Transcript of Johnny Benson's
appearance at Winston Breakfast Saturday in Bristol.
Q: Do you have any rituals you maintain during a hot streak?
Johnny Benson: "I don't have any superstitions, whether I'm running good or running bad. I don't worry about that. I don't think about that. As long as they don't put green on the car, I'm good to go."
Q: Do you feel you've had any races get away from you in the past couple of months?
Benson: "I don't think we've let any get away. We've had some good runs. We've had some really good runs. We've had some bad runs. Vegas was maybe one that we could sit and think that we felt that we were as good or quick enough to win the race, and didn't. Outside that, we're pretty much finishing about where we felt that we should have finished. You can always go through there and figure that you should have finished better or should have finished better there. It's a back and forth deal. It just matters on your strategies and everything that's going on - how good your car is at the end. We've managed to get ourselves in good positions and haven't been able to take advantage of some of it."
about the pit crew?
Benson: "This group of guys has probably been the best group of guys that I've been with and I'm hoping that I'll be with these guys for a long time. They had the opportunity to leave when we were going to be shutting the doors and they didn't. They didn't leave. They stood behind myself and James, and vice versa - we stood behind them. The only way that they were going to get us to leave was they were going to have to throw us out of the shop. Eventually MB2 bought us and then, of course, Valvoline came along and they purchased half of the race team, and the rest is history."
Q: What goals do you have for the coming season?
Benson: "Our goal coming into the season was to finish in the top six [in points]. The reason we didn't say top five was that the top five is a pretty elite group. Those guys are hard to beat week in and week out. That's why they're in the top five. If we said the top 10, there is a good chance we'd finish 11th. We don't want 11th, so we're trying to say that we would like to finish in the top six and if we fall one or two spots we're still in the top 10. That was just a number we grabbed out of the air. I don't know how else you're supposed to do it. You've got to set your goal and you'd rather set it a touch high than a touch low. That's just the number we picked."
Q: On parity in NASCAR.
Benson: "Parity is not in five different winners. There have been five different winners in 'people,' but not as far as makes. Pontiac hasn't won a race yet. The Fords have won one and of course, Chevrolet has won the rest. But it has been very competitive. It seems to be fairly equal and I'm not really going to complain about anything else, although it sounds like that works for some of the guys. But I think it's fairly equal. You've just got to work hard. You've got to work hard on your team. That's what it's about."
"At Vegas, one guy was sitting there complaining about his car so bad, but he sat on the pole and finished second. That's not a bad deal. I said, 'Man, I wish my Pontiac was half that bad.' It's just a matter of sometimes if you complain you can try to get some rules changed and I guess it works out."
Q: Do you think anyone will be able to go out this year and dominate for several weeks?
Benson:: "NASCAR Winston Cup racing is so competitive that it's very hard for a team to go out and dominate like maybe a couple years back or even further back because it's competitive, because a lot of good people move around now. The teams are spending a lot more money on research and development, and wind tunnels and everything. And with NASCAR doing the job that they do, trying to keep things as equal as possible. They do a tremendous job there. With it being that close, it's very hard for one team to dominate."
Q: What does it take to be competitive now?
Benson: "In this sport today to be competitive you've got to be a good race car driver and you've got to have a good crew chief, but it doesn't stop there. You've got to have a good car chief, you've got to have a good shock specialist, you've got to have a good aero guy. There are a lot of things that have to happen. It's not just about a driver and a crew chief - although that's an important link, it's about everybody getting along. I think that's how our team is. It doesn't matter who it is in the shop, they support the race team 110 percent and we support them. Everybody is treated as equally as possible. If they're getting the job done, they're getting the job done, you get patted on the back and off you go. If we have problem areas we talk about it and try to fix it. One of the rules we have at our race shop is that there are no 'bathroom meetings.' We have straightforward meetings. Every week we get together as far as regular meetings and then you get all the guys in the shop together. When you have a meeting it's, 'Anybody got any questions?' Then they raise their hand and get it off their chest, and then things go on and run smooth. I don't know a lot of teams that do that. I know this is the first team I've been with that does that with an open floor. You don't have to be politically correct. You just ask the question and then move on and get it over with."
"That's one of the things that I really like about James. He is very up front, very forward, tells it how it is and then we're done. James is not shy, by any means. But, I like that. You know where you stand. I think that is important on a race team. If you're going to try to run for wins and run for a championship in the future, you have to be that way. You've got to know where you stand. You've got to know where you're at and you've got to know where the other person stands. James knows where I stand and I know where he stands. That's a good thing."
