Benson heads for Las Vegas

Johnny Benson's ...

Johnny Benson's #10 Valvoline Pontiac team shattered the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track record during Feb.1 pre-season testing. Benson circled the 1.5-mile oval in 31.14 seconds (173.376 mph) breaking the old mark of 31.293 seconds. While Benson and his crew chief James Ince said setting a new track record isn't as important as running well in the race, Benson should be considered a favorite in officially breaking the record in Friday qualifying. Benson posted a fifth-place finish at Las Vegas in the inaugural race in 1998 and finished sixth last year. The Grand Rapids, Mich. driver said the flat, fast, racetrack fits his driving style as well as any on the Winston Cup Circuit. Benson is 13th in the 2001 Winston Cup point standings after posting a sixth-place finish at Rockingham on Monday.

Crew Chief James Ince On Las Vegas Test

"It was a great test. Shoot, how bad can a test be if you get to go to Vegas for a couple of days? As far as the speed we ran out there, we were even caught off guard how fast we went. That's a good problem. I think we can point to the track conditions as helping us out because we did our time early in the morning, but we were pretty good there all weekend. I'm not making any promises or predictions but I'm pretty excited about our chances and I don't get excited that often."

James Ince On Benson's Two Top Six Finishes In Three Vegas Races.

"Johnny gets around Vegas pretty good. If knew why I'd have him getting around every track like he does out there. I know everyone is looking at the time and speed we posted but I think our test was more geared to the race than it was to qualifying. The most exciting thing for me is that last year we weren't very good in practice then we went out and qualified sixth. The driver picked up more than half a second, but scared the you know what out of him that day. The other day when Johnny ran that fast lap in testing, he got out of the car smiling and didn't even know he was that fast. That's a good feeling to know the car was that comfortable."

Ince Difference At Las Vegas From 2000 to 2001:

"We have a new tire everywhere we go this year. Goodyear has done a good job with the tire. It's a harder tire. That's why we have done a lot of testing in the pre-season. It's important to know how that tire is going to react. We have a pretty good handle on what we needed to do at Rockingham and I hope we can do the same at Vegas. The Winston Cup Series puts on a good show and I think this weekend's race in Vegas is going to be the best we have ever seen out there."

Benson On Las Vegas Success:

"It's a track that is smooth, fast, flat and suits my driving style. It's a place I enjoy racing. I don't know why drivers prefer one track to another. Like I said I like flat tracks. For whatever reason I do better on those tracks. I wouldn't run well if I didn't have a good car. I think I can feel a car a little bit better on the flat track than I can on the banked track."

Benson On Importance of Vegas Test:

"We ran good that day. But, it doesn't mean a whole lot. The weather is going to be different, the track temperature is going to be different, and the rubber on the track is going to be different. But, we hope the results are the same. But to be honest, you don't know what's going to happen until you get there."

Benson On Why Drivers Are Good At Particular Tracks:

"I think in qualifying you have to hang it out at all tracks and Las Vegas is no different. At Vegas you have to be smooth and you have to hit your spots just right. Most importantly you have to have a lot of confidence in what that race car is going to do. Last year I trusted the car and we really picked up in qualifying and ended up eighth. I hope it is a bit easier this year with just a little bit better result."

Thoughts On Watching Steve Park Win For Dale Earnhardt Inc. At Rockingham:

"I imagine Dale was probably a little sad he's not racing and not (there) with us. But by the same token, he is in a better place and he had the best seat in the house to see one of his cars win. I think its good that Steve could win for those guys today. (Rockingham) was a good day for everyone."

2001 Season:

"Rockingham is really the first race of the season to us. Yes, Daytona is where the season really kicks off, but there are a lot more tracks on the circuit like Rockingham and if you can run good here then you know you are in for a pretty good year. I'm looking forward to 2001. I thought that going through the winter. I thought that at the last race of 2000 and I still feel that way today."

<pre> Las Vegas Race Information

Race: Sunday, March 4

TV: Fox 2:30pm/et, pre-race show at 2:00pm/et

2000 Race Winner: Jeff Burton, 119.928mph

Race Record: Mark Martin, Mar 1998, 146.554mph

Track/Race Length: 1.5 mile oval, 267 laps, 400.5 miles

Pit Road Speed: 45mph

Practice: Friday, Mar 2nd from 1:20 - 3:00pm/et

Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Mar 3rd at 1:45pm/et, TV-FX

Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-36, Friday, Mar 2nd at 5:15pm/et, TV-FSN(Fox Sports Net) and live via MRN radio/internet

Track/Event Qualifying Record: Ricky Rudd, March 2000, 172.563mph

Last Year's Pole Sitter: Ricky Rudd, 172.563mph

Pole Winners at Las Vegas 2000 Ricky Rudd, #28 Ford, 172.563mph, finished 12th 1999 Bobby Labonte, #18 Pontiac, 170.643mph, finished 5th 1998 Dale Jarrett, #88 Ford, 168.224mph, finished 40th

Winners at Las Vegas 2000 Jeff Burton, #99 Ford, 119.982mph, started 11th (rain shortened to 148 laps) 1999 Jeff Burton, #99 Ford, 137.537mph, started 19th 1998 Mark Martin, #6 Ford, 146.554mph, started 7th

Track Specs: Las Vegas Motor Speedway: Front straight: 2,275 feet Back straight: 1,572 feet Banking: Corners: 12 degrees, Front Straight: 8 degrees, Back Straight: 3 degrees

-Drew Brown

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Steve Park , Johnny Benson , Drew Brown , Mark Martin