DETROIT, Sept. 27, 2001 - Pontiac crew chief James Ince returns home to the Midwest this week as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visits the new Kansas Speedway and is hoping a little "home cooking" will be just the thing to help his team to its ...
DETROIT, Sept. 27, 2001 - Pontiac crew chief James Ince returns home to the Midwest this week as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series visits the new Kansas Speedway and is hoping a little "home cooking" will be just the thing to help his team to its first-ever series victory.
Ince, who calls the shots for the No. 10 Valvoline Grand Prix driven by Johnny Benson, is a native of Springfield, Mo., but raced extensively in the Kansas City area before migrating to the South to pursue a successful Winston Cup career, which hit its pinnacle this season. Thus far in 2001, Ince and Benson have teamed up to score five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes through the first 27 events and have spent all but three weeks ranked inside the tour's top 10.
Although this stands as the first race at the new Kansas facility, it marks Ince's second trip there this month. He and his teammates made the trip to Kansas Speedway on Sept. 10 for what was to be a two-day test session and found themselves in the garage area the morning of Sept. 11 when terrorists hijacked four commercials airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and a rural area of Pennsylvania.
Thoughts From James Ince, Crew Chief, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix
ON RETURNING HOME TO RACE IN KANSAS CITY: "It's a very cool deal for me. I grew up in that area and that's exactly where we raced every weekend. There are a lot of race fans there that I grew up around, so it means a whole lot to go back to Kansas City and run. There is a lot of added pressure on myself to go perform well because we won two or three hundred races in that area.
"As strange as it may sound, I have a lot of confidence in going to Kansas City to race just because it's Kansas City. I think that will be good for us."
WHERE DID YOU RACE WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP THERE?: "We ran Lakeside [Speedway] on Friday night, which was literally five miles up the road. I'm actually going to run there next Friday and Saturday night in my dirt late model. We also ran I-70 [Speedway], which was about 40 miles up the road. That is home for us, so there is just a comfort level there."
WILL IT BE FUN TO BE THERE OR WILL IT BE DISTRACTING TO HAVE THAT EXTRA PRESSURE AND ATTENTION FOCUSED ON YOU?: "It's kind of going to be both, but it's going to be fun. I'm warped, though. I don't enjoy things unless I'm under pressure. Pressure is something that I really do enjoy. I think that will be a whole lot of fun for us.
"We tested there. We didn't get to run as much as we would've liked to because of the tragedies that went on in America. But, it's our kind of a racetrack. We usually perform well at those kinds of places. It's a perfect opportunity for us to go get our first win, just based on the fact that nobody else has got a stack of race notes from there. It's our style of racetrack and we're taking a really good car there. Johnny [Benson] was comfortable, so there is a great opportunity there for us to go perform well."
HAVE YOU HEARD FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE LOOKING FOR PASSES, TICKETS, ETC.?: "No. I did get a lot of calls last week from people in that area offering places to stay or offers to go to dinner or to do this or do that. But it's kind of a neat deal because it's been 10 years since I've been around there on a regular basis. There are a lot of people there that I haven't seen in 10 years, that I haven't been able to keep up with, just because our schedule is so busy.
"There have been a lot of those calls in the past few weeks, but it's been really nice. That's a good thing."
YOU WERE IN KANSAS CITY TESTING WHEN THE TERRORIST ATTACKS TOOK PLACE ON THE EAST COAST. WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE?: "That whole situation for us was a little bit tough. We were going to test Monday (Sept. 10) and Tuesday (Sept. 11). We actually lost our primary car at Richmond on Friday, which was the car we were also going to take to Loudon (New Hampshire race originally scheduled for Sept. 16). I actually did not leave the shop until noon on Monday, so I didn't get there until late. The guys tested without me for a half a day. They kind of worked on some race runs, but we didn't do nearly as much testing as we would've liked. When I got there we tested about two hours of really intense, race-type situations, planning on Tuesday being our day to really get into the 'meat and potatoes' of things. But as everybody knows, all that was sidetracked.
"We came in Tuesday morning, we were warming the car up when we got the phone call to turn the TV on and that just ruined the mood of everything. We just sat and watched. It was way more important for us to worry about what the big picture was and what was going on there, especially with us being 1,100 miles from home.
"Everything got put on the back burner at that point. Looking back now, we probably got enough information to go there and run well. We've got an idea. Johnny got some laps on the racetrack and nine times out of 10, it's more important for the driver to get acclimated because we can always bring the car around. Our Pontiac is a tunable object.
"That was a tough deal. Like everybody, on one hand it was kind of nice that we were together as a team. If there is anything positive that went on for us, it was that we were together as a team since we couldn't be with our families when everything went on on that Tuesday. Naturally, your team draws together and there is a comfort level there."
WHAT WAS THE MOOD LIKE AS YOUR TEAM DROVE BACK TO CHARLOTTE FROM KANSAS CITY?: "We talked a lot. There was kind of a 'bonding' sense there and a sense of pride there. We didn't want to go through St. Louis because at the time we left, we weren't sure that the attacks were over. We actually drove through my hometown on the way back, stopped and got gas and saw my dad, so there was a little bit more of a comfort level for me. That made things a little bit nicer.
"There was a different feeling going on. It felt like we were out doing something even though we weren't out doing something. It was pretty tough. We got home at 6 o'clock the next morning. Everyone was tired, but yet we turned around and went in and worked at the shop to try to get everything ready for Loudon.
"It was a different feeling, but we were definitely with the people that we wanted to be with other than our families when all that took place."