One of the keys to ...
One of the keys to #10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson's early season success in 2001 revolves around the work of Hendrick Motorsports. Benson and his Valvoline Racing teammates see Hendrick's Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, and Jerry Nadeau as rivals on the track, but they regard Hendrick Motorsports as a partner in what goes on under the hood of Benson's race car.
The Valvoline Racing team along with teammate Ken Schrader's #36 Pontiac team buy their engines from Hendrick Motorsports. The alliance with Hendrick has paid dividends this year. On March 11 at Atlanta, the three Hendrick drivers along with Benson and Schrader finished in the top eight. Benson and his crew chief James Ince hope for a repeat performance from the Hendrick power plants this weekend at Texas Motorspeedway as they prove that their customer engines are on par with the in-house engines. With the recent success, the #10 team prefers the current arrangement to initiating a costly and labor-intensive engine program.
Note: Benson's team uses Hendrick engines but races chassis built by Ronnie Hopkins.
Johnny Benson On Hendrick Engines:
"Heck yes we hope Hendrick engines have as good a day at Texas as it did at Atlanta a few weeks ago. Getting all five cars in the top eight at Atlanta is tough to beat. I hope we get the same kind of results when we run at Texas. Our Hendrick engines have been great. No doubt. They've got us to second in points so far so we have no complaints. They give us great horsepower, great service on the engines at the shop and everything at the track as well. They do a ton of research, they have the latest machinery, and most importantly they have a lot of great people in their program. Plus they continue to do a lot of research and development and that's the key to staying on top as well. Sometimes engine programs fall behind but I don't think they ever will."
Aren't You Getting The Fourth Best Engine?
"I don't believe that. I think we are close to what their three teams are getting. They say they fall within just a few percentage points. There have been occasions where we have finished ahead of their cars so that tells me what they are giving us is pretty close to what their guys are getting."
What Makes A Good Engine?
"A good engine is a combination of good horsepower and reliability. It doesn't matter much horsepower you have if it isn't going to live and it doesn't matter how long it lives if you keep getting beat down the backstretch. The trick to engine building is finding both. That's what makes a great engine." Which Is More Important? The Engine Or Chassis?
"Well, it doesn't matter how good the handling of a car is when the engine blows up and it doesn't matter how much horsepower you have if you can't get the car turned in the corner. It's always a struggle between the engine guys and the chassis guys on a race team. The chassis guys blame the engine guys if the car is slow and the engine guys blame the chassis guys. We try not to do that on race teams but that is human nature. One side can't succeed without the other."
Crew Chief James Ince On Hendrick Engines, Costs of Engine Program
"When I come to the racetrack every week I know we have the same quality stuff under our hood that the #24, #5, and #25 do and that's a good feeling. To win one of these races you have to be perfect in every area and right now we know that our engine program is about as perfect as we are going to get it. If we started our own engine program it would take about $10 million, 50 employees and take about two or three years to get it up and running. If you look at the business side of things it is very economical for us to be a part of Hendrick as long as they will allow us. They are people we are comfortable with and they are our friends. Yes, we are renting their engines, but we are almost a sister team in a round-about way."
Scott Maxim, Director of Track Support For Hendrick Motorsports, On Atlanta:
"Atlanta was a real good day for us. After the race we didn't know if we were lucky or we had real good engines. Everything looked really good. Our engine program at those tracks really shines. Texas is very similar. There is nothing that replaces Atlanta from a speed standpoint and an RPM standpoint. Every other track we go to is going to have more of an RPM drop than Atlanta. Texas, Charlotte, Michigan and California fit into that same mold. We have a good package for those type tracks.
Who Do You Root For On Sundays?
"I look at it that we have five engines out there. Yeah, sure we want to see our teams win. We haven't gotten to the point yet where the #10 and #24 are racing for the checkered flag on the last lap of the race. When that happens I'm going to feel good for one of the guys and kind of bad for the other party. When that happens we will just deal with it when we can.
Are The #10 And #36 Research And Development Teams? "The #10 and #36 aren't development teams for us. We try to build an engine package that is consistent among all of our teams. At the customer's discretion we might try some things that are a bit higher risk. Generally that is done with an agreement on both sides. We try to take advantage of that if we can."
THE RACE: Harrah's 500 Winston Cup Race #7 of 36 for the 2001 season