#10 Valvoline Pontiac Driver Johnny Benson vows he won't turn down the top starting spot at Daytona International Speedway this weekend or any other race on the NASCAR Winston Cup tour if he gets the opportunity in the 2001 season.
Benson turned down the pole before the 50-lap feature last Saturday night in a late model race at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich.
Benson qualified 10th fastest, but he could have started on the pole. Berlin, like many short tracks, likes to create a little more excitement by inverting the qualifying order before the race. On Saturday night it used the roll of the dice after qualifying to determine the inversion. Benson's teammate, Lee Anderson, set fast time, but the dice roll came out 10 so that would normally have moved Benson, the 10th place qualifier, to first.
However, Benson passed on the pole and chose to charge through the field. Why would any driver turn down a pole? It's simple - he owns part of the half-mile, race track. The native of nearby Grand Rapids felt moving to the front might raise the eyebrows of fellow competitors.
"Being part-owner of the race track and starting up front I might have caught some flack," said Benson, the 1989 track champion. "The car would have been OK up front because we wouldn't have had to deal with traffic. But I would rather start back and work my way through the traffic. That's more fun."
After three cautions in the first three laps, the race went green. Benson picked his way through the field and ran as high as third, but finished third. Terry Senneker Jr. won the race.
Benson On Turning Down The Pole:
"Yeah, I don't see myself turning down any poles with the Valvoline Pontiac. That stuff Saturday night was a lot of fun. But I wanted to make sure everyone is treated right at Berlin. Those guys race hard and put on great shows so I didn't want to come in and do anything to hurt them."
Is There A Difference Between Saturday's Daytona Race And The February Race?
"First off there are 100 less miles and it's at night. But that is about it. There used to be a big difference between this race and the Daytona 500. There's not as big of a difference now because this is a night race. When we ran this in the daytime it was so hot and slippery that downforce mattered a heck of a lot more. The track still gets slippery. But because it is at night it's a little bit more consistent. Handling is still more important at this race but its not like it used to be. The night races on superspeedways have been great. As drivers we don't have to worry about the track changing as much like if the sun is out or not as we did during the daytime races. The track stays consistent and they have done a great job of lighting the track. Plus it gets us home for a day on Sunday."
Are There Drafting Partners?
"The only partners you really have are the guy in front of you and the guy behind you and that changes throughout the race. I don't care what anyone promises you before the race or on the team radios during the race. If they think they can help themselves they are going to forget about any agreement just as fast as they can."