Phoenix comes at a perfect time for Benson. DETROIT, Mich., Nov. 6, 2002 - If history means anything, Pontiac driver Johnny Benson may be heading to Phoenix at just the right time. Benson is riding the momentum from his long-awaited first...
Phoenix comes at a perfect time for Benson.
DETROIT, Mich., Nov. 6, 2002 - If history means anything, Pontiac driver Johnny Benson may be heading to Phoenix at just the right time.
Benson is riding the momentum from his long-awaited first career Winston Cup victory and is heading to a type of racetrack this weekend in Phoenix International Raceway that has paid big dividends in recent weeks.
In July, Benson challenged for the win and finished fourth at New Hampshire - a flat, one-mile oval. Three weeks ago, he once again threatened to win before finishing second at Martinsville - a flat, half-mile oval.
Phoenix, which is a flat, one-mile oval, shares many similarities to those venues. The combination of those characteristics and a successful test session last week would appear to put Benson in an enviable position this weekend and he tries to make it two in a row.
Thoughts From Johnny Benson, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix:
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO PHOENIX THIS WEEK, COMING OFF OF YOUR FIRST CAREER VICTORY?
"We plan to go out there and win our second race in a row. But, I'm sure there are going to be 42 other guys out there who are planning on winning, also. Walking into the garage at Phoenix knowing we have a win under our belt is going to be a pretty cool feeling.
"We tested there last week and thought we were pretty good. We ran good at Loudon where it was a flat mile like Phoenix, so [crew chief] James [Ince] thinks we have a pretty good chance this weekend."
DID YOU THINK YOUR FIRST WIN WOULD COME SO QUICKLY AFTER YOU EQUALED YOUR BEST CAREER FINISH WITH A SECOND AT MARTINSVILLE, JUST TWO WEEKS EARLIER?) "Absolutely. After I came back from being hurt (in July), James was like, 'We're going to get four of these races before the end of the year. We're working and the guys are working extremely hard.'
"We came close to it at Loudon. We came close to it at Martinsville and then Sunday we were able to pull one off and we've still got two to go. I knew it was going to come and if it wasn't at Rockingham, I figured it would be at Phoenix. We go into the race every week knowing that we can run in the top five with an outside shot of winning the race. On Sunday, he told me on the second to last pit stop, he said, 'I'm telling you, you're going to win this thing. You just keep working hard.' That's what we were able to do."
HOW HAVE YOU MAINTAINED YOUR COMPOSURE BETWEEN YOUR BUSCH SERIES TITLE IN 1995 AND NOW?
"I think I can go back and look - there are only three people I've run for in Winston Cup and I can show you a lot of races where we ran extremely well and were close. My rookie year we almost won at Richmond, almost won The Brickyard. Those were races where we were competitive and right there. We had other runs that we run right there in the top five with opportunities to win, so you just keep thinking that eventually one of these is going to come.
"Of course, when I got hooked up with the '10' car and James Ince and all those guys - I'll tell you, there were a lot of people that questioned that I was going to do that. But, just walking through the shop, looking at what they've got, looking at the attitudes they've got, looking at James' plan of what he felt was going to be great, I knew that we were going to be OK. I hate that it has taken this long to win a race, but we've been there. We've had some seconds. We've been right there - almost won the Daytona 500. There were a lot of times where we were close, so I'm not going to feel bad about any of the bad runs that we've run and I feel good about all the good runs that we've run.
"Keeping your composure is hard, maybe, a lot of times, but it's not all that bad knowing that you've got a great group of guys with you."
DID YOU EVER WONDER IF YOU WOULD EVER WIN?
"No, I haven't doubted that, but I haven't doubted these guys either. If it ever got to that point in time, I'll tell you what - I'm going to go find something else to do and let somebody sit in that car that can get it done because this group of guys deserve to go win and to win races. I feel I can do that."