Pontiac Racing - Winning team press conference Part 1 of 2 JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: ON WINNING AFTER 226 STARTS "It's been a while. We had some opportunities my rookie year to win some races with Bahari Racing...
Pontiac Racing - Winning team press conference
Part 1 of 2
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON WINNING AFTER 226 STARTS "It's been a while. We had some opportunities my rookie year to win some races with Bahari Racing and with Jack Roush and with the '10' team with James Ince. We've been so close. We just haven't been able to pull it off at the end and today we were able to. We've had a lot of close runs, but the first place one is the one that matters. I'm real happy about it today."
ON STARTING 26TH AND BEATING MARK MARTIN AT THE END "I think all the guys that started this race are great racers. It was good to come from 26th. I would have like to have done it from the front or from the back. It doesn't matter, as long as we end up in victory lane. That's what we all thrive in trying to do. But, it was a great run. We had some good pit stops. We've had a couple that weren't. James just kept making changes to the car. It's funny because I always laugh at him. He always says, 'I promise you, I'll get it better,' and he did. He was right on the money right there at the end. He did. He always comes through with what he says he is going to do. That's why I'm proud to drive with these Valvoline Pontiac guys at the '10' car."
DID YOU THINK YOU'D BE CLOSE ON FUEL THERE AT THE END? "No, James said about a lap before it went green, he says, 'It's within a half a lap. I just don't know what side of the start-finish line it's going to be on. We'll just have to deal with it.' But, I knew that the way he was calculating it was based off of what we were doing earlier. The track gets so slow at the end, as many laps as we had to run - I knew gas mileage was going to come to us at the end, but not at the beginning. He said, 'Run it hard, and if we get a caution we won't have to worry about it, but just keep getting it.' At the last deal he said, 'Alright, get up there. You see what you've got. You see who you've got to pass. Go up there and pass them.' I get in the lead and I look in the mirror and I thought, 'Well, I've got about five car lengths.' Then, he says, 'Alright, you've got to do me one more favor. Save some gas.' It's like, 'Man, that's going to be tough.' I ran out trying to get back to the pit, but it doesn't matter at that point in time."
DOES COMING SO CLOSE AT MARTINSVILLE TWO WEEKS AGO MAKE THIS ONE A LOT SWEETER? "It does. Whether it be Martinsville or whether it be New Hampshire or any of the other places that we've finished second, we've had opportunities to win a race and that is what it takes. Both James and myself really hate finishing second. We've had a lot of seconds. At Martinsville - yeah, maybe I could have won one if I had wrecked the guy. But, I wasn't going to do that and I know James was mad at me for it. I know he would have, but it makes it feel so much better today, although it may have been two wins instead of just one. But, I think we can all look and say, 'Hey, we won this race. We didn't have to wreck anybody.' As much as we wanted to win Martinsville, as much as we wanted to win Loudon - but it happened today during the Pop Secret 400, so we're real happy with that."
DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD WIN THIS QUICKLY AFTER MARTINSVILLE? "Absolutely. After I came back from being hurt, 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.' It's tough knowing that we're working on as much for 2003 as we can possibly do.
"We came close to it at Loudon. We came close to it at Martinsville and then today, we were able to pull one off and we've still got two to go. He was pretty good about his thoughts. He knew what cars we had coming up. He knows that people that we have working on this race team and he knows their attitude and he knows that both of us want to win so bad. I knew it was going to come and if it wasn't here today, I figured it would be 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. Today he told me the second to last pit stop, he says, 'I'm telling you, you're going to win this thing. You just keep working hard.' That's what we were able to do."
DID YOU FEEL A LOT OF PRESSURE AT THE END FROM MARK? "I wouldn't say I was nervous, but you've always got that concern that someone is going to come and beat you after you took the lead. In one aspect, I'm glad it was Mark Martin behind me because I know Mark. I've raced with him a lot of years. I've won races and was fortunate enough to win some championships, so he is not going to rattle you too bad. But, I knew where he was fast. I knew where he was running. I knew where I was good. There were a couple of areas where I thought he was better than me and there were a couple of areas where I felt that I was better than him. I was just trying to make sure that when it came time to get to [the finish] line that I was on that end of the deal. He was good through one and two on the bottom, but I felt I was, but I couldn't run the bottom in three and four. I knew the longer he ran down there - and he spent the whole time down there - that it was going to be tough for him because it is very hard. I spent a lot of time trying to pass guys on the bottom on old tires and it was very hard to do, so I didn't want him to get around the outside of me. I knew he wasn't running the outside in one and two. I knew where he was good. I felt that I knew where I was good. At times, he was right there. But there again, Mark is a good clean racer and I know he doesn't get in the corner too hard. I was able to take advantage of myself not getting in the corner too hard, too. But, still - to have Mark Martin behind you - that is going to be a lot of pressure. But, anybody behind me at that point in time would have been pressure."
