#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson tested the new pavement at the ultra-fast Texas Motor Speedway last week and describes the 1.5-mile trioval in two words -- "very fast."
Benson knows the racetrack is going to be as tough as his 42 competitors in Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup race. The new pavement will make passing difficult as well as increase the average speed giving little room for error. In testing there on March 26 & 27 Benson's new Pontiac hit the wall so the Valvoline team will have to bring a back-up car this weekend. The back-up car tested very well after the wreck so equalling or improving on last year's third-place finish is a possibility.
Benson hopes the track isn't the only place he is fast this weekend. He'll show the world his pitching arm Saturday night when he throws out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers baseball game. Benson will not only throw out the first pitch, but the Valvoline Pontiac will carry a major league baseball paint scheme throughout the weekend
Benson On Texas:
"Well, I don't think Texas is going to be as big, horrible and scary as everyone is afraid it will be but it is fast - very fast. It's fast because it' s so smooth. It was fast to start with and now that it's repaved it will be even faster. After running a couple of years down there we had just got it to where we can run side-by-side and then they changed the track. I know they changed it for more reasons than us, but I think our racing would be better on the old surface.
"It's going to be a great racetrack once it gets a second groove, but we aren't going to have that second groove worked in which is where we could pass. That will take a year or two. I was told that some guys tire testing down there could drive a lap without lifting. I couldn't quite do that. It was close but we couldn't do that."
Will It Change Strategy?:
"It will put a premium on qualifying and of course it will put a premium on having a good handling race car. Texas is now a momentum race track. If you get screwed up a little bit in the corner, a guy could be five or six car lengths behind you and be able to get you down the straight -away. If you have equal cars then it's going to be real hard to pass because there isn't a second groove."
Nervous About Throwing Out First Pitch?
"No. I threw out the first pitch at a Grand Rapids White Caps game some time back. I think some of my crew guys are going to the game Saturday night to cheer me on or heckle me. Guess it depends if I can get the ball across the plate or if I bounce it in the dirt."
Benson is racing this week for the BBBS of Henry County, Inc., New Castle, IN Chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters Of America. Each week Valvoline donates money to the national Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America organization as well as an individual local chapter based on Benson's on-track performance. Valvoline matches Benson's performance by donating $5,000 for a win, $2,500 for a pole, $1,000 for a top ten 10 finish, $500 for a top 20 finish and $20 for each lap led. The 3-year program has raised over $750,000.