Q: Have you made crew changes for this week?
Benson: "There have been a couple of changes. Basically it's some of the guys that we've used in the past. We're still using guys within our own team that are still going to pit the car. The '10' and the '36' is all one deal. Our car chief and our next guy down is who are going to change our [rear] tires. They've done it for over a year now, so it's not anything different than we're used to seeing."
Q: Will corporate ownership
be the wave of the future in this sport?
Benson: "I don't know. It's got to be right for the owner to do that. It's got to be right for the team to do that. In our case, it was perfect for Valvoline to become our sponsor, but also a co-owner of the race team. That's what they wanted out of the deal and that's what we needed. For us, it's a good deal. It may not be for the next guy, but it is for Valvoline and our race team."
Q: On wearing the HANS device.
Benson: "Right now, I'm not. I've got one. I've tried it. I'm not comfortable with it yet. I can't get it to fit myself and the way I drive the car yet, as good as I would like it. When I get it comfortable I'll probably be using it. There are other things on the market that I'm trying to get a hold of and as soon as we get to the point where I'm comfortable with it, that's what I'm going to do."
Q: On the safety issue.
Benson: "That's a tough question as far as how I feel the
safety [issue] is going. I think it's going fine. There are areas that probably are being looked at that need to be looked at and I think everybody is doing what they can. But they don't want to just all of a sudden change it. How do you do that? I could ask you that. 'How do you do it?' Well, if we could find somebody that knows and can evaluate everything that is going on and can give us a direction today, we'd fix it tomorrow. But the problem is they can't give us that answer yet, so we're looking at a lot of different things. As soon as somebody comes up and says, 'This is the deal and this is going to make a difference,' then that's what we need to do. There is more than just our car. You've got a whole field. You've got to look at everything that is going to be decent and have everybody be satisfied with some of the changes. I'm sure when that day comes the changes will be made."
Q: Are you
frustrated by not having a win yet?
Benson: "I'm not frustrated by not having that win yet and I'm not frustrated because we're close. I'm happy that we're close, that we're having these opportunities to maybe win one of these races. If you're running 10th, 15th, 20th or 25th, that's when I get frustrated. If you're running in the top 10 or in the top five, one of these days we're going to get it done, so we're not frustrated with finishing second although the end goal is to be first. I'd rather be in that scenario than in the other, as far as being at the back. I'd be more frustrated at the back than I am running in the top five."
Q: On being part of the Winston No Bull 5 at Charlotte.
Benson: "Running for the million ($1 million bonus) is a pretty cool deal. We've run in all the races either way, so it's kind of cool to carry the orange spoiler. That is something at Vegas that I wasn't even thinking of. It didn't even dawn on us until after the race that we were in that."
"Now we get the orange spoiler and that is something that is pretty neat. We're all looking forward to going to Charlotte to see what we can do. But, that's not where I want my first win. I'd rather it be tomorrow than to wait for that. In the same token, it's a race that we're very much looking forward to, though."
Charlotte more challenging because of it?
Benson: "To us it's not an extra challenge because of the Winston million. We still want to run the same there with or without that. But it does give us a lot more to talk about. It's a pretty cool deal. If we win it, it's going to be great. That's the whole thing. We've really got to thank Winston for doing that because it is very exciting. It's exciting for the drivers and for the crews and all that, but it's not going to change our thinking on how we're going to approach the race, though. Maybe at the end if it's a deal where you're going to throw away a top five or a top 10 to try to go for the win? Sure, we'll probably do that, but we'd do that tomorrow, too."
Q: On the comparision between Charlotte, Texas and Atlanta.
Benson: "Between Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas, everybody thinks it's the same racetrack, and it's not. It is different. Each corner is entered different, through the middle is different, three and four is different, coming off of four is different. You can set up your car for Charlotte and set up your car for Texas. They are going to be different. There is nothing you can do about it - same with Atlanta. You have to deal with each track as it's own entity. Each one has it's own characteristics and that's what you've got to deal with."
Q: How would you celebrate your first win?
Benson: "We're not worried about that, yet. We'll figure it out if we win one. You don't try to plan for a party, you've got to win first and then make a party. That's how we're working on it."
Q: HOW DO YOU HANDLE FRUSTRATION LIKE THAT?
Benson: "I don't know. It's been real humbling for me. I know that I try as hard as I can. I know the people around me are working and trying. I try to accept the results and expect 100 percent on the effort side."
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