Johnny Benson vists F1, heads for California


#10 Lycos Pontiac driver Johnny Benson returned home Monday evening after a 4-day trip to the British Grand Prix Formula One race in Silverstone, England. He plans to leave Wednesday morning for this weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup race as well as Saturday's Winston West race at California Speedway. Sunday's visit was Benson's second Formula One race. He attended the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona in 1998.

Johnny Benson On His Silverstone Visit:

"Man that was cool. I was totally a fan all weekend. I even bought a T-shirt. I think I know a little bit better how fans feel now when they are attending the race. There are some tough things about going to races, like the rain and traffic but it is also a heck of a lot of fun. What were the highlights? Geez, that is hard to say. We got to hang around Phil Hill all weekend. He is the 1961 Formula One World Champion. He and Mario Andretti are the only two Americans to ever win the title. He drove for Ferrari and just about everybody in the garage recognizes him. We ate lunch and took a tour of the Ferrari garage right before the race and watched the mechanics prepare Michael Schumacher and Reubens Barichello's Ferraris. We also went around in the Mercedes pace car and man that was cool. It had anti-lock brakes, traction control, and active suspension. I still haven't figured out how fast we were going but we were hauling the mail. We saw a lot of drivers that you see on television all the time like Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell. I think I saw Naomi Campbell but I'm not sure if that really was her or not. The FIA officials said if I wanted they would let me run in one of the Porsche Super Cup support races. Now that would be cool."

What Is The European View of NASCAR?

"I spent time with Benetton Manager Pat Symonds who said he had watched the Talladega race in Europe. It was fun to compare and contrast the different types of racing. Everyone in Europe knows what NASCAR is and they all ask how can we run all those races and what is it like to deal with all those crowds each weekend? They all were very friendly. I know they have the reputation as not being friendly, but everyone went out of their way to make us feel at home. He asked if our necks get tired from having to look all around the car when you are running three and four abreast on the superspeedways. The technology those Formula One cars have is incredible. But the show we put on for our fans is tough to beat. The fans there were just like those here except they carried around flags of their favorite driver and the Ferrari fans carry airhorns they set off whenever the Ferrari's come by them. Can you imagine 100,000 air horns added to the noise at Bristol?"

What Was It Like To Be A Fan?

"It's a 2.6-mile track so we did a lot of walking. The wind blew, we froze and it rained like you wouldn't believe. I have never seen so much mud. As we were pulling into Silverstone Sunday morning we heard the radio say that police were telling everyone that if they weren't already in line to stay home. It was taking about five hours to get everyone in the track. I told the folks over there that is why the drivers in NASCAR get motorhomes - just so they won't miss the race."

Race Information

a.. Race: Sunday, April 30, 2000 in Fontana, CA(near Los Angeles)

b.. Fontana, CA is in the Pacific time zone, all times listed here are Eastern Time(3 hours ahead)

c.. TV: ABC 2:00pm/et

d.. Purse: $3,004,166

e.. 1999 Race Winner: Jeff Gordon

f.. Race Speed Record: Jeff Gordon, 6/1997, 155.012mph

g.. Track/Race Length: 2.0 mile oval, 250 laps, 500 miles

h.. Practice: Friday, Apr 28th 1:30-4:25pm/et; Saturday, Apr 29th, 11:30-12:30pm/et

i.. Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Apr 29th, after the BGN race, TV-ESPN2 7:00pm/et, tape delay

j.. Qualifying Draw: Friday, Apr 28th at 1:30pm/et

k.. First Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 1-25, Friday, Apr 28th at 5:30pm/et, TV-ESPN2 and live via MRN radio/internet(link below)

l.. Second-Round Qualifying: 1 lap for positions 26th on back, Saturday, Apr 29th at 1:00pm/et

m.. Track/Race Qualifying Record: Greg Sacks, 6/1997, 183.753mph

n.. Last Year's Pole Sitter: Jeff Burton, awarded on owners points due to rain

o.. Pit Road Speed: 55mph

Track Specs:
Superspeedway: 2.0-mile oval 75 feet wide with a 15 foot apron
Banking: turns: 14 degrees; frontstretch 11 degrees; backstretch 3 degrees
Attendence: 85,000

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Michael Schumacher , Johnny Benson , Phil Hill , Mario Andretti , Damon Hill , Greg Sacks