Rockingham: Johnny Benson, Valvoline Racing preview

Johnny Benson's ...

Johnny Benson's #10 Valvoline Pontiac team was one of only a handful of NASCAR Winston Cup teams to test at the North Carolina Speedway in January. While most teams were preparing for Daytona, the James Ince-led Valvoline team spent time learning how to get just a little bit better at Rockingham where Benson posted a 6th-place finish in February and a 3rd-place finish in September of 2001. In 2000 he finished 14th and 11th at "The Rock."

Rockingham has always been a favorite of Benson's who clinched his Busch Series title in 1995 with a three-wide finish with Todd Bodine and Mike Wallace at the 1.017-mile oval in eastern North Carolina. Not only does he like the track, Benson says Rockingham is a welcome relief for the drivers and teams who have concentrated on Daytona during the off-season. Benson's Pontiac-leading, 10th-place finish at Daytona last Sunday was his career best in the season-opening race. The team's paycheck of $198,612 was the second highest in Benson's career. Only the team's Indianapolis payday last year of $233,300 exceeded Sunday's total.

Benson On Rockingham
"I think Rockingham will be just like it always has been. You know, Daytona is such a huge deal for us and to get out of there and go on down the road to Rockingham is a relief. We don't have to spend as much time worry about who has aerodynamic advantages and who doesn't. I mean I'm sure we are going to have some of it just not as much as we had down in Daytona."

Rockingham Vs. Daytona:
"Now we get back to what we call normal racing instead of restrictor plate racing. All races count the same in points so while we might not worry about Rockingham like we have Daytona; it still counts the same as Daytona. The race car at Rockingham is now more in the control of the driver and the crew than it was last weekend at Daytona. For a driver it means you can now make different judgments on how you want to pass somebody. You can set him up, you can pass high or low, you can do whatever your car allows you to do. At Daytona you couldn't do that because you had to worry about the draft so much.

Does Testing Help?
Heck yes. We wouldn't go if we didn't think so. Sure, we have run well there but you are never happy until you win. Me and James have never finished outside the top 15 there and we don't want to break that streak this year."

Predictions:
"Rockingham is a fun place and it's been a great place for us. We finished third there last time and wouldn't mind doing a position or two better this weekend."

Race Information:
THE RACE: Subway 400
Winston Cup Race #2 of 36 for the 2002 Winston Cup season

*Race: Sunday, February 24, 2002 in Rockingham, NC
*TV: Fox - 1:00pm/et
*Pre-Race Show: 12:30pm/et

*2001 Race Winner: Steve Park, 111.877 mph, started 2nd
*Race Record: Jeff Burton, Oct 1999, 131.103mph
*Track/Race Length: 1.017 mile oval, 393 laps, 399.68 miles
*Pit Road Speed: 45mph

Practice: Friday, Feb 22nd 11:20 -1:20pm/et; and Saturday, Feb 23rd 9:30 - 10:15am/et

*Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Feb 23rd 11:15 - 12:00noon/et on TV-FX

Qualifying Draw: Friday, Feb 22nd, 10:20am/et

*First Round Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-36, Friday, Feb 22nd at 3:05pm/et, TV-Fox Sports Net(FSN) live and via MRN Radio(link below)

*Track Qualifying Record: Rusty Wallace, Feb 2000, 158.035mph
*Feb 2001 Pole Sitter: Jeff Gordon, 156.455mph, finished 3rd

*Track Specs: North Carolina Speedway, know as 'The Rock':
Degree of Banking: Turns 1-2: 22 degrees; Turns 3-4: 25 degrees;
Straightaways: 8 degrees
Width: Turns 55 feet wide; Straightaways: 50 feet wide
Number of Pits: 45 on front straight (1,436 ft. long) pit road
Pit Stalls: 30 feet long; 16 feet wide
Length of Front Straight: 1,300 feet
Length of Back Straight: 1,367 feet
Length of Turns 1 & 2: 1,256 feet
Length of Turns 3 & 4: 1,437 feet(NCS Website)


Owner: Valvoline/MB2 Motorsports (Tom Beard, Nelson Bowers, Read Morton)
Crew Chief: James Ince
Car Chief: Gary Putnam
Engine Builder: Hendrick Motorsports
Spotter Brian Dantine
Engine Tuner: Ondre Rexford

Over The Wall Pit Crew
Gas Man: Jimmy Watts
Front Tire Changer: Ricky Thomas
Catch Can: Steve Mann
Windshield: Russ Hoekwater
Jackman: Tim Boatwright
Front Tire Carrier: Shane Cooke
Rear Tire Changer: Joe Piette
Rear Tire Carrier: Steve Genenbacher

Other Crew Members
Truck Driver: Jerry Hess
Shock Specialist: Mike Cluka
Tires: Kyle Petty
Engineer: Tim Turner
Computers: John Hayes
PR Rep: Drew Brown

Other Information:
All wind tunnel testing is performed in Ottawa, Canada.

#10 Team tested at Rockingham on Jan. 22 & 23

Benson has four consecutive top 15 finishes at Rockingham.

Each week Valvoline donates money to the national Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America organization as well as an individual local chapter based on Benson's on-track performance. Valvoline matches Benson's performance by donating $5,000 for a win, $2,500 for a pole, $1,000 for a top ten 10 finish, $500 for a top 20 finish and $20 for each lap led. The 3-year program has raised over $750,000.

-vr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Todd Bodine , Steve Park , Kyle Petty , Mike Wallace , Johnny Benson , Tim Turner , Drew Brown
Teams Hendrick Motorsports