When Nascar released the results of its new preseason media vote in January, Johnny Benson's ...
When Nascar released the results of its new preseason media vote in January, Johnny Benson's #10 Valvoline Pontiac team received only a single vote among all members of the racing media predicting the top-10 for the 2003 season. Twenty other teams received more votes. Only one writer, Jim Utter, of the Charlotte Observer, picked the Valvoline car to finish in the top 10.
Four races into the new season, Benson's team sits in sixth place in the standings - the highest since Darlington of 2001 when it was tied for second in points before finishing the year in 13th. The doubters aren't limited to the media. This week in its top-10 news release Nascar assigned a down arrow when predicting which way Benson's team will move in the standings.
While Benson says it's too early to attach any significance to the point standings, he is pleased with the points position this early in the season and hopes for even better performances beginning this weekend in Darlington, S.C.
Benson On Sixth Place In Points:
"It's kind of cool. But it's way too early to think about all that. However, after what we went through last year it is neat to look at the top of the point 's sheet and see your name. We are always looking at points, but we aren't even thinking about the points race yet. You are always looking to win. Our race strategies for the last four years are designed to get us the victory not to accumulate points. This team has rolled the dice a few times going for the win and that isn't what a team whose just worried about points is going to do. We go for the win. Being in the top 10 doesn't mean much now, but I'm glad we are there and not outside the top 10.
"I don't pay too much attention to what other people think of our race team. It seems like the more people that write us out of something the better we do. I didn't know that Jim was the only writer to pick us. Not that we need any motivation, but that's good motivation for us. I hope we can make him look like the smartest guy on the planet."
Benson On Darlington:
"I think Darlington is a place that once you figure out the qualifying setup and race setup you can get around pretty good. I think we will do pretty well there this weekend. It's a special place. Darlington is NASCAR and full of history. That track hasn't changed much since they started racing there. Yes, it would be pretty cool to be part of the history if we could get a win there."
Crew Chief James Ince On Darlington:
"I love Darlington. You know when you are watching television late at night it seems like you can always find an old race from Darlington. It's pretty interesting to see how much our sport has changed and sometimes how things are still the same. We watched Darlington highlights the other day during a rain delay. It's cool to think that in 30 years I might be sitting on the couch watching some of our races from Darlington. Darlington is all about springs, shocks, and getting the right setup underneath the racecar. As a crew chief you can have a lot of impact. That's why I like it."
Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer Racing Writer:
"I am looking like a genius! Basically, I felt like toward the end of last season the team was really performing well. (#10 Team) had the great run at Martinsville followed by the win at Rockingham. I just had a feeling that had Johnny been healthy all season, (#10 team) would have finished really well. Each new season, I always look for someone unusual to make their way to the top 10. Looking back on last season with Johnny's results combined with the new Pontiac, I really thought if there was a driver who would make the most of those circumstances, it would be Johnny. Also I was tired of writing, Dale Jr, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, etc. etc etc."