Benson says Indy can turn around a season. ...
Benson says Indy can turn around a season.
#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson knows a win this weekend in the Brickyard 400 would make him forget about the two wrecks, four broken ribs, and two cracked ribs that are painful reminders of his frustrating 2002 season.
That goal isn't remote.
His team tested the fastest of the second test session teams at Indianapolis on July 15 and 16 with Jerry Nadeau filling in for Benson while he recovered from the rib injuries. Benson knows he's climbing in a fast car Friday. He also knows Indy is a place where he has enjoyed a measure of success in his six races at the 2.5-mile track.
Benson has completed 99.7 % of the laps in his six races at Indy. That ranks fourth best of active drivers with more than five races there.
Benson finished third at Indy in 2002 earning $233,300 -- a career high.
Benson led 70 laps in 1996 and 2 laps in 1997 at Indy. He has three top-8 finishes in his six races at Indy.
Johnny Benson On Indy's Importance:
"Heck, we'd race there just for the trophy and maybe to kiss the yard of bricks after the race. It pays a lot but nothing would matter more than the trophy."
Which Would You Rather Win Indy Or Daytona?
"What's the difference between winning Indy and Daytona? I don't know because I haven't won either of them yet, but it has to be like choosing between steak or lobster for dinner. Either one is going to be a good time."
Comparing Indy And Daytona Races:
"There are a lot more things that the drivers and crew chiefs have control over at Indy that you don't at Daytona. And its nothing against Daytona, I'm talking more about racing with a restrictor plate. Handling, horsepower, the driver, the drafting all come into play more at Indy. At Daytona the car matters a lot more than the driver. Plus, at Indy you don't have to worry about those big wrecks that take out half the field sometimes."
Would A Win Sunday Make Your Season?
"Sure. If we win this weekend that will change they way a lot of people have looked at our season and might go a ways to changing the way we look at our season. Whether you are having a good or bad season everyone wants to win Indy as much as they want to win Daytona.
"I like flat, fast racetracks. For whatever reason that just fits with my style of driving. We have come pretty close to winning three times at Indy. Plus, I' ve been pretty fortunate to have some good crew chiefs who made the right calls at the end of the race. James (Ince) gave me two tires on that final stop last year and that put me up there and we held on for third. When it comes down to the final laps it's nice to know you are going to get that kind of support out of the pits."
Weather Impact On Track:
"The weather has such an effect on the track. In the morning you can post some pretty good speeds but when the afternoon comes you slow down like you wouldn't believe. When evening comes you produce some pretty good times again. Why is that? I think it's because Indy is such a momentum race track that if you lose even just a little bit in the corners that shows down those long straight-aways. There are other tracks that are similar. But Indy is not a track where you can slip and slide very much because you can't make up that time. To run well at Indy you have to be right on the money."
Will Passing Be As Difficult As Previous Years?
"The first year (1996) I raced there I saw some passing on the outside, but that's difficult. Especially now since our competition is getting closer and closer the passing has gotten harder and harder to do at Indy. That's frustrating for the driver. You work on the guy in front of you trying to pass him by doing a few different things and if you lose your momentum doing that three or four guys pass you."
Do You Notice The Crowd At Indy?
"Not when you are in the race car. Before the race and maybe on the parade lap you notice all the fans, but once the green flag drops you have your hands full."
How Important is Qualifying At Indy?
"It's huge to qualify good there. Someone said four of the eight races at Indianapolis have been won from a top-40 starting position. That's enough to tell anyone how important Saturday qualifying will be to the race on Sunday. We know we have to qualify well to stand a chance to win."
Benson is racing this week for the Anderson, SC 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 the Valvoline Pontiac's on-track performance. Valvoline matches the 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 $900,000.