#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson returns to his home state of Michigan this week with an agenda that includes everything from visiting friends to racing his late model against Tony Stewart and others at Benson's Berlin Raceway on Tuesday. When the Grand Rapids activities are finished he'll go east to Brooklyn, Michigan and Michigan International Speedway where he hopes to put on a performance for the home state crowd.
Benson hopes to improve upon last week's 20th-place finish at Pocono where an early brush with the wall ruined his return to racing after rib injuries forced him to sit out since May 3.
* Benson scored one of his two career Bud Pole Awards at Michigan in August 1997. He has four top-10 finishes in 10 career races at the two mile oval, with his best, a fifth, occurring there in August of 2002 and 2000. He led 11 laps in this race last year.
* As a 7-year-old he started working in his father John Benson's Grand Rapids race shop selling parts and even welding. By the time he was 19 years old it was time for him to replace Dad as the family racer and he began working his way through late models earning track championships. He went on to the American Speed Association where he won the rookie of the year award in 1990 and the championship in 1993.
* Benson's first try in NASCAR came when he climbed into Ernie Irvan's Busch car in front of the homefolks at Michigan Speedway in 1993 only to go barrel-rolling down the backstretch on lap 3. The car now sits at the bottom of a pond at Irvan's house.
Are You Excited About Going To Michigan?
"I'm looking forward to going up there, spend some time with Mom, Dad and family. On Tuesday night we're racing with Tony Stewart at Berlin Raceway and I think that will be a lot of fun. That's my home track and racing late models there are a blast. I think Tony will have fun also. On Wednesday we'll spend all day in Grand Haven for a festival there and Thursday we have some other commitments and we'll go to the track for the weekend."
Is Michigan Enjoyable Or Hectic?
"Michigan is both fun and busy. I don't spend a lot of time lounging around watching television. You get to see a lot of friends and family, but the phone never stops ringing and we have a lot of commitments. It like going home for the holidays for anyone. Sometimes when it's all over you are more tired than when it started."
Benson On Michigan Speedway:
"Michigan is right up there with the fastest tracks where we race. It's a two-mile track with a real wide racing groove. It produces some great racing. Its downfall is that because it is three grooves they have very few cautions and it becomes a fuel mileage race that isn't what everybody looks forward to. You start thinking fuel mileage before the start of the race. You know it's going to probably end up on fuel."
Would You Like Your First Victory To Come At Michigan?
"It's no different than someone who grew up in Daytona wanting to win the Daytona 500. I have said I don't care where that first victory comes but it would be extra special to have it happen in front of the home folks at Michigan. You want to do good at all the racetracks but you want to do extra good where you are from. That's true with more than drivers. Our crew guys all want to do well in front of their home folks. They are proud of where they are from and want to look good in front of the homefolks.
How Hard Do Drivers Race When They Run Those Races At Local Tracks?
"Any time you race whether you are running a Winston Cup car, a Busch ca, late model car or just a legends car you are racing to win. We are racers and the name of the game is to race and win. We want to win all the time. Tuesday night pays $10,000 plus it's in front of the home folks so that's incentive enough. Plus, after sitting out the last couple of weeks that will get me some more track time and help get me in better shape."
How Did Your Ribs Feel At Pocono?
"I felt really good in the first part of the race but with about 60 to 70 laps to go I got to where I was hurting pretty bad. It's a long race and I was getting pretty sore. It probably wasn't fair to the team because toward the end I was getting to where I couldn't tell the team what was wrong with the car. We have a better car and a better race team than what we showed (at Pocono) We'll be a lot better at Michigan, but I was glad to get the first one out of the way."
Season So Far?
"We aren't happy where we have finished. It seems like whenever somebody else wrecks we get caught up in it. I don't think we tore up hardly any cars last season and now this season we have had quite a few. When we haven't crashed we have run pretty well. We know we are a good team. The Pontiacs are all struggling this year, but when we will have to overcome that aero disadvantage and we'll be heard from before the year is over."