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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Johnny Benson
January 18, 2003


MODERATOR: We have Johnny Benson with us. Johnny, probably no one worked harder to get into victory lane than you did. That first one is certainly hard one to come by. The team is in position though to win. How do you feel about 2003? Is that not what this team expects.

JOHNNY BENSON: We hope so. If that second one is going to be harder than the first one, I might as well quit now. It was great to finally get that done. The guys do work hard, we have been there close so many times and it was great to get in the victory lane and have a good time. Hopefully we can do more in 2003.

Q. How did the testing at Daytona go?

JOHNNY BENSON: The test at Daytona went well. One of the cars was actually pretty good and we are excited about that because it was our backup car, so we are bringing that down as our primary. The car we have for the backup will be a good racecar too. We will use that at Talladega. So going down there we will have two really good racecars. And with it being the 2003 Pontiac, that will be a good thing and I'm looking forward to being with Valvoline again.

Q. Last year you won a race in a year in which you probably had as much trouble as you had in your career, it's kind of a good and a bad, does that make you look forward to being injury-free and having better luck next year and doing overall better in the points and having a good solid year from start to finish?

JOHNNY BENSON: If you are going to base it on that I should have got hurt during the winter. After that, it was just an unfortunate part of the season where we had some time out of the race car, but as the team got back into where we felt that we should have been at the beginning the year we started doing pretty good again. So not really the second half, probably the last third of the season, we felt like we got back to where we were at the end of last year or during the 2001 season. As long as we can maintain that, which I think we are capable of doing, and start the year off good, I think our year will go okay. I sat here last year and thought we were going to have a really good year and it was terrible. I don't want to say we will have a great year this time. We have a new Pontiac coming out. We feel that it's as good as what we ended up with and with that at least we know the Pontiac has a lot of potential now. It's not wore out.

Q. Johnny, are you 100 percent or do you have any lingering affects from any of the injuries from last season?

JOHNNY BENSON: No, 10o percent. I was 100 percent before the year was out - it was probably as far as in the race car it took probably two or three weeks getting back into the car where I felt I was in pretty good shape. Maybe the first time that I thought I probably went in a tad bit early for that injury that I had there, and it was sore for quite a while but when I did wreck at Daytona, the second time, it didn't hurt anything from the first one. So I felt I was in, you know, okay shape actually getting back in the car the second time more so than the first time. So I was fine. Like I say, it just took a couple of weeks is all.

Q. Your crew chief (James Ince) seems like an intense guy. You feel like you will be paired with a guy who will go to war and will give you multiple opportunities to be there at the end and let you make the difference?

JOHNNY BENSON: It's been great to work with James. He is one of those guys that's not afraid to make a change, be it last minute or during the race. We have changed stuff during the race probably the average guy wouldn't attempt to do even when you your car is not terrible. We have been able to take some cars that we did not feel were very good at the start of the race and make it a pretty good racecar as the race goes on. Rockingham was a good example. If you look at how we qualified, how we ran practice, and how we felt, after happy hour, we didn't think we had a chance of running the top 25 let alone winning that race. We looked at what we needed to do and we weren't afraid to throw something in there that we were not sure what was going to happen. It's one of those deals we ended up hitting it pretty close. So we made adjustments as the race went on. He is not afraid, you know, to take his notebook and throw it away and start off with a clean sheet of paper before the race starts. I've got enough confidence in him. We talk about what we want to do and the direction we want in the race. At times he can put a very strong opinion of the way he wants to go. At times that's a good thing so I really enjoy it.

Q. In general as a driver what's more important, to have one win in the year and not have a good season or have a good season without a win?

JOHNNY BENSON: I guess it's two ways to look at. I would rather go through the season and maybe only win one and win the Winston Cup Championship as opposed to winning four races and finishing out of the top 10. It depends how you want to view it. Yeah, the goal is to get in the top-10 and eventually work your way to a Championship. As you can see, over the last four or five years, the guy that wins the Winston Cup Championship didn't win just one or two races. He has got to win a bunch of races now and I think that NASCAR Winston Cup racing is being so competitive right now, that's what it takes to win the Championship. You got to have both. Yes, we need to get in the top-10 in points. It's something we have not done yet. I have been close twice right there sitting 11th. Our goal is to actually get on the stage and still win the races.

Q. Winning at Rockingham wasn't so much the end of a junior but perhaps the beginning of another. Since you won one how important is it to win some more this year --

JOHNNY BENSON: It's not a deal where you want to just win one race and say it is good. Yes, that's important, it keeps my job, it keeps James's job, and it keeps Valvoline intact with us. Of course, the unique part of that is Valvoline owns half the race team so we can hold on to them pretty good or for them to hold on to us.

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