JAMES INCE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
DID YOU SEE A BIG CHANGE TODAY IN JOHNNY, AS FAR AS HIS AGGRESSIVENESS? "No, not really. Johnny is a nice guy. It's as simple as that. Johnny didn't want to win a race the way that he could have won a race at Martinsville that's not something I worry about. We've had Johnny in a race car for nine days straight with the exception of Monday between testing and running Atlanta last week and I knew that Johnny wants to win just as bad as we do.
"We joke in our truck that I wear the black hat and he wears the white hat and I would have wrecked a guy to win a race, and I'll still stand by that today. But, when it comes down to the end of the race, I had every confidence in the world. If I didn't think Johnny was the guy to hand these race cars to I wouldn't be working with him. In 2000, when we got the opportunity to work together, I knew that we had great things ahead of us. That's the biggest thing that keeps this race team going all the time. I believe in his abilities 100 percent. There are going to be days we run second and there are going to be days we run 30th. There are going to be days he's mad at me and days I'm mad at him. But at the end of the day, we're going to walk out of these places together with a smile on our faces, knowing that everybody involved and everybody that we've surrounded ourselves with has given 100 percent effort and everything they had. It still feels good winning today. I still would have done things different at Martinsville, but we're not going to worry about that today. We're going to take our trophies and go home."
HOW HAVE YOU MAINTAINED YOUR COMPOSURE BETWEEN YOUR BUSCH TITLE IN '95 AND TODAY? "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 ended up 11th in points my second year. Going into Roush's, we thought the same thing. We thought things were going to be good. We almost won this race here with Jack, but we had an engine failure there about two-thirds of the way through or even at the end there, so we didn't have the run that we wanted. 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."
DO YOU THINK YOU GOT A LITTLE CARRIED AWAY WITH YOUR VICTORY CELEBRATION IN THE GRASS? "I looked in there and I think I only got about one or two yards worth of grass. I was hoping for about five to 10. But, hey - whatever. I could almost tell you what we wanted to do, but we didn't do it because I figured we were going to race this car again."
WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO DO? "I can't tell you. You're going to have to wait and see."
HOW DOES THIS WIN CHANGE YOUR JOB? "I don't know that it necessarily changes my job. When we approach everything we do we approach it 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. There is some satisfaction. There has been eight years of me trying. There has been several years of Johnny trying. The only thing that I really think helps me is knowing that Johnny and I made a commitment to each other. We were fortunate enough that Valvoline came along, and Jay Frye and Nelson Bowers and all the guys -- the ownership groups came along - and allowed us to do our race team the way that we wanted to do it. There is satisfaction in that. There is satisfaction for me now knowing that we did kind of do it our way and it's kind of worked out for us once and hopefully that will carry over and do it several more times for us.
"I've got to be to work at eight o'clock in the morning just like I'd have had to if we had won or not, so I can't say that it has changed our job. It's just that there is some definite satisfaction there. There is definite satisfaction in being able to do it with the people you wanted to do it with. Winston Cup racing is a tough sport. There is no doubt about it. To be in a position to where you've got two guys sitting here that want to work together - we believe in each other - and to be able to go achieve things together, well, that means a whole lot. Hopefully, that just means for us that we get to do it longer together."
WHAT DID YOU DO TO MAKE THE CAR SO MUCH BETTER AS THE DAY WENT ON? "I think for me, handling the car, the biggest problem we had there is that I don't know how to make a car go fast in a hurry. Our car are notoriously fast 60, 70 laps into a run and I'll go back and say that Mark Martin and Steve Hmiel taught me a lot of that. But, Johnny communicates extremely well. It's real easy to work on his race car. There is a lot of trust here. He turned me loose with his car today to do whatever I wanted to do with it and I did it. He communicated well all day and we just kept adjusting. One of the things that I think is our strongest suit, that we have together, is that he can finish my sentences for me and I can finish them for him. When you're able to do that it makes it easier to adjust your car as the day goes on."