#10 Lycos Pontiac driver Johnny Benson and his new Crew Chief James Ince formed a strategy in the off-season. Their Tyler Jet Motorsports team hoped to do well at Daytona, but their off season attention focused on tracks like Rockingham, Bristol, and Charlotte that make up the bulk of NASCAR's 33-race Winston Cup circuit. But you couldn't tell that strategy on Sunday when Benson exceeded expectations and led 38 laps nearly winning the Daytona 500. It took a nudge from Dale Jarrett with three laps to go to keep Benson out of victory lane and drop him to 12th place. Benson spent much of the week fulfilling media requests and preparing for Rockingham where he has posted three top ten qualifying efforts in eight tries.
"Well at least I don't have to worry about a Ford draft at Rockingham this week. And I'll be in a black car. Remember in those old cowboy movies where the good guy always wore the white hat. I guess we were the good guys last week in our white car at Daytona, but Lycos wants the car black this week so it's like we are putting on the black hat and going to the 'Rock' - that sounds like a movie.
"It's been a cool week. It was funny, right after the race we did a bunch of media stuff and then ESPN asked us to come over and do their program over by victory lane. That took about 20 minutes. We went right to our cars after that and I planned to drive my family in our personal car across the backstretch and meet the team over at the jet center to fly home. We got ready to go and realized that nobody who was with me knew where we were supposed to meet the airplane. I bet we drove 20 minutes looking for where we were supposed to go. We were lost. I called James Ince on the phone and the way you get there was so confusing that he had to come and get us. We ended up driving over a walkway to get to the jet area. I almost won the Daytona 500 and an hour later I'm driving around Daytona Airport lost. Life has a way of doing that. Those kinds of things aren't too bad after a good run. If we had had a bad day then that would have been a pretty aggravating deal."
"Other than that life has been pretty good this week. The phone has rung off the hook and we have been pretty busy doing media stuff. I feel good about the run. Sure we wish we could have won. You are always going to wish that. What was doubly bad was that I was out front and I knew exactly what was going to happen. Would we have won without the caution? I think I will be asking myself that when I'm 80 years-old watching races on television."
"Nobody should forget that this Lycos team has made some pretty dramatic improvements. This team won a pole with David Green last year in Homestead and then just two races later we end up leading the biggest race of the year. So you can see we are making progress. I have been impressed with James Ince from the beginning but more so now than I was a month ago or three months ago. He's really sharp and keeps everything pretty calm in the pits. And as you saw on Sunday he isn't afraid to take a chance every now and then.
Crew Chief James Ince:
"I woke up early Monday morning and thought darn we nearly won the Daytona 500 and was kind of depressed, but after I started thinking about it I realized we were there at the end and had a real chance to win this race. I don't get very emotional, but when I was part of Dale Jarrett's crew in 1995 when he won his first Daytona 500 I cried. Probably would have done the same thing last Sunday. The decision to go with two tires there at the end really wasn't a gamble. We had monitored tire wear throughout the race and knew it was pretty good. I told Johnny we were here to win this race so why not go for it. It worked but you have to have a good car and good driver to do what we did. I knew we were one of the best cars there after that first practice session in Daytona. The only time we were off was in the Twin 125 when we missed the setup and it just got too tight.
"I told the guys in our Monday morning meeting that if you asked me two weeks ago we had a better car for Rockingham that we have for Daytona. I know Johnny's good there and if our car is as good as we think then you will see more of the same this weekend. You could see Johnny's confidence in this team grow a little each day at Daytona. By race time I think he trusted my ideas and I trusted his. I told the crew today that it's easy to achieve a little bit of success and then sit back and never recapture it. We talked Monday about working a little harder just to stay up front like we were on Sunday. I know we can."
Next Race: Sunday, February 27, 2000 in Rockingham, NC
TV: TNN 12:30pm/et
1999 Race Winner: Mark Martin
Track/Race Length: 1.017 mile oval, 393 laps, 399.68 miles
Practice: Friday, Feb 25th 10:00am-11:15am/et; 12noon-12:40pm/et; Saturday, Feb 26th, 9:30-10:45am/et
Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Feb 26th, after the BGN race, TV-?
Qualifying Draw: Friday, Nov 26th at 9:30am/et
First Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 1-25, Friday, Feb 25th at 2:00pm/et, TV-? and live via MRN radio/internet(link below)
Second-Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 26th on back, Saturday, Feb 26th at 11:30am/et
Event/Track Qualifying Record: Mark Martin, 157.885mph, February 1997
Last Year's Pole Sitter: Ricky Rudd, 157.241mph
Track Specs: North Carolina Speedway, know as 'The Rock': Degree of Banking: Turns 1-2: 22 degrees; Turns 3-4: 25 degrees; Straightaways: 8 degrees Width: Turns 55 feet wide; Straightaways: 50 feet wide Number of Pits: 45 on front straight (1,436 ft. long) pit road Pit Stalls: 30 feet long; 16 feet wide Length of Front Straight: 1,300 feet Length of Back Straight: 1,367 feet Length of Turns 1 & 2: 1,256 feet Length of Turns 3 & 4: 1,437 feet