Talladega: Johnny Benson preview

Benson proved in October Talladega isn't over until the checkered flag falls. ...

Benson proved in October Talladega isn't over until the checkered flag falls.

#10 Valvoline Pontiac Crew Chief James Ince claims rental cars could put on a good show at Talladega and his driver Johnny Benson agrees. But that's a good show from the fan perspective. The drivers, crew chiefs and race crews judge the quality of a race at Talladega by the condition of their race car when it drives back to the hauler after the checkered flag falls.

The Valvoline team had that concept reinforced in October when Benson appeared headed for a great finish running fourth going into the second turn on the final lap. But a last lap multicar crashed left him with a 23rd-place finish and his Valvoline Pontiac nearly demolished. The car was salvaged in the off-season and will race Sunday.

What Kind of Race Do You Expect Sunday?

"It's not going to matter of which package you run at Talladega. You could use the old rules or the current rules. You're going to have the same type of race at Talladega. Daytona and Talladega are so different. You're still going to see a lot of three-wide racing there because handling isn't near the issue that it is at Daytona, so it's still going to be that way. Maybe you won't be able to go up through the middle as good as you did with the [roof] blades, but it's still going to be a good race for the fans."

Are Drivers And Crew Chiefs More Important Under These Rules?

"I don't know if it's going to change much. It's the same race every time there. It's always tight, it's always packed together and that's what you're going to have."

How Will Your Pontiac Race?

"I think it will race great. This car raced extremely well there last year. It's the same car that we were running fourth with until the wreck on the backstretch [on the last lap], so I know it's going to race good. You just can't get through the air yourself without having any drafting help. The Pontiac will race awesome. It's just a matter of getting them qualified."

Do Drivers Dread Talladega?

"I don't know it is hard to say. Is it an uncomfortable feeling? Yeah it is. Going three or four wide at a race like that for three hours makes it, at times, extremely uncomfortable. At other times it's OK. If you are two-wide or single file then it is easy just to cruise around there. I don't think drivers get up on the morning of the race and dread racing. I don't think you can have that type of mindset. You have to have the mindset that we are going to get through this race safely and see how it all plays out. I don't think any of us get up in the morning and say 'Man I wish this race were done now. But, there is always concern when you run a race like Talladega."

Would You Buy A Ticket?

"Absolutely, the shows NASCAR puts on there are unbelievable. I've seen this race from behind the steering wheel. I can't imagine what it looks like from the stands. I mean we had 49 lead changes last year. And someone told me the other day the victory margin is less than a second in our last 20 races at Talladega. That's incredible."

How Would You Balance The Safety And Excitement?

"Finding that balance puts NASCAR in a tough spot. If you really look at it, they got what they tried to do. And that is to make a great race with great side-by-side racing all day long. But, if you look at the safety side you see that issue isn't totally settled. What would I do? To tell you the truth I just don't know. We have tested a lot of different things. You know it is very hard at Talladega to spread the field out. At Daytona it is a little bit easier. They are in a tough position."

Crew Chief James Ince On Talladega:

"We could race our rental cars around Talladega and put on a great show."

Note: Mike Cluka will begin changing front tires for the #10 team this weekend in Talladega.

Aaron's 499
Winston Cup Race #9 of 36 for the 2002 Winston Cup season

Sunday, April 21, 2002 in Talladega, AL

NOTE: Talladega is located in the Central Time Zone, all times listed here are in Eastern Time Zone (1 hour ahead)

TV: Fox - 2:00pm/et
Race re-air: Speed Channel on Wednesday, April 24th, 8:00pm/et
Pre-Race Show: 1:30pm/et, with hosts Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond

Friday, Apr 19th, 12:00noon -2:00pm/et
Saturday, Apr 20th, 10:30 - 11:15am/et.
Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Apr 20th, 12:15 - 1:00pm/et on TV-FX 1:00pm/et.

Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-36
Friday, April 19th at 4:05pm/et

TV-FX tape delay at 7:00pm/et (and re-aired on Speed Channel Sat Apr 20th at 8:00pm/et) and live via MRN Radio


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Johnny Benson