Atlanta II: Bodine, Benson transcript

Transcript of Todd Bodine and Johnny Benson at Atlanta Motor Speedway With four races remaining in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, TODD BODINE (No. 30 LUMBER LIQUIDATORS TOYOTA) holds a 79-point lead over second-place JOHNNY BENSON...

Transcript of Todd Bodine and Johnny Benson at Atlanta Motor Speedway

With four races remaining in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, TODD BODINE (No. 30 LUMBER LIQUIDATORS TOYOTA) holds a 79-point lead over second-place JOHNNY BENSON (No. 23 NAPA TOYOTA). Bodine and Benson addressed the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway today about the championship battle.

Q: You have won the most recent Craftsman Truck Series races at the four remaining races: Does that give you an advantage heading into these last four races?

TODD BODINE: "Not really. If you look back at those races, Johnny (Benson) and Rick (Crawford) ran right behind us. I think it's going to come down just like any other points race -- who has the worst amount of luck and the worst kind of luck. Last week at Martinsville, we got a flat left rear running fourth and Johnny ended up finishing fifth -- and we were 14th. So, he gained points. That's the way it's going to play out for the rest of the year. Halfway through the year, I told Mike Hillman (team manager) that Johnny and Rick really got their act together. They run strong every week and it's up to us not to make mistakes and not to have problems. Unfortunately, you can't control luck. That's the one thing that you can't control -- and it usually comes down to that. This situation is no different than any other (points race)."

Q: Johnny Benson has six straight top-10 finished including a fifth-place finish last week at Martinsville. He is only 79 points behind Todd Bodine. He was the 1995 Busch Series champion. So he knows about winning championships. How does this championship battle compare?

JOHNNY BENSON: "I think on the Busch deal we were a little bit further ahead at this time, so it is a little bit different. Like Todd said, both of our seasons have been going good. We had some problems earlier on where Todd got some points and was up and we've had to play catch up pretty much the whole year. We' ve finally got to the point where we're close enough to maybe make things happen. But as Todd said too, we both run good at these next four tracks. It's really going to boil down to who has any issues or problems or just misses it at the beginning. I think both teams show up by the end of the race. We end up getting our stuff pretty good unless something weird happens that puts us out of contention from having a good run."

Q: The Bodine family has been a part of NASCAR for more than 20 years. How important would it be for you to give the Bodine family its first national championship?

BODINE: "It would be more important than just winning it for me -- with what my brothers (Geoff and Brett) and I have gone through in the sport, what we' ve given to the sport, and what the sport has taken from us. We've endured a lot. There have been a lot of ups and downs -- from losing rides to Geoff almost getting killed at Daytona. We've endured a lot in this sport. Not that the sport owes us anything, because we love the sport. We've devoted our lives to the sport. To be able to stand on that stage at the end of the year with that trophy -- not only for myself, but for my father who was a track promoter for 25 years and my mom, who watched threes sons at one time on a track and has been a nervous wreck -- it would be incredibly special for me to do that."

Q: Can you talk about your four-wide pass in the race at Atlanta earlier this year -- and would you make that pass again at this point in the season?

BODINE: "Absolutely. If the opportunity presented itself in the same situation and the same manner, I would do it again. That's the one thing Mike (Hillman, team manager) and myself made a conscious decision back in the middle of the season -- when we knew we had a shot to win this thing -- that we were not going to change the way we got here. Everybody talks about going into a points mode and getting conservative and not racing as hard to save your stuff -- make sure you get yourself a top-five or a top-10. Every time I've seen that happen -- and unfortunately one of the nicest guys in the truck series, Dennis Setzer, has had it happen twice -- people get in that points mode, get conservative -- and get out of what they were doing. They get to that point and everything goes 'haywire,' and they don't know how to get it back. So, we made the decision to run hard every week and try to win races. If I was in a points run I never would have tried to pass Mike (Skinner) at Nashville. You can't change what brought you to the dance."

