-person suite. We don't have any special plans if we when a race -- well maybe pay some bills. When we win I'm going to be happy, but frankly not going to be surprised. Johnny and Kenny are ready. Kenny has won before and I think you have seen how Johnny and his Valvoline team ran at Rockingham and Las Vegas so a victory for him isn't far away. Sure winning at Atlanta would be fun, but that first victory is what we really want and it's going to be fun no matter where we are. After that first win we will start picking and choosing where we would like to win next."

Beard on how his new two-car team working?

"We are starting to see the two teams working together more and more. That cooperation is very pleasing. I think that is what we have missed in the past when we were a single car team. Johnny and Kenny are great friends and Schrader's crew chief Sammy Johns and Johnny's crew chief James Ince spend a lot of time talking as well. We have everyone in one building now so our communication will only get better. We had the two teams spread out in a few buildings but now we have a big fancy new building that will make life easier on our teams."

Beard On Why They Aren't Playing Golf On Sunday's Like Most Successful Businessmen?

"Those guys playing golf are the smart successful businessmen, we are just successful businessmen."

<pre> Race Information Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 Winston Cup Race #4 of 36 for the 2001 season

Race: Sunday, March 11, 2001 in Hampton, GA

TV: Fox 1:00pm/et(pre-race at 12:30pm/et)

Posted Awards/Purse: $3,223,068 (was $2,265,604 in 2000)

2000 Race Winner: Dale Earnhardt, 131.759mph

Race Record: Mark Martin, Mar 1998, 146.554mph

Track/Race Length: 1.54 mile quad-oval, 325 laps, 500.5 miles

Pit Road Speed: 45mph

Practice Practice: Friday, Mar 9th from 10:45am - 12:45pm/et

Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Mar 10th at 11:00am - 12:00noon/et, TV-FX at 3:30pm/et(tape delay)

Qualifying Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-36, Friday, Mar 9th at 3:00pm/et, TV-FSN(Fox Sports Net) and live via PRN radio/internet will have live lap-by-lap coverage of Winston Cup qualifying via the web

Second-Round Qualifying: there is no longer a 2nd round of qualifying

Track Qualifying Record: Geoffrey Bodine, Nov 1997, 197.478mph

Event Qualifying Record: Bobby Labonte, 194.957mph, March 1999

Last Year's Pole Sitter: Dale Jarrett, 192.574mph

Track Specs: Degree of Banking: Turns: 24 degrees Straightaways: Banking: 5 degrees; Straights: Frontstretch - 1471 feet; Backstretch - 1380 feet.

-Drew Brown

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Geoffrey Bodine , Johnny Benson , Drew Brown , Mark Martin