Pontiac Racing Rockingham notes

JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 AARON'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "That's a lot better. We've been struggling a little bit here today, so we made some wholesale changes before that run. That was as good as the car has been all day, so we're real happy with...

"That's a lot better. We've been struggling a little bit here today, so we made some wholesale changes before that run. That was as good as the car has been all day, so we're real happy with that time."

"I'm not really pleased with what the Cat car is doing right now. That is the fastest we've run, so the changes the team made on the car are in the right direction. But we just can't get the nose to turn. Goodyear has got another new tire here and I don't like it. Trying to get the car to handle is a chore right now."

"That's not the lap we were looking for, but it's a decent starting spot. I'm probably four times more excited about my race package than I am my qualifying package with what we learned at the test last week. I'm more excited about going into the race on Sunday now." (ON THE TEAM'S FOCUS ON RACE SET-UPS) "We've won two or three of our races from 20th on back, so I'm not real concerned about (qualifying), to be honest. I've watched (Dale) Earnhardt do this for so many years - it didn't matter whether he took a provisional. He could win races. We've got a decent starting spot and Bobby (Labonte) had a great lap, and that makes us all happy. I'm just excited about getting the race package on (the car) and really getting a chance to start working on it and fine-tuning it tomorrow."

"It was OK. It was a little better than we ran in practice. I felt like I got it pushing down there in one and I hustled it too much and knocked it loose off of (turn) two there. I felt like I hurt it, but that was a better lap than I thought it was going to be."

"The car was real fast when we unloaded. We were fifth (in practice) for the longest time. Then when everybody started the qualifying set-up deal we tried ours and we ran the same speed. The car was too tight, so we sat here for an hour and a half - me and Philippe (Lopez) and Donnie (Brown) - agonizing over which changes to make to the chassis, just agonizing man, knowing that we were going to be in the top 15 the way it was, but knowing that we also had a shot to get the pole if we did the right things. We adjusted three things - smaller adjustments - but they were adjustments and the car was still too tight. (Turns) one and two were perfect; three and four was too tight and that's where I lost a lot of speed. But we're in the race closer towards the front. We'll be good here Sunday."

"The little M&M's Pontiac is good. We picked up a little bit from practice. I have a big problem here a lot of times with trying to get into (turn) one too hard and basically ruining your lap right there, so I left a little bit laying there. I got in a little bit of trouble between (turns) one and two. We maybe should have run a tenth (of a second) quicker, but I know we started in the back in the spring. We'll be able to see the front this time. It might be from midway, but we'll be able to see it."

(ON TAKING CARE OF TIRES AT ROCKINGHAM) "I think what I've learned the last few times, which has definitely helped out, was that you know you've got to do it in practice, of course -- getting your car balanced out as well as possible and not try to push the right front tire off. You just have to be observant and knowledgeable that this track is abrasive on tires. You know you're going to run about 65 or 70 laps and you're going to have to pit. You just try to be as consistent as possible. But a lot of it comes from Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon's practice - keep the car as balanced as possible without burning up tires. Then during the race you find yourself a good groove on top of the racetrack, maybe on the high line, and save your tires that way a lot of times. The last race here we burned ours up early and Earnhardt came on strong at the end. He was backing off early and he did everything he could just to save his tires and had better grip at the end than I did."

(ON BEING IN A GOOD POSITION TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP) "We know that every weekend that goes by the odds are more in our favor. But again, we know we can put an 'X' there, but we know that anything can still happen. We're just going to go out there and do what we've been doing. At the end of the day on Sunday, if we beat the guys that we need to beat and we don't worry about it until the race is over, then when the race is over and we do beat them then we're like, 'OK, that's a plus this weekend.' Then we've got to worry about the next weekend. We can't say that we don't have to worry next weekend or the weekend after, yet. Right now we have to worry about them."

(HAS THE TEAM CHANGED ANYTHING IN ITS APPROACH TO THE SEASON?) "Not really. I think our philosophy all year has been the same thing - run hard every race and there is no guarantee in tomorrow. So our philosophy is just, 'Hey, every race we can run and do as good as we can, we know that what's going to pay big dividends at the end of the year.' "If we tried something different right now I think we might screw up. Not that we know how to do anything different, but we just try to do what we've been doing - good or bad - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad."

(WHERE DO YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATES GET THE ABILITY TO STAY CALM DURING THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE?) "I guess it probably comes from all of us in different areas. I think it is what Joe (Gibbs) put out there for the whole team when he started and then it's gone to Jimmy Makar as a crew chief and leader throughout all this. He's been there since day one and helps me throw my presence of mind in there to try to stay calm - calmer than I ever have been in years past probably, learning from experience. All three of us probably have something to do with it in some way.

"I know the other day I read in the paper where they said if we win the championship that Makar was going to move to a position different than he's at now and Greg (Zipadelli) is going to become my crew chief and they're going to hire somebody else to be Tony's crew chief. I just responded, as what I thought would be the best way to handle it. I told somebody, 'I've been trying to get rid of him for years,' -- Jimmy, that is. I don't think it bit very well, but Jimmy and I talked about it and we had a laugh about it.

"I think we just have a good time and we just try to keep everybody as composed as possible. But just trying to stay focused is the big key right now."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup