#10 Valvoline Pontiac Crew Chief James Ince had to change his way of thinking this week.
Instead of preparing for the normal counter-clockwise oval track, he and his driver Johnny Benson are preparing for the road course of Watkins Glen International Raceway where the cars go clockwise making left and right turns.
Watkins Glen is the second and final road course on the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule. Benson finished 15th at Sears Point in June in the only other road course of the season. Benson will race this weekend with three broken ribs suffered in a July 6 wreck at Daytona.
In addition to road course preparation, the Valvoline team tested the 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix at Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
James Ince On 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix Test:
"So far it is hard to tell. Tuesday and Wednesday were the first days our team has had a 2003 Valvoline Pontiac on the track. Johnny was pretty happy with the car but we had the big green house on it and we really don't have anything to compare it to. So far we are pleased but we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Ince On Difference Between Road Course Racing and Oval Racing:
"It's one hundred percent different. You are turning left and right so you have to think backwards to what we normally do when it comes to springs, wedge and track bar. It changes your whole thinking process. The road course car versus the oval car acts totally different. What we do normally never involves turning right."
Ince On Importance Of Aerodynamics At Road Courses:
"Aero is maybe about fifth on the list of important ingredients at a road course. There are so many other variables like crew, pit stops, driver, and setup to get right that aero isn't as much of a consideration."
Ince On Major Equipment Changes For Road Courses:
"Its a 100 percent different race car."
Ince On Whether Road Courses Good For The Sport:
"If Nascar said its good for the sport then it's good for the sport. We support it. Would we rather be somwhere else? Yes, but we will do what they say."
Ince On Testing at a Road Course:
"There are two reasons to go testing at a road course. First you want to get your driver used to shifting and turning left and right and you want to make sure the systems in your car are working. Road course racing is so team dependent. The crew chief needs to make sure he is on his game. I just go testing to learn the car a little bit. We don't get to run enough road courses to let us know what exactly that car is going to do. On ovals we can run the same car three weeks in a row and by then we have a good idea what its going to do with any change we make to it. Testing on a road course lets us know how the car is going to react. That way when we do get to the track we can help our driver more."
Ince On How To You Determine Gear Selection at Road Course?
"We have history at these tracks so we think we know what we need. But, you still have to go back to your driver and ask him what he needs, where does he shift now, where does he want to shift. That takes years to learn. Mainly, we rely on notes and try to get better every year. Picking a gear is always a tough question."
Johnny Benson on Watkins Glen Strategy:
"You absolutely have to take care of the transmission and stay on course at Watkins Glen. That's hard to do. But, if you do that all day long you will finish pretty good. Now, if you can do that and maintain track position then you have a shot to win. As soon as you can make it on gas and tires you'd like to pit even if it is under green. It takes so long to get around that track that there is really no way you can lose a lap even pitting under green. If a yellow come out and all the other guys have to pit then you move into the lead.
Benson on Racing On A Road Course With Broken Ribs:
"I think they will be fine as long as I don't hit anything and I don't plan to do that."
Big Brothers Big Sisters Of America:
Benson is racing this week for the Hampshire County, Mass. Chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters Of America. 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 the Valvoline Pontiac's on-track performance. Valvoline matches the 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 $850,000.