JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (6TH): [Note: Johnny Benson's sixth place run was his best finish of the 2002 season and his first top 10 finish since a 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500.] "The fans had to have seen a...
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (6TH):
[Note: Johnny Benson's sixth place run was his best finish of the 2002 season and his first top 10 finish since a 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500.]
"The fans had to have seen a great race there at the end. It was pretty cool.
"We had to do what we had to do. I kind of hated that one caution (lap 98, No. 43 in turn three wall). It got us a lap down, but the Valvoline Pontiac crew was awesome. All day long James [Ince] kept saying, 'Don't worry about it. We'll get our lap back. We'll get our lap back.' He was right; we got it back. We struggled a little bit, made some changes, got it good and then we struggled. Right at the end, we threw tires on it because we knew the guys behind us were going to. We went ahead and threw them on there and gained a couple of spots.
"I think some of the new rules were a help - maybe not a big help - but, was a help. We're starting to get to where we're just a little bit behind instead of a lot behind. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year."
WAS IT A TOUGH DECISION TO COME TO PIT ROAD TO GET TIRES WITH FOUR LAPS TO GO? "No, it wasn't. I only had three guys behind me and we knew they were coming in. It was just a matter of how many people in front of us were going to come in. I was hoping none of them, but a couple of them came in. The guys on the pit stops all day were great. I think Jeff [Gordon] was the only one who beat us off pit road on that last stop and we can't be ashamed of that. I'm just real happy how it ended up."
JAMES INCE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"It's been one of those deals where our performance has been there, but we've looked terrible. But, we're still a top 10 race team. Johnny Benson can still drive the [heck] out of a race car and I still think I know how to work on them, so this race team is strong. We needed today pretty bad."
DID THE RULE CHANGES MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE? "I don't know how much the rule change helped. We've got our act together and we've had our act together, and you've got to figure that part in. I'm not going to say that the rule change helped a lot because I watched the other guys struggle with their Pontiacs all day, so I don't know what to think. We'll go to the wind tunnel before Daytona with the new rules package and we'll see what it is."
WHAT KIND OF BOOST DOES THIS GIVE THE TEAM? "It's good for the guys, especially for the fact these guys worked 48 hours straight this week once we got the rule change. This car wasn't coming to Michigan. It was a car that I changed my mind on at the last minute. The Michigan car was ready to load when we got the rule change. We went back and worked straight through. We all but cut the body completely off of this car and we regrouped.
"We needed this because we need the good runs. We were better than a sixth place race car today. We had a winning race car today.
"Believe it or not, it has a broken valve spring that it had the whole race (discovered around lap 20), so we were down on horsepower the whole race. We were pretty well on seven-and-a-half cylinders all day long.
"It just confirms the ability of everybody involved with this race team. It's good for the guys to see the labors of their work pay off on a Sunday afternoon.
"As far as us as a group - we're a core group. We're a tight group. This group here - I'm telling you, it's as close to the Mafia as you can get. We're pretty tight. Whether we run good together or we win together, we're not down on each other and everything is good."
HOW BIG OF A RELIEF WAS IT TO KNOW THAT YOU HAD A GOOD RACE CAR RIGHT FROM THE START TODAY? "It was cool. The reality of it is that car should have sat on the pole Friday. It was fastest enough to sit on the pole. But, after the '7' (Casey Atwood) had his trouble on the racetrack (in qualifying), nobody could get through three and four, and we had trouble once we got to three and four, so we knew we had a really, really fast race car.
"One of the things we did this week was, that was a clean sheet of paper. I've never run those four springs here. I've never run those four shocks here. You know, they keep talking about these 'young guns.' Well, I'm ain't real old myself (31 years old), so we're not afraid to back up a little bit and figure stuff out. Johnny can drive the wheels off of a race car. We just came here with a new approach with a different type car that the guys worked hard on and it was fast, so there was a sense of relief knowing we had a fast car. But, I still waited for the thing to blow up or for there to be a wreck or for the caution to come out. We're so used to that happening to us that you sit there just waiting for it to happen. Today, we beat it."