DETROIT (August 15, 2000) - "Improvement" is a fairly general goal that gets used a lot, but it has actually served Aaron's Pontiac driver Johnny Benson well in 2000 despite being forced to endure a very turbulent season. The Grand Rapids, ...
DETROIT (August 15, 2000) - "Improvement" is a fairly general goal that gets used a lot, but it has actually served Aaron's Pontiac driver Johnny Benson well in 2000 despite being forced to endure a very turbulent season.
The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native started the year with a new race team in an unsponsored Pontiac. In the months that followed, he watched his team become sponsored, become unsponsored, be offered for sale, be purchased and be sponsored again. But as wild as that stretch was off the track, the ride on the track was just as exciting. Benson contended for a win in the season-opening Daytona 500, posted a career-best second-place finish at Bristol and spent more time running competitively in the top 10 than he did in all of 1999.
Now Benson heads back to his home state for the Winston Cup Series' second stop at Michigan Speedway. Benson, who qualified 11th and finished 24th at the two-mile oval back in June, won the pole for this race in 1997 and is trying to become NASCAR's next first-time winner.
<pre> BENSON BY THE NUMBERS (AFTER 21st RACE)
Points position 2000: 16th 1999: 24th
Top 5s 2000: 1 1999: 0
Top 10s 2000: 2 1999: 1
Top 15s 2000: 9 1999: 3
Average start 2000: 23.35 1999: 31.4
Average finish 2000: 18.75 1999: 23.8
DNFs 2000: 2 1999: 1
Laps lead 2000: 54 1999: 4
[* 2000 stats include 20 races (DNQ - Atlanta)]
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
...on returning to Michigan Speedway: "We're looking forward to going back. I think we had a good race car in June. We just got ourselves a lap down there at the end and finished worse than what we should have, but we had a good race car. We're fairly confident this time. We're bringing the same car back. With some improvements, I think we'll be in good shape."
...his feelings toward races where fuel mileage plays a big role: "It's OK. There's just a lot that goes into it and everybody deals with the same thing. Your car has got to be good, you've got to stay in the lead pack, stay in the draft and work on your fuel mileage the best you can. You've just got to get to the first pit stop and find out what kind of mileage you're getting and then go from there."
...what things can a driver do to conserve fuel?: "I think it's real hard to save fuel at Michigan because if you've got a good race car, you're going to use the gas pedal and that uses fuel, so you really have to rely on your engine guys. If you have to save fuel, you just roll out of the gas a little early and just get back in the gas real soft and not right to the floor. But the better your car is the worse your mileage is going to be because you're using the gas pedal a lot more. When you do that, you're obviously going to burn more fuel."
...do you start thinking about fuel mileage right from the start?: "If you're going to run the race simply from a fuel mileage strategy, then you have to start off that way. But you know there is going to be a caution somewhere, so you try not to worry about it the first little bit."
...does he expect to be better in the return trip to Michigan based on the strength of the communication between himself and crew chief James Ince?: "We haven't seen that scenario much yet, except for Daytona and Pocono, and we were just as good at those places as we were the first time. I think going back to tracks a second time will be a plus for us this year. It should be good. I'm looking forward to going back to Michigan knowing what we had there in June and knowing that we're going to improve the car for that place."
...does he feel any more "settled" now that his plans for this season and next season seem to be falling into place?: "I feel the same as I have. It's really no different. I've learned that you just deal with what you have to deal with and not worry about things that are out of your control. It's actually been a fun year. Sure, some of it has been up and down. But through it all, we've done what we can with our performance on the racetrack and that's what we're supposed to do. We just can't worry a lot about the rest of it. I guess I'd be lying if I said it hadn't been a little distracting at times, but I also think that we've done very well at just focusing and working through those times. Hopefully, we can continue on with the same performance."
...what it would mean to win at Michigan: "We'll take our first win no matter where it is. We don't care. But it would definitely be cool to win at home, especially the first one. I don't know if I'd trade it for a Daytona 500 or Brickyard 400 win, but I think if it could happen at Michigan for the first time, it would be a pretty neat deal."
...is a win realistic at Michigan this week?: "I don't know. I think we're good enough to be in the top 10, and I think if you can be in the top 10, have some luck and a really good car, then you've got an outside shot at winning one of these races."