Ince Continues To Engineer Benson's Climb Up The Ladder DETROIT, March 27, 2001 - Pontiac Grand Prix driver Johnny Benson has generated plenty of ink so far during the 2001 Winston Cup season, as he continues to set new standards for himself and...
Ince Continues To Engineer Benson's Climb Up The Ladder
DETROIT, March 27, 2001 - Pontiac Grand Prix driver Johnny Benson has generated plenty of ink so far during the 2001 Winston Cup season, as he continues to set new standards for himself and his race team.
While the increased attention could be a distraction to some teams, that isn't the case for Benson's outfit. Crew chief James Ince, who has been a big part of Benson's career resurgence, is happy with what they've done as a team, but he is far from satisfied. Ince has plenty more on his "list of things to accomplish" in NASCAR - one of which is his first victory. He hopes to be able to cross that one off the list after Sunday's run at Texas.
If Benson and Ince reach their goal at Texas it would also give Pontiac - which brings its 75-year heritage of bold, daring and innovative design and high performance to the road and on the track each time a driver gets behind the wheel - its first win of the season and first win ever at Texas Motor Speedway in five tries.
Heading into this week's race at Texas Motor Speedway, Benson sits fourth in the point standings and is looking to add to the one top-five and four top-10 finishes he accumulated during the opening six events.
Thoughts From James Ince, Crew Chief, No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix
ON FINISHING WHAT STARTED AS A GREAT RUN AT TEXAS LAST YEAR, BUT ENDED IN A
"Texas is a place that I'm excited to go back to. As a crew chief, I' ve never finished a race there - not once. As a crew chief, I've felt like I've had the best car there every single race and never had the opportunity to go do that. "Last year we felt like our Pontiac was the car to win and Johnny got caught up in a little bit of a wreck, and it didn't work out for us. This year we' re going to go there and there is going to be no caution at all on our part. We know that is a place we can win at. There is no doubt about it. "We've always been tremendously better there than we have been at Charlotte or Atlanta, so we've got a lot of confidence going to Texas that it could be the place that we'll score our first one."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE IS THERE BETWEEN TEXAS, CHARLOTTE AND ATLANTA?
"To me they are drastically different. Every other crew chief and driver out here will tell you that they are basically the same thing. I've never been able to make that work. Because we've always had such good cars at Texas, I'm not going to vary from what I've always done there. I approach them as three different racetracks. Charlotte is closer to Texas, while Atlanta is a different animal altogether. That place requires a whole bunch of different things. "Texas will hopefully benefit us when we get to Charlotte later this spring and get to run in the Winston No Bull 5. We're looking forward to it. "The biggest thing at Texas is that you've got to go there and be very, very aggressive. There are people that are timid at that place because you've got tight exit points [in the corners]. We always go there and are extremely aggressive with the setup. We're extremely aggressive with our outlook on things. We're taking a brand new Pontiac that ought to turn really well for us. "You just have to go treat Texas like any other racetrack and get the race car as fast as you can get it."
IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS TO YOUR TEAM NOW THAT IS NEARING
THE TOP RUNG OF THE SPORT?
"From the outside looking in, it might look that way, but it's not, really. It's a situation that when you're 40th in points like this team was two years ago when I walked in the door, every improvement is a gigantic chunk. Now it's little chunks that you're trying to get better and better with. "There is always improvement to be made on whatever it is. It may be things that people never see at the racetrack - the way we 'nut and bolt' our race car, or the procedure we use at the shop for putting one of these things together. "Right now it is almost easier from my viewpoint because it makes us all hungrier. When you're running 40th and you get better and all of a sudden you're running 30th, there is still not a whole lot there to be excited about. For me it's been easier because of Gary Putnam, Timmy Turner - all of the guys that actually make this race car go fast - they're hungrier and hungrier. They are as mad as we are about running seventh. That's a good thing, and that's what makes it easier for us to continue to go do what we want to do."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOU TOOK OVER THIS TEAM TWO YEARS AGO?
"It was a cool situation for me. When Tim Beverley first called me to come over and look at the deal, naturally I didn't even return phone calls the first three days because I didn't think it was something I wanted to be part of. Then I went and looked. I saw the people, I saw the cars, got his word that it would be a 'hands-off' deal and he would let me go race and yeah, then it was exciting. It was an opportunity to maybe prove a point. It was an opportunity to show off a little bit in a no-pressure environment. "That's something that this race team is very excited about today because we 've managed to carry it 'post to post' in the garage area in a two-year period. That means a lot to us as a team and it has made us stronger as a team."
HAVE THE NEW TIRES AFFECTED YOUR SETUPS MUCH THIS YEAR?
"It has affected us zero other than the fact that Goodyear has done an awesome, awesome job. These tires have been unbelievably consistent. They've been unbelievably good. They run better. "There are a lot of guys up and down pit road that are scratching their heads because they can't figure it out. None of their book from last year works. Maybe our book from last year was wrong because we haven't altered anything."
HAVE YOU HAD TO PUT MORE EFFORT THAN USUAL INTO SAFETY OVER THE PAST FEW
"Not really, because that is something we always worried about. We were always paying close attention to it. Johnny is a very safety-conscious guy. We leave most of that up to him and then we add what insight we can. "We've always wanted to make these things as safe as possible. We can replace race cars, we can skip races, we can do a lot of things. We can't replace a race car driver."
IT'S BEEN EIGHT MONTHS OR SO SINCE YOU BECAME PART OF A TWO-CAR TEAM. HOW ARE THINGS PROGRESSING?
"It's coming together. It's getting there. It's a tough deal. It's a new environment for everybody there. But fortunately, I've had the multi-car experience and I know what not to do. It's getting better every day."
ARE YOU MAD ABOUT THE RULE CHANGE FOR TALLADEGA?
"Yeah, of course I'm mad about it. It's unfortunate. The squeaky wheel gets the grease every time, I guess."