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Pennzoil Pontiac Race Preview: Johny Benson Heads for the Brickyard

21 July 1997

Johnny Benson on Indianapolis

   Pennzoil Pontiac driver Johnny Benson returns to the Indianapolis 
Motor Speedway for the fourth annual Brickyard 400 on Saturday Aug. 2. 
The 2.5-mile oval is the scene of Benson's most impressive performance 
of his first season with Bahari' Racing. The 1996 Rookie of the Year 
started 14th and climbed through the field before finishing eighth. 
Benson led 72 laps -- the most of any driver in race history. He 
posted the second quickest lap time during the July 7-10 test session 
at IMS.  

Impressions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

   "All during the week last year I kept hearing about this place. 
When we tested there were just a lot of empty grandstands. Then when 
we practiced and qualified there were more people, but I still kind of 
felt this was just another race track. Then on race morning when we 
took the convertible ride around the track I was amazed. I couldn't 
believe all the people who filled the grandstands all the way around 
the track. At the start of the race I swear you could almost hear them 
cheering. Until that moment I had never even watched a race here in 
person, so it was something I won't forget."

Last Year's Race

   "Our car was fast. We were good on the corners and still fast on 
the long straight-a-ways. We were also surprised how we could draft 
with cars a lot better than they could draft with us. I could go 
wherever I wanted lap after lap and the Pennzoil car was pretty 
predictable. That is really all you ever hope for in a car. Fast and 

Should You Have Won?

   "Should've, would've, could've. We had an opportunity."

You Ran Among the Leaders Until the Final Pitstop

   "If we could have gotten away with a two-tire pit stop there at the 
end we would have been OK.  But, there was a heavy vibration so we had 
to change four tires. The stop wasn't our best and then I stalled the 
engine for just a half second. Plus, we were tight when we resumed  
racing, but we came from mid-pack to eighth before we ran out of 


   "I would like to qualify in the top ten this time when we go back, 
but I would take 14th again if the Pennzoil Pontiac runs just as good 
as last year."


   "This place is definitely hard to pass on. We showed we can pass 
last year, but it would be nice to not have to pass as many cars. It's 
a comfort thing."
Learning Indy

   "When we tested at Indy last year and we weren't that good. We 
brought a different car to the race and ran good. Last month we were 
pretty good. So, hopefully we are starting to figure it out, but you 
aren't going to learn Indy in one day. It takes time."

Speeds At Indy

   "For a stock car, we are getting down the front and back stretches 
there pretty fast. It's those corners that are the toughest. We don't 
have the downforce of an Indy car. Roberto Guerrero told me the other 
day that he doesn't have to lift the accelerator in an Indy car around 
here. Heck, we have to hit the brake before we go through the corner. 
It's harder to drive the track without the downforce. One little slip 
in a corner can kill your time here. You need the whole combination of 
handling and horsepower at Indy."


   "Goodyear made a great tire for here last year. This year's tire 
seems a little bit quicker, and the cars handle a little bit better. 
But, the track is going to be different on race week because of the 
temperature and rubber so we will just have to see. The purpose of our 
test was to get a good baseline so we can adjust race week without too 
many problems."

Rule Changes Since Last Year

   "They changed the airboxes that controls the air to the carburetor. 
They also narrowed the front of the cars compared to last year. We 
can't flare the fenders as much. That will make us quicker on the 
straight-aways, but it also makes the car harder to turn. We will have 
the same Pennzoil Pontiac we raced at Indy last year. We have had to 
change the car a little bit because of the new rule changes, but we 
think we have it back to where it was last year."

Possible Rumble Strips

   "We went to see the differences in the rule changes. They don't 
want us in the grass so they added 18 inches of asphalt down on the 
bottom. And, they are in the process of adding rumble strips. I heard 
they were going to be an inch-and-a-half tall. If they do that it will 
definitely keep you off the grass. They showed us where they were 
going to put them. We tried to practice like they were there. I wish 
they wouldn't use the rumble strips. We will deal with whatever they 
do. These cars are so sensitive to air that we need that extra room 
near the grass to get air on the fenders and create enough downforce 
so we can pass another car."

Is Indy a Pontiac Track?

   "This Pennzoil Pontiac we are going to race at Indy is a short 
track car that we found runs good at all the flatter tracks as most 
Pontiacs seem to do. We don't understand that. It's not winning, but 
it sure seems to run better on the flat tracks."

Benson's Career at Indianapolis

                              S  F  LC   TL    Status    Money
Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis) 14  8  160  160   Running  $166,485 

For More Information
Contact: Drew Brown
Cohn & Wolfe
(404) 880-5269