DETROIT, Oct. 2, 2001 - After spending last week learning a brand new racetrack in a new NASCAR market, Pontiac's "WideTrack Attack" and rest of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returns to its well-known hub in Charlotte, N.C. With fewer unknowns...
DETROIT, Oct. 2, 2001 - After spending last week learning a brand new racetrack in a new NASCAR market, Pontiac's "WideTrack Attack" and rest of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returns to its well-known hub in Charlotte, N.C. With fewer unknowns and variables, Pontiac Grand Prix drivers like Bobby Labonte and Johnny Benson can focus on what they know about the 1.5-mile quad-oval and can look to improve on the respective performances they turned in during two Charlotte events last May.
Labonte, who is the defending winner of the UAW/GM 500, contended for a win this spring in the annual 600-miler on Memorial Day weekend. Benson, who continues to close in on his first career victory, turned in a very competitive effort before a fuel-mileage gamble dropped him from contention.
No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix
DO YOU LOOK AT THE SPRING RACE AT CHARLOTTE THIS YEAR AS ONE OF YOUR TEAM'S BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCES THIS SEASON? "I think so. We had the whole package that day. It obviously didn't end quite the way we wanted because we didn't win, but it was still, overall, a good day. We can take that and look back at our notes and decide what we've done different between night races there and day races there in years past and think along the same lines."
YOU CHOSE NOT TO TEST THERE A COUPLE WEEKS AGO...WHY? "That is one test that we had on the schedule at first. But, the way the schedule usually goes there, you don't really get much practice anyway because they break for this, break for that, one day is a night test, one day is a day test - it's not a real efficient use of one of your tests.
"If we felt like we needed to go there for sure, we would have gone. But we have a pretty good baseline. Our performance there has been pretty good, so we are confident that when we get back there -- if everything goes right -- we'll be competitive."
WHAT IS THIS TEAM RACING FOR RIGHT NOW? "It's no different than it was the first part of the year. I think we're still racing for wins and then the points will fall into place. If we can't win, then we'll go after top fives and top 10s to get our points situation better than what it is today. We still want to improve where we're at every day.
"Right now, we've still got the same thought process. It's no different. In some ways we're doing things for next year. But last year we kind of were, too. It may be a little bit different this year because we're not in first place in points, but that's about it."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SOME OF THE AGGRESSIVE DRIVING THE SERIES HAS SEEN THIS YEAR? "There are definitely some guys that are a little bit tougher than other guys - guys that are a little bit more abusive on their vehicles. I guess maybe they don't belong to the 'Triple A Club' (AAA - American Automobile Association).
"It seems like lately it has gotten a little bit worse and I'm sure NASCAR feels like they can't let it get out of hand. I haven't been on the receiving end of it, but you can see it, obviously. It's been out there."
IS IT JUST PART OF THE DEAL? "There is a time and a place for it, which is better than some other times and some other places. What happens if somebody gets hurt through an incident like that? Then how do you approach it? Well, at that point, I guess we'll know that it's gotten out of hand, so the thing to do is to get it stopped before it gets out of hand. I don't know what the best way is to do that, but hopefully it won't come to that."
Johnny Benson, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix
ON THIS WEEK'S RACE IN CHARLOTTE "We're looking forward to going to Charlotte. I feel like the last couple times we've been there, our Pontiac has been really good and we've been really competitive. We had a couple of little hiccups here and there that have kept us from really contending at the end, but we should have another good shot this time at a good run. "But, going back to Charlotte this time is going to be different for us because they took away spring rubbers from us and things of this nature. But we're learning and I think we'll still be pretty good. We'll do the same things we've done at all the races and do the best we can. We'll just see how it turns out at the end of the day."
James Ince, Crew Chief, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix
YOU TOOK A GAMBLE THE FIRST RACE IN CHARLOTTE THIS YEAR TO TRY TO WIN THE RACE, BUT IT DIDN'T WORK OUT FOR YOU. WOULD YOU TAKE THAT SAME KIND OF GAMBLE AGAIN THIS TIME, KNOWING YOU'RE STILL IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS? "I'll take twice as many gambles. Earlier in the year when we were at Charlotte, we had a lot more opportunities to win races than we've got right now. There's no telling what we'll do to try to pull one of these things off. Hopefully, we've got good enough race cars and the cautions will fall right that we don't need to do that.
"Gambling is a reflex. That is something we won't even hesitate to do."
IS THIS TEAM POINTS RACING YET? "We don't even know what that is. We're racing for wins. It's as simple as that. Hopefully that will work out for us before the year is out. Hopefully, next year will be a points year for us. But right now, we're still continuing to grow this race team and get better.
"Charlotte was our downfall and that all goes back to the lovely rule that NASCAR made to get rid of the bump stops and the spring rubbers. If you had a Pontiac, that put you in the back of the deal. We've recovered from that and we're running really good now. I think we're back, almost as good as we were, but it's been a building thing. Looking into next year, that is a good thing for us because it's helped the race team become better because of adversity."