#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson will never forget sitting in his hauler on Sept. 11 transfixed to the television watching, like all America, the terrible events on television. That day the Valvoline team cancelled the second of a planned two-day test at the new Kansas Speedway. The team returned home via rental cars.
Although national events limited their time on the 1.5-mile track, Benson and his crew chief James Ince, who grew up in Springfield, Mo. Learned a few things they hope to apply this weekend. The NASCAR Winston Cup teams will enjoy a special practice on Thursday then resume their normal Friday qualifying, Saturday practice and Sunday race schedule.
Benson said there is a certain amount of prestige racing at a new track. The area fans have already demonstrated their enthusiasm. More than 60,000 phone calls were tracked on Kansas Speedway's switchboards and nearly 300,000 hits were tracked on the speedway's Web site in the first eight hours of sales alone.
Johnny Benson On His One-Day Kansas Speedway Test:
"It ended one day early because of what happened at the World Trade Center, in Washington and in Pennsylvania. That was tough and kind of made what we were doing harder to do. They didn't have a helicopter that could get in the air so we didn't think it would be smart to continue testing, plus our hearts weren't in it at all. Yeah, we as drivers drive by wrecked race cars all the time on the track and still have to maintain concentration but when you watch something like that it is just hard to keep your routine. I don't think I have ever seen an outside event have an impact on our sport like that had. Because the airports were closed we had to drive home and man that was a long drive. It was exactly 1,044 miles from the door of our shop to the spot we parked in the infield. We drove it in rental cars. "
Benson On Impressions of Kansas Speedway:
"We were in race trim when we were in Kansas for that one day. It's a beautiful track, but it was only a one-groove track. There wasn't a lot of room to move around at all. If you missed your line then you were done and pretty much have to abort your run. As we get more cars on the track then I hope that will get better. I got a chance to drive around it, see what it is like. You see the good sports, bad spots, bumps and all that.
"Kansas is just like every mile-and-a-half race track we have in NASCAR. Some have two dog legs on the front stretch and others have one. Kansas City has one. When you build a mile-and-a-half racetrack you are always going to have one groove the first year or two until the groove gets moved out. I don't see Kansas City being any different. As the groove gets widened out the track will get better and better."
Benson Race Predictions:
"It seems to be pretty straight forward. It's going to be fast and single file. If would be nice if they stuck pylons down on the track during practice so we can get a second groove in then let us go race. But as the race goes on the second groove will come in and the racing will get better. As of now it's a single groove.
"I hope we put on a great show. I guess the switchboard really lit up when they started selling tickets so we know we are coming to a place that loves racing. James has told me all the stories of what it was like when he was racing around here. It kind of reminds me of Michigan where I grew up and raced. It's cool that we can come to places like this and to race in front of a bunch of people who appreciate what you do. That's a good feeling."