Johnny Benson talks about new team, new season

Johnny Benson driver of the No. 10 Lycos Pontiac Grand Prix was interviewed on the Winston teleconference. Benson joined Tyler Jet Motorsports following the 1999 season after leaving Roush Racing. Thus far in 2000, Benson and his teammates have...

Johnny Benson driver of the No. 10 Lycos Pontiac Grand Prix was interviewed on the Winston teleconference. Benson joined Tyler Jet Motorsports following the 1999 season after leaving Roush Racing. Thus far in 2000, Benson and his teammates have turned in three solid, impressive runs in the first three races. Benson currently ranks 11th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings and is coming off a sixth place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is his best mark in almost two years.]


(ON HIS STRONG START)  "We're feeling really good right now about how the
season has gone so far.  I know it's only three races but we seem to be
very consistent.  James Ince is a doing a tremendous job building these
cars for me.  So far, we can't complain at all."

(ON COMFORT LEVEL NOW VERSUS BEFORE THE SEASON) "I wasn't too uncomfortable coming into the season. I had an opportunity to come over to Tyler Jet Motorsports and look at the race cars and see the people that they had here. I was overly impressed. Going toward the end of 1999, Tyler Jet started to get more and more consistent. They did sit on the pole with David Green (at Homestead) and that kind of caught my eye. But coming to the race shop and seeing the quality work they do here is what got me most interested. But it was late in the year. It was after Atlanta (in November) before we decided to the deal. Of course at that point in time Tyler Jet didn't have a sponsor. When you have a team with no sponsor and you're just changing drivers, it takes a little while for people to notice that. Once people found out and Lycos came on board, it was a great opportunity for everybody."

(STRUGGLING TWO YEARS AT ROUSH) "I didn't lose any confidence in myself. But this is such a team sport. It was a situation where things weren't going as well as they needed to be. I could see that things weren't going to get corrected. At that point in time is when I decided to step up and say that I was leaving. I had asked for some things to be changed into a direction that was going to help everybody, and it just didn't seem like it was going to go that direction. So I decided to make a change."

(RESTRICTOR PLATES AT ATLANTA) "I don't think NASCAR will do that. It has been an issue where the speeds are extremely fast there. But the corner speeds are just as fast as the straightaways. I don't believe the restrictor plate would solve that problem. Everybody has been trying to figure out a way to take the restrictor plates off at Daytona and Talladega, so I don't foresee them really trying to find a way to add them to any more of the tracks on the series. What the answer would be, I don't know. But as of right now I think the speeds will continue to be very fast at Atlanta."

(ANY PROBLEMS WITH HIGH CORNER SPEEDS AT ATLANTA) "No. It's just a track that's fast. They have had such great races at Atlanta that I don't believe they want to change that. I think when they first reconfigured the racetrack and it was new asphalt on the track, they did have a problem with some 'follow the leader.' But as the track started to wear and season, it started to make it more and more of a wide racing groove. Now it's almost a three-wide deal. Not that you can run it there very long, but there are three grooves to choose from. You've got top, middle and bottom, and I think right now that makes for some good side-by-side racing. Really the only issue is when there is a problem there at the racetrack you are going at an incredible speed. How they are going to slow them down for there? I don't know. But I don't see that a restrictor plate is the answer either."

(COMMON TEMPLATES) "I think it is awful close to a common template now. I know it's not exactly. You've got some changes within the system. But most of the valances are close to the same, the rear deck lids are close to the same on the heights and the same with the roof. The manufacturers probably don't want a common template. I know right now some of the cars are hard to identify - the differences between the Fords, the Chevys and the Pontiacs. But I think a common template would just make that worse. I don't see that happening yet. If it does? Whatever. Whatever the rules are is what everybody has to deal with."

(ON HIS TEAM WORKING SO WELL, SO EARLY) "This is basically the second year this team has been on the Winston Cup Series, so I believe we are ahead of schedule. We felt that we could run like we are in the middle of the season and the end of the season. It's great that we've been able to run so good at the beginning of the year. But James Ince had worked at Roush Racing. He was the crew chief for the teammate at the same place I was at in Liberty. I didn't work real closely with him, but I know what he has done with Kevin Lepage, so I already had a feel for what James was doing with the race cars. When this came together and James was there I thought that would be a pretty comfortable situation, and it has so far. It has worked out really good. Me and James communicate probably as good as anybody I've ever dealt with before. I think that's a good thing for our race team."

