Johnny Benson looks to advace at California

DETROIT (April 24, 2000) - In the eyes of many, Lycos Pontiac Grand Prix driver Johnny Benson is the biggest surprise so far in the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season. He led the Daytona 500, posted a career-best second-place finish at Bristol, a ...

DETROIT (April 24, 2000) - In the eyes of many, Lycos Pontiac Grand Prix driver Johnny Benson is the biggest surprise so far in the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season. He led the Daytona 500, posted a career-best second-place finish at Bristol, a sixth at Las Vegas and is ranked 18th in the point standings despite missing one race.

Benson and his Tyler Jet Motorsports teammates now head to California Speedway after a week off and will hit the West Coast running. The team will be competing in the NASCAR Winston West event in conjunction with the Winston Cup race to try some new things in hopes of turning more heads on Sunday.


"California (Speedway) is such a well thought-out racetrack. It's very smooth. It's flat. It's a big racetrack, but it's a racetrack you can race on. It's got to be the smoothest racetrack that I've ever been on. And the facility is great. Everything is very, very nice."

"The track is very, very smooth. But in some cases it can be unforgiving. You don't have bumps in there to get the car loose and things of this nature. You've got good adhesion to the track and you're that way all the time. So when something does happen - I wouldn't say you're not prepared for it - but you probably find out a little too late. All of a sudden when you do start to lose the car, you're pretty much going to spin."

"No, it's nothing like Michigan. I guess the shape is like Michigan, but that's about it. With California being flatter, the characteristics of the racetrack are more that of a flat-track as opposed to a banked-track. And at California the groove is the same from the bottom of the racetrack to the top. The banking is pretty close to the same all the way. At Michigan, it's not meant to be a multi-groove track. But at the bottom it is a little bit flatter than if you're up in the middle of the racetrack. The two tracks are really very different."

"The key at any racetrack is to get into the corner, get through the center of the corner and get off the corner. California is what we call a 'momentum track' because you've got to get into the corner pretty good, but you've got to be back in the gas pedal early and have got to be able to stay on that gas pedal all the way off. That's pretty much how you make a lot of time there."

"I think Vegas is a good track to compare it to, as far as the style and set-ups. You will bring a similar type race car to California that you would to Vegas. It's all about being able to carry momentum up off the corner. That is extremely important at both those places. We were very good at Las Vegas because we had a great race car. I mean you need the whole package - good crew, great engines, the whole thing. I just hope California goes the same way for us

"You can draft a little bit at California - not to the extent of a Daytona or Talladega. It's not devastating if you don't have that person to draft with. But it can help you get by somebody. We use the downforce cars there so any little draft that you can use on the straightaways from the car in front of you is beneficial. It's a different type of draft than we see on the superspeedways, but it does exist."

...does he wish drafting was more of a factor at tracks like California?: "No. Every racetrack can't be the same. You don't want it to be same. Each track has got its own characteristics. That's what makes all these tracks fun to go to."

...on learning about his Winston Cup car by running in the Winston West race: "I'm not sure what to expect. We don't know. That's why we're going to go run that. We're going to see if it can help us. Hopefully we'll find some benefits in it for our Winston Cup program. If nothing else it's just going to get me more track time. That, and (Ken) Schrader is going to run it. Somebody's got to go have fun with him. A couple of the Winston Cup guys always go out there and run. Kenny is always talking about how much fun it is so I thought, 'Hey, let's go try this and see if it can benefit us,' so we're going to try to find out."

...can his team sustain its effort to build on a strong start: "I think so. Our guys are pretty prepared. They are extremely hard workers - probably harder workers than any place I've seen. Just as an example, we wrecked that car at Texas and by the end of the week they were already putting a new Grand Prix body back on that car. I was pretty impressed. When you have to take a car out, get the frame cut off of it and fixed, get it back, get it on the jig, put all the mounts back in the engine compartment area of the car, and then it's sitting on the plate ready to get a body put on it within eight days - and that is counting the travel time for it to get back from Texas - I was pretty impressed. I think they can maintain that effort and stay prepared. I just don't foresee that to be a problem throughout the year."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Johnny Benson