Michigan is 'homecoming' for Johnny Benson

Johnny Benson is still pretty famous in Michigan. As a 7-year-old he started working in his father John Benson's Grand Rapids race shop selling parts and even welding. By the time he was 19 years old it was time for him to replace Dad as the ...

Johnny Benson is still pretty famous in Michigan. As a 7-year-old he started working in his father John Benson's Grand Rapids race shop selling parts and even welding. By the time he was 19 years old it was time for him to replace Dad as the family racer and he began working his way through late models earning track championships. He went on to the American Speed Association where he won the rookie of the year award in 1990 and the championship in 1993.

Benson's first try in NASCAR came when he climbed into Ernie Irvan's Busch car in front of the homefolks at Michigan Speedway in 1993 only to go barrel-rolling down the backstretch on lap 3. The car now sits at the bottom of a pond at Irvan's house. Benson gets to relive all those memories this week as he returns to his homestate for a week of what he calls "part work and part play." Benson will leave Charlotte for Michigan on Monday to visit friends and family then spend Wednesday night signing autographs at the Johnny Benson Fan Club meeting - a gathering of 4,000 people at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan. This is the fifth annual fan club meeting where Benson and his Tyler Jet Motorsports crewmembers will spend hours with Benson fan club members.=20

Benson On Trip Home:

"Man, I'm looking forward to the trip home its partial work and partial vacation. Obviously, it's cool to see Mom & Dad and they sure like seeing our two girls. Plus, there are a lot of people who we don't get to see as much as we like so this is a chance to for us to get a little time to do that. The fan club meeting is always a fun deal also. It's a big deal. They line up and I sit down and sign, and sign, and sign. By the time that all ends my hand is hurting like heck. I tell everyone if you think Dover is grueling then you should try signing autographs for three or four hours.=20

"What is really cool is my Dad will sign a bunch of autographs also. He's probably better known than I am up there. Which is neat. I'm sure all of us will tell hundreds of racing stories. Some of them might even be true. I'm looking forward to taking our crew guys up there. I can't wait for them to have to sign autographs for a few hours."

Racing at Michigan Speedway:

"Racing in front of the home folks is something you always like to do. Is it extra pressure? Not really. I would like to win any race but yes winning Michigan would be a wonderful dream. I've had some good runs there but I think this time I'm bringing the best car and best team I've ever had. This is as excited as I have ever been about coming home and racing. Sometimes all these tracks start to blend together and you can't remember if that restaurant is on that corner of if it was in Pocono or was that Dover. I don't have that problem when I come to Michigan. I always know where everything is at Michigan."

Season So Far:

"I know everyone thinks we have cooled off since our start, but we don't think so. We have run just as well as we did in the early season but we've been caught up in a wreck or something happened. We were in tenth place Sunday and then a flat tire dropped us to 15th. I think we are on pace. We want to be a top ten team and we are 200 or so points out of that which we can make up over the Summer. It's going to be tough with that missed race at Atlanta, but you have to aim high. I know everyone knows about Daytona and when we finished second at Bristol but have had some pretty good runs that didn't end with such high finishes. We were able to overcome some problems during a race. That's the kind of stuff that leads me to believe we are going to be really good here with time. Time is all we need right now I think."=20

Impact of New Pontiac Rules This Weekend:

"This will be the first race so we hope it has a good effect. We figured we are about 200 pounds of downforce off the Fords and Pontiac and with this new bumper we can get about half of that back. It's pretty technical explanation on how this helps on the track. Let's just say we hope it will make the handling a little better. Give us more overall grip. Really, I'll drive anything they give me. But it is nice racing without worry if the other manufacturers have an advantage over you."=20

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ernie Irvan , Johnny Benson