Despite Adversity, Johnny Benson Still Happy

Through adversity, Benson still happy By Shawn A. Akers HAMPTON, Ga. (March 14, 1999) Johnny Benson wants to set the record straight. And he's got a little advice for NASCAR fans, too. Don't believe everything you read or hear. Despite the No.

Through adversity, Benson still happy By Shawn A. Akers

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 14, 1999) Johnny Benson wants to set the record straight. And he's got a little advice for NASCAR fans, too. Don't believe everything you read or hear.

Despite the No. 26 Cheerios Ford team's early-season struggles, reports of his being unhappy with Roush Racing, and vice-versa, are totally untrue, Benson said Sunday prior to the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Following a 22nd-place run at Atlanta, Benson is 22nd in the series standings. Jeff Gordon won the Cracker Barrel 500, his second victory of the season. His success, and rebound from an unusual DNF at the second race of the year, gives Benson proof that he, too, can be resilient.

"Yeah, we haven't run like we've wanted this year," Benson said. "We've had some OK runs, we just haven't had any great runs. The deal last year was that we had some great runs, but we had some really bad runs, too.

"I don't know if it's a situation where a previous (Roush Racing) driver had made some comments that had just basically snowballed to what we see in the press. It's nothing that either Jack or I said, but it did snowball. And probably if we'd been running good, been in the top-five or had won a race, it would have never gotten printed. But seeing as how we've struggled a bit and we haven't had the runs we've wanted, bam, there it is. We're sitting there like dead prey on the side of the road, and they're going to start picking on us.

"It's a deal where that's not the case. It's not true. I love being with Roush Racing, and we're looking forward to having some great success. It's just too bad that it happened."

The "it" Benson referred to was a newspaper article. It stated that a former Roush driver had inferred that Roush's shop in Liberty, N.C., home of the No. 26 team, was more of a "research and development" shop as opposed to Roush's shop in Mooresville, N.C., where the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Ford driven by Mark Martin and the No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford driven by Jeff Burton are housed.

Burton and Martin are perennial top-5 contenders, while Roush's other three teams, with Benson and drivers Kevin Lepage and Chad Little, have struggled to make headway in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Just to clear the situation up, Benson said, he and Roush sat down and talked about it, and both parties were satisfied.

"It seems like any time anything happens in this sport, the owner and the driver are the last two people to know about it," Benson said. "We've talked about it, and everything is fine. I like what I'm doing here, and I like the stuff we've got. Jack reassured me that I can have everything I need and want. I think that's good. It's not good that it happened, but it's good we got everything out in the open.

"Everything comes from the same place, and we've got the same resources. The thing is you've got five different crew chiefs, 20 or 30 different types of people and five different drivers who have different things they want in a car. To build one race car for all five is not going to happen.

"The guys at Liberty are building a tremendous race car, and I'm choosing to work with that car. I like that car, and that's what I wanted. When we did that, someone asked me what kind of car that was, and I said it was a Roush car. They automatically assumed that since we're not running good, it must be a development car. That's not true."

It's all a matter of luck, Benson said, and it's been mostly bad for the 26 team this season. Benson has finished 17th at Daytona, 16th at Rockingham, 38th at Las Vegas and 22nd at Atlanta.

Benson said he's ready for that all to turn around.

"We just need to be a little bit more consistent," Benson said. "We just need to step up the ladder a little bit more. Last week at Vegas (he wrecked early) was my fault. The car surprised me and got away from me. We had a great race car, some unfortunate things just happened.

"Things will get better for us, and we'll start running better in the next few races. We just need to get to where we're running in the top-10 and top-five consistently, because we're not happy with where we're running now. If we were, then I don't need to be here. If Jack was happy with the way we were running, then I wouldn't want to be here."

Showing the other side of Benson's position -- don't look now, but there's two familiar faces creeping up toward the top of the standings following Sunday's race. After a rough start to the season at Daytona, Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett are taking their rightful place among the point leaders.

With his third straight top-four finish on Sunday (he finished fourth), Burton is now fourth in the points, only 52 points behind leader Mike Skinner. He finished 35th at Daytona to begin the season.

"We had a really good race car," Burton said after Sunday's race. "The 24 (winner, Gordon) and the 18 (runner-up, Bobby Labonte) put on a clinic today, they did a great job. But all in all, I'm proud of the Exide team. Everybody did a great job."

Jarrett, who finished 37th at Daytona, finished fifth in Atlanta on Sunday and is now in sixth place in the points, 118 points behind Skinner. Jarrett finished second at Rockingham and 11th at Las Vegas.

"It turned out pretty good," Jarrett said. "We just struggled all day long. We overcame a lot today, so those are the kinds of days that if you can come out with something decent, you feel pretty good about it. But to come out with a top-five and everything that went on, that's not bad."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Kevin Lepage , Johnny Benson , Chad Little , Mark Martin