#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson hopes to use Sunday's race in Charlotte and the final six races of the 2001 season to maintain his tenth place in the point standings. But the Michigan native is adamant it won't change his team's goal of winning a race. Last week at Kansas Speedway, Benson was second and ready to take the lead when his day ended with engine trouble.
Benson said, at this time of year, only the top two or three teams race for points while everyone else if focused on the checkered flag. He said the only change in strategy among the NASCAR Winston Cup teams might be that some teams will start experimenting with shock and spring combinations that might get them a jump on the 2002 season.
* Benson has posted 11 top-10 finishes in 2001. He trails ninth-place Bobby Labonte by 183 points and holds the 10th-place position by just 11 points over Jeff Burton. He has scored three top-10 finishes in his 11 races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He finished eighth in this race one year ago, scoring his best finish at the North Carolina track. He finished 20th at Charlotte in May.
* Benson has completed the third highest percentage (93.1) of laps at this race of any active driver at Charlotte. Only Joe Nemechek and Jeff Gordon have completed a greater percentage.
* Five of the last nine races at Charlotte have been won from the front row, but three of the last four have been won from a starting position of 18th or worse.
Benson On Key To Charlotte Success:
"Turns three and four are still the toughest turns at Charlotte - especially during the day. Fans should watch how the cars go through the turns. If you see someone who can stay on the bottom of the track then that car is probably going to the front. The closer they are to the bottom of the track the closer they will be to the top of the scoring pylon."
Benson On Differences Between May and October Charlotte Races:
"Charlotte is one of our most temperature sensitive tracks we race on. Maybe Indy is the only track more sensitive. Where that really comes into play is the start times of the two races there. That makes a big difference. We start this weekend's race about 1 p.m. That means we will run the whole race in daylight. Obviously you will have the same conditions throughout the whole race. It isn't as tough as it is in May when you start in daylight and end in darkness. In May, you start the car a little loose because you know when the sun goes down the car will tighten up. You build more adjustability in your car when you are going from day into night than you do this weekend when it is just a day race."
Benson On Points Racing:
"In some cases, at this point in the year, you can get to where you are points racing, but I think that is only with the top two or three guys in points. Where we are sitting right now, we aren't going to points race. We just want to keep the same goals we have had all year and that's to win a race. Sure we want to end the year in the top ten but we are still going to take chances to win a race. Look at last week. We weren't sitting back racing for points at Kansas. We were going for the lead when we broke."
Benson On When Teams Begin Thinking About Next Year:
"I was thinking just the other day about all the things we want to do for next year. If we had more of a points cushion behind us then I would dare say we would try some experimental stuff for next year. There are subtle things you would try. Maybe spring and shock combinations. Because we want to stay in the top ten we might try that experimenting in the tests instead of during the race. If we were back in 12th, 13th or 14th we would be trying some different stuff that could get us a leg up on next year."
Benson On Qualifying at Charlotte:
"Obviously, qualifying is important everywhere from a publicity and media standpoint but as far as the race itself, winning a pole at Charlotte won't help you as much as it will say at a place like Martinsville next week. If your car is good then you can go to the front fairly easy at Charlotte. At Martinsville you could have the best car but you could never work your way up to the front of the field like you can at Charlotte. Sure we want to win the pole or at least qualify well, but if we don't it isn't going to be the end of the world. We know if we are good on race day we will be fine."