In the preseason, ...
In the preseason, #10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson and his Valvoline Racing teammates made getting off to a good start in the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season a priority. The team tested at several tracks on the first part of the schedule and finished car preparation weeks before each race.
That work has paid off. Benson is third in driver points, tied with Sterling Marlin.
Benson along with Elliott Sadler and Jerry Nadeau have turned in the most improved performances compared to their points at this time last year. At the same time, some of the sport's biggest stars are struggling compared to their points at this time last year.
Point Comparison After First Eight Races 2001 Vs. 2000 <pre> 2001 2000 Points Points Gain/Loss Gainers Elliott Sadler 924 583 341 Jerry Nadeau 864 574 290 Johnny Benson 1049 816 233 Steve Park 1039 808 231 Bobby Hamilton 995 765 230
Decliners Mark Martin 747 1210 -463 Bobby Labonte 806 1246 -440 Jeff Burton 705 1104 -399 Ward Burton 892 1159 -267 Jeremy Mayfield 773 994 -221
"Last year we missed Atlanta so when you look at those numbers you see that we have had one more race this year than we did last year at this time. I think that is why we are up in the top three. But we have been talking about getting off to a good start all winter. There were a lot of reasons for that. We had Valvoline coming on as a new sponsor and owner, and because we just want to do as well as we can. Because we missed a race last year we had to play catch up most of the year and came up short of making the top ten. This year we want to end the year in the top six so we knew getting a good start was crucial. We are pretty happy so far. Third in points is tough to beat. But we know that won't last long if we don't keep at it. We are pretty confident, but there is a heck of a lot of competition behind us who want the same things we want.
"It's an awful long season and I can imagine how frustrated guys like Mark and Bobby are, considering where we think they ought to be in the points, but I have no doubt you are going to hear from those guys a lot as the summer goes on. You can't keep good teams down like that for long. I expect as the season drags on the good teams will rise to the top."