Barb Benson might not run a Fortune 500 company or head an army of devoted soldiers. But it's difficult to distinguish those jobs from her present hobby of running her brother's fan club. The Johnny Benson Fan Club (JBFC) is one of the NASCAR ...
Barb Benson might not run a Fortune 500 company or head an army of devoted soldiers. But it's difficult to distinguish those jobs from her present hobby of running her brother's fan club.
The Johnny Benson Fan Club (JBFC) is one of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' most active driver fan clubs.
"I do it because I like interacting with all of Johnny's fans," said Barb Benson who presides over the 5,600-member club out of her house in Grand Rapids, Mich. "It's a neat feeling to spend so much time working on the club, designing the fan club shirts and then going to racetracks and seeing somebody wearing a shirt. I've had fans come up, introduce themselves to me, and tell me they are fan club members. That's why I do it."
She recalls another moment of satisfaction.
"A lady who was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer had Johnny sign her bald head. I guess she wanted his support in her battle with cancer. That was something I don't think I will ever forget."
By day, Barb Benson works in the benefits department at Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Grand Rapids. But during her off hours she is a one-woman show supplying fan club members with a monthly newsletter, bumper sticker, signed autograph card and photos that chronicle her brother's progress driving the #10 Aaron's Pontiac.
It all began in 1993 when Johnny and the late Chris Bradley, crew chief for Johnny's ASA championship team, suggested she form a fan club. The initial membership totaled about 200 fans.
"I said there is no way anyone would pay $15 to be in a fan club," Barb said. "I guess I was wrong."
As her brother's success on the track grew so did the fan club membership. The highlight of the year for the fan club is the JBFC Open House at Berlin, Mich. Speedway. The event includes Johnny, their father and former driver John Benson, as well as race cars, crewmembers and sometimes a race at Berlin Speedway.
"That's our biggest event. Johnny and Dad come and sign autographs and the place is packed," Barb said. "Organizing that is the biggest thing I have ever done. That is like planning an invasion. There are so many things that have to be taken care of."
Lately Benson devotes much of her energy to her brother's website. At Johnnybenson-fanclub.com over 200,000 yearly visitors are treated to reports from the track, photographs, chat rooms, message boards, and all types of trivia and information.
"I do a monthly newsletter to keep fans updated on what's going on," Barb said. "Sometimes I don't think that is often enough so we have the website now. That's a lot of work but the fans seem to like it and it's fun to read."
For her brother, Barb's work lets him concentrate on racing.
"I'd probably never tell her this," laughed Johnny. "But she does a really good job. That's a lot of work and she keeps me pretty straight with what the fans are thinking. She's about my biggest fan and it's important to me that my fans are happy."
Benson attends about 15 races a year. When she isn't at the race, she is at home on Sundays working on fan club stuff and watching the races. Unless they are too exciting like at Dover when Johnny finished second to Tony Stewart.
"I thought it was going to be the one," Barb said. "I got so excited that I dumped Diet Coke all over my keyboard. Needless to say, I am missing a few letters. Good thing for spell check, cut and pasting features! I was hoping that Tony Stewart would have to make a pit stop for water or to clean his windshield."
For more information on the fan club contact:
Johnny Benson Fan Club
P.O. Box 150619
Grand Rapids, MI 49515