Q: Had it not been for that really strong run you had around midseason, Todd might have a much bigger points lead than there is now. There's been a lot of criticism of the chase. And if there was a chase in the trucks, you might not be the top two sitting up there right now. Are you comfortable with the way the points are set up right now or would you like to see a chase in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series?

BENSON: "Well, I think we're all comfortable with whatever points system NASCAR wants to have. If we knew the points system was going to be a chase, it may be different. Me and Todd may still be first and second, but the guys behind us would be in a lot tighter points battle. I'm happy the way it is just based off the amount of races that we run. The points system has been great for many, many years. The Cup Series probably needed the chase. I don't believe that we do. We'll just see what happens. As far as our midseason run to catch up, it's been good, but we've had problems. We've lost a lot of points in that segment, too. Especially in Memphis with what happened there, which would have made it a lot closer today. It's just all part of it though. The points go from Daytona to Homestead. It is what it's going to be when that race is over. But I'm happy with the points system the way it is."

BODINE: "I like it the way it is. I understand what it's all about -- to bring it to a playoff type of format to help the TV audience and to create excitement. And, it's done the job. Look at how close it is right now -- it' s incredible -- and it's going to be great with four races to watch. I understand all that, but I don't agree with it. And, if you look at the last two of three years -- Jimmie Johnson was way ahead in the points. They did the job all year long to put themselves in position to win a points race and they didn't win either one. I felt bad for him because they did their jobs and because of bad luck they didn't do it. I think one thing that would make the Chase cool is a 'mulligan.' Give everyone a mulligan -- one bad race. Take the nine best out of the final ten races and see what happens."

Q: Can you talk about going for your fourth straight win at Texas?

BODINE: "It would be just another win. I told Eddie (Gossage, track president) that the last time we won -- I think on Brendan (Gaughan's) fourth win Eddie gave him boots -- and I told Eddie we were going after the boots. It's another win, it's points and another trophy. It's everything we go for every week. I love Texas. I've enjoyed it from the first time I race there. I won the first race even when the track was messed up a bit. I had a shot to win that Cup race there, too. I've always done well at Texas."

Q: You've got some experience in points battle situations in the old ASA Series and the Busch Series. How does that experience and the fact that you did come out ahead in those points battles -- how does that help you when you are trying to chase down Todd?

BENSON: Well, I think at this stage of the game it's all about making sure that you can go out there and lead laps and win the race. That's where we're at with our points situation. Todd's viewing his points no different than what we are. We have to go out there and run the best we can. If you have a second place truck, that's where you're going to end up. You're not going to try to finish second with a 10th place truck, but you have to attempt that. You' ve got to be aggressive. You've got to run as hard as you can. For us to catch Todd, that's what we have to do. He's got a small luxury -- not a big luxury -- but a small one with kind of keeping us within sight, not having to worry about a whole lot of things. But in the same token, he wants to go win the race, too. His desire and my desire to win these races is the same. It's just a matter of how it's going to play out by the end of the year.

BODINE: Johnny and Rick (Ren, crew chief)) are racers -- a lot of experience and a lot of races. They have nothing to lose by running hard every lap. Second or third in points, who cares -- it's just he second or third loser. They got nothing to lose. I have to go out there and keep Johnny. If I can finish two spots behind him, it's a great day.

Q: Johnny, whatever happens, this has been a great year for you. You' ve gotten into Victory Lane four times with the truck and things have really turned in the right direction. So no matter what happens, are you pretty happy with the way the season has gone?

BENSON: I'm extremely happy with the way the season's gone. This is something that we thought we could have done last year, and didn't make happen. So over the winter, myself and Rick (Ren, crew chief) and the crew just sat down and said 'Okay, we need to be better than we were this past year and try to go for the championship.' It's been that way since we unloaded at Daytona. We haven't changed anything throughout the year. We've been fortunate enough to win four races, and we have an opportunity to go for a championship. No matter what happens in the next four races, it has been a good year for sure.

-credit: sears/craftsman

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Johnny Benson , Jimmie Johnson , Dennis Setzer