The following is a transcript Of Tuesday's Winston Teleconference With Johnny Benson. The ...
The following is a transcript Of Tuesday's Winston Teleconference With Johnny Benson. The #10 Valvoline Pontiac driver answered questions about his recent good runs that ended early as well as the military operations that took place moments before Sunday's green flag in Charlotte. Benson also talked about the Pontiac's lack of success in qualifying at restrictor plate races and the Pontiac team's pessimism regarding Talladega if NASCAR doesn't issue a rules modification before the October race.
ARE YOU FRUSTRATED WITH RECENT ENGINE FAILURES?
"It sure is frustrating whenever you have some engine problems. Especially the last couple of weeks as good as we have been. We were running second at Kansas City and developed a problem and of course at Charlotte we were running in the top ten and developed a problem. From that aspect it gets tough. Still, the Valvoline Pontiac has been running extremely well and running good in the races so we aren't going to complain about that part."
HOW DO RESPOND TO CRITICISM OF THE NASCAR POINTS SYSTEM?
"I'm sure there are people that criticize the point system. But, that is how it is setup and that's what you have to deal with. Our goals are to win races. By the same token, it's so competitive nowadays that we haven't been able to make that happen. You know we continue to work extremely hard on trying to win races and hopefully in the near future we can accomplish that."
WHICH TRACKS ARE THE MOST CHALLENGING?
"All of them are challenging. Probably, as far as challenging for a driver, I think the flat slippery tracks are extremely challenging, but those are the tracks that I like. So that might not be answering your question correctly. Places like Bristol are extremely hard and running the road courses are extremely hard because we only race them twice a year. That's a hard question to answer. I feel the most challenging tracks are the flatter tracks but we usually do very well on those tracks."
DID THE START OF MILITARY OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN HAVE AN EFFECT ON SUNDAY'S
RACE IN CHARLOTTE?
"When I first heard about it I was sitting in the race car at (Lowes) Motor Speedway on pit road. That's about the time we saw it. There was a delay going on and we weren't sure exactly why. Somebody came up and mentioned what was going on and that the President was going on TV. At that point in time I still didn't know exactly what was going on except that we knew there was some action being taken. That's good. The thought of that, at that point in time was ^Åthat they have all of our support. I hope that everybody in the United States gives their support. Hopefully it will continue to be that way."
DID THE MILITARY OPERATIONS HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE RACE?
"I don't know that you could physically see that as far as the drivers who were driving their race cars. Sure your attitude, as you sat there waiting to start your engine, and focus changed a little bit. But once you fire the cars up and get going there isn't a whole lot of room to be thinking of a bunch of different things other than the job you are trying to accomplish at that point in time. There is a lot of concentration that goes on. You are dealing with the racing aspect and the competition side of all of it. Being on the track, your mind is not allowed to try and think of more than a couple things at one time. At that point you had to concentrate on doing what you need to do keep everyone safe on the track."
COMPARE THE STRESS LEVEL OF TALLADEGA AND PHOENIX?
"We will all be relaxed when we get to Phoenix. Talladega is a stressful type of racing. It's a little bit different than Daytona because you are going to be three wide for most of the race and obviously that can be stressful depending on how everybody is running at the time and that depends on how their cars are handling. But that goes away. Once Monday comes that (Talladega) stress goes away. Sure that race does get stressful unless you just hang out. If you just pick a spot in the back and ride until you get close to the end of the race. As we approach Phoenix, that is more of the type of racing that we enjoy doing. Like you said, (at Phoenix) you got the normal pressures compared to the tight three- or four-wide groove type racing you got at Talladega. Talladega is easy to drive. The only time it is difficult is when you got three or four cars running side by side and you are stuck in the middle. You can't do anything and you are at the mercy of other cars around you. That's when it becomes stressful. It's not a hard place to drive. Phoenix is more challenging than what Talladega is going to be. In the same token Phoenix is more of the type of racing that we like to do so that makes it less stressful."
HOW WILL PONTIACS FARE AT TALLADEGA?
"Now that we have fallen back to 12th in points we just hope we can make the race. The Pontiac is a car that isn't going to qualify well and I don't see it making the race (on speed) under a qualifying situation. At the last restrictor plate race (Daytona in July) Bobby Labonte was the fastest at 33rd quick and Tony Stewart was 36th quick and the other four Pontiacs didn't make the race (on speed). Now we are going to the same deal and knocked back in points, so it 's going to be real interesting to see how that works out. We feel maybe one Pontiac will make the race on time and the rest are going to take provisionals. We just hope we are sitting OK (in points) to participate in that race. We were really hoping the Pontiacs would get some help for that race because in the past we have not been able to qualify. There were only six Pontiacs at Daytona and we sent two home, so it's going to be very difficult at Talladega. We hope things are going to work out for us and it won't be a problem.
"As far as the race goes you will try to be with the best guys you can race with. With the aero packages you can go from the back to the front but by the same token you can be in the front and get shuffled to the back. I don't know, I guess in the last ten laps when they start shuffling you just hope you are in the right area and be in the front when it's over."
HOW DO YOU AND CREW CHIEF JAMES INCE WORK TOGETHER?
"Me and James Ince communicate really well. We both worked on race cars and we both raced them at a time when our careers started. He understands what a race car needs and what it wants. I think what really works for me is that we both understand a race car but he is able to watch a car on the track and see what the attitude of the car is and know what I like in a race car. He is able to pick that up in a fairly quick manner. That helps us as a race team -- that we can pick things up quickly. I like his attitude toward racing and his approach. He gets stuff done. He demands 110 percent out of you and that's what he expects to give back. That has really helped me as a driver as far as him getting things done and being organized. He will come right out and tell you where he stands and how he feels and he tries to get things done and that's a plus for myself."