(TEAM GOALS PRIOR TO THE SEASON) "Our goal is to be top 10 in points. Hopefully we can get a pole. Hopefully we can get a win. When I was with Bahari and Pontiac I sat on the pole both years I was there. We had opportunities to win races and didn't. When I was with Roush we were close to poles but couldn't quite get there. We really only had one or two opportunities to run well. Now that I'm back with Pontiac it is starting to show again. It almost feels to myself like where I left two years ago when I was with Pontiac. The atmosphere here at the shop is great. I feel that we can make a run to win a race or two, and I think we can finish in the top 10 in points. Hopefully we can make that happen in reality by the end of the year."

(DRIVERS AS ATHLETES) "It's funny that a lot of people think race car drivers aren't athletes. It's just a different type. There are a lot of mental factors that are involved. You have to think race strategy even though you have a crew chief that does that. But you have to be on the same page as the crew chief. You have to really think about what the race car is doing. You have to hit your lines just about perfect just about every lap on the track. You have to deal with what your car is doing behind one car; what it's doing if a guy is behind you. So mentally there are a lot of things that happen. Physically you are working with some centrifugal force that is tiring. Probably the biggest thing that we deal with is heat. Inside the race car it's anywhere from 50 to 60 degrees hotter than the given day temperature. If people think driving down the street is not athletic, then bring the temperature up to 150 degrees. Having to still work and concentrate in that atmosphere is what makes our job extremely hard."

(COMPETITION IN WINSTON CUP) "I think NASCAR Winston Cup racing has been very competitive through the four years I've been racing in it. I think it will always continue to be competitive with the amount of dollars and the amount of great equipment people have. With the quality people that work on all these race teams, I think it's always going to be competitive. I think NASCAR does a great job with the rules to keep it competitive. As far as being 'racey,' Daytona was tough. There wasn't a lot of passing going on in the 125s, and maybe in the 500 it was different than it had been in the past, but that was because of a different rule change. In the seat I've been in I think it's been real racey. There has been some side-by-side racing. There have been some great battles. In some cases, maybe it's not for the lead, but for second or third or fifth or tenth, or wherever it may be. I think NASCAR Winston Cup racing right now is both competitive and racey."

(ON DRIVING FOR A SINGLE-CAR TEAM VERSUS A MULTI-CAR TEAM) "I'm not going to really get into a whole lot of what I had in the past. I had some good race cars there (at Roush). It was just a little bit different situation. I'm happier to be where I'm at right now where the focus is more on myself and not on somebody else. In the future we would surely love to become a little bit bigger than what we are. But I think a two-car team is a best case scenario. I'm not opposed to multi-car teams at all, but right now I'm happy with the single-car team I'm at." (MORE FREEDOM TO MAKE DECISIONS AT A SINGLE-CAR TEAM) "When I was with a multi-car team there were some different directions I would have liked to have gone that were allowed, but weren't allowed a fair amount of time. That's one thing I like with where I'm at. Me and James are both on the same page. We know the direction we would like to go. We know what works really good for the two of us, that's the direction we're going to take and there's nobody here to tell us to do it any differently. I think that is an advantage for myself to be here in the this situation. It gives us the direction we want to go and there is no fight to say this is 'good' or 'bad.' It may be right or it may be wrong in either direction that we're going, but we're going to do what works best for us here at Tyler Jet."

(DOES THAT FEELING HELP CONFIDENCE) "It does. But I don't feel I ever lost my confidence in what I'm capable of doing. But it does create more confidence on the group of guys we have. We have an extremely good group of guys here that people probably didn't realize was here. It takes a mix of the right people to make things happen on a competitive level, and I believe we have that right now."

(HOW DO DRIVERS CONSIDER GOOD RACING) "Each driver is going to have the same answer. It's very good and very racey when you are the guy leading. We feel that it is pretty racey right now. We have the same Pontiac we've had for a couple years, they've got a brand new Ford and now they've got a brand new Monte Carlo. Right now everybody is just trying to adjust their cars. The Fords - they are trying to get a better balance in their cars and trying to be the best they can - same with the Monte Carlos. With the Pontiac, even though we feel our balance is good we still need to deal with the different air that comes off the other cars. Their cars are different now to follow or to lead, so we have to start making adjustments to our race cars to accommodate the different airflows that are going on. I think it's real race and I think it's very competitive. But there is a little bit of change going on here at the beginning of the year. But I think that once that everybody starts to get things figured out again it will be even more competitive than it is."

(HAS A BROADER AUDIENCE CHANGED EXPECTATIONS) "I think the long-time fans understand the racing a little bit more. They understand that people have their ups and downs and they understand the rule changes where the new person coming in doesn't have a good feel for that yet. I think NASCAR keeps growing and growing and growing. I've only been here five years. The amount of growth between the first year and ran and now has been incredible. And to me it's been for the best and for the good. I hope it continues to grow at the pace it has been. You're going to get different views and different outlooks as to how people feel because you are getting such a broad audience. But I think that is good also."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Lepage , Johnny Benson , David Green