#10 Lycos Pontiac driver Johnny Benson finished second at Bristol two weeks ago. The .526-mile, flat Martinsville oval is the shortest and slowest track on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. Benson's average finish at Martinsville is 25th. But last week's test session at Martinsville with his new Tyler Jet Motorsports team gives him hope that this trip to Martinsville is going to be a whole lot better. Crew chief James Ince concentrated on a set-up for race day on the first day of the Martinsville test, then spent the second day working with Benson on a qualifying combination. Benson's top lap during last week's test session was 20.09 seconds, 94.255 mph. Like all the drivers, Benson is going to rely heavily on his crew and especially his spotter Vic Maguire during the race.
"To be honest, Martinsville is a track I don't really favor, but it is a track where (crew chief) James (Ince) has done really well. So when we went testing last week and since he has done better there we agreed we'd use his setup.
"Martinsville is a track that is hard on brakes and it's a place where it is hard to pass. You sometimes have to bump people out of the way and people are always bumping and hitting you. Everybody going into the race feels like you got to hit or wreck somebody to get by them. And that is what they do so that takes some of the fun out of them. I don't like hitting or wrecking people. That's not racing.
"I have raced on flat tracks in late models all over the place, but rarely do you find a track so narrow that there isn't much room that you can hardly run side-by-side down the straightaway. Some guys take it to the point they say 'Well, everybody expects to get hit so I will just hit them and get them out of the way.' If you got a good car there then I think you can get to the front without hitting people.
"Qualifying is important on every racetrack but at Martinsville it's probably the most important of the year. At Bristol we qualified bad, but at Bristol you can still pass. It's hard but you can pass. At Martinsville it's very hard to do."
Crew Chief James Ince:
"The times that we ran well there we never had a scratch on our car. That's what I'm expecting on Sunday."
Spotter Vic Maguire:
"Martinsville is not quite as fast as Bristol and you don't have as high a vantage point over the track to watch what is going on. I mean it's a lot better than places like Daytona and Texas. But at Martinsville, you have to watch the guys on the inside of your car really close as they go down in the corner because one of those cars can try to get on the inside, hit your guy and move him up on the track.
If you get moved up at Martinsville that is like getting hung out in the draft at Daytona and you are going to lose a lot of spots. With such short straight-aways there isn't enough room to find a spot that is a little bit longer than the car and get back to the inside groove. If you force it then you can get hit in the rear quarter panel and then you are in big trouble.
"You can tell a lot about what's going on by just watching the cars at Martinsville. I watch the front of the cars to see the drivers who are using their brakes. You don't have to look for it too hard, you can see the glow on the front wheels to see who is using their brakes more than the other. Also if you watch where the nose of the car drops you can see where that driver is getting on the brakes. That let's you know who is driving into the corner harder than the other. You can also tell by the amount the nose drops when he gets on the brake whether he is using a stiff or soft springs and shocks."