Fontana: Johnny Benson preview


#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson has two jobs on Sunday.

First is to race in the 500-mile Nascar Winston Cup race on the highbanks of California Speedway. But, before he races, Benson will attend a pre-race ceremony where he will present racing legend Rick Mears with the fourth annual Eagle One-Shav Glick award.

Mears, one of only three four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500, will not be at the track because of his Indy Car duties so his brother Roger, whose son Casey will race Sunday, will accept the award from Benson.

The award, presented by the car-care products division of Valvoline, honors the venerable motorsports writer Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times and is a symbol of distinguished achievement in motor racing by a Californian. Mears came out of Bakersfield as a champion off-road racer. Previous winners were Dan Gurney, NHRA founder Wally Parks and Parnelli Jones. Other nominees were Craig Breedlove, Chris Pook, Don Prudhomme and Les Richter. Judges were motor racing writers and executives.

Shav Glick, Los Angeles Times Writer, On Mears:

"Rick is one of the greatest oval track drivers in racing history. His smooth driving style and knack for improving his car during a race earned him Driver of the Decade honors, but more important, he is regarded as one of racing's true gentlemen."

Johnny Benson:

On Presenting Eagle One Award to Rick Mears:

"That will be an honor. I've watched the Mears family over the years in their off road racing and then at Indy. These kinds of things are pretty cool. Last year I got to give the award to Parnelli Jones and talked with him a while before the race. I love talking to racers from different series. You know they race different stuff but I think when you boil it all down racing is racing whether it is NASCAR, Formula One, or Indy cars racers are racers and I guess we are all kind of alike."

On Racing at Fontana:

"This race will probably be a lot like the Michigan races of the past which means there won't be a lot of cautions and probably a lot of single file racing. James and I and our engine tuner will start working on fuel mileage on Friday in practice and then before the race we will make a call on what gear we will run and stuff like that. (Crew Chief) James (Ince) gets with the Hendrick Engine guys before the race and we come up with a plan. You don't want to sacrifice power for fuel mileage but at a place like this you don't want to have a shorter pit window than everyone else. The worst case scenario is you go into the race figuring fuel mileage will be the key and a late caution falls."

On Two Races At Fontana:

"I wouldn't mind it. This is a big time market and I know the fans and sponsors out here are really pushing for it. Sure it is a long way away from our homes, but this sport is growing and growing and I don't think anyone can argue against us being here twice a season. We need to make as many West Coast appearances as we can. There are a ton of race fans out here and they support us pretty well."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Johnny Benson , Rick Mears , Parnelli Jones , Don Prudhomme , Chris Pook