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Pennzoil Pontiac Racing Report: Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400

7 September 1997

Benson Richmond Race Like A Movie
Bill Murray starred in a movie called Groundhog Day in which he lived
the same day of his life over and over. Pennzoil Pontiac driver Johnny
Benson's Saturday night race at Richmond International Raceway could
be the racing equivalent of Murray's movie. It seems the 1996 Rookie
of the Year runs the same race at the D-shaped oval each time he takes
the green flag. And, Benson's movie also has a happy ending.

[ Benson Drawing ]
Johnny Benson As usual Benson started the race at the back of the field, looked shaky during the middle of the race, and came on with a flurry at the end to post a good finish. This time the Michigander took a 37th starting position and after three hours of hard driving walked out of the track with a 13th-place finish. The 1996 Rookie of the Year crept a little bit closer toward accomplishing his goal of finishing in the top 10 in the 1997 point standings. He remains in 12th place but trails 11th-place Jeremy Mayfield by 60 points and 10th-place Ricky Rudd by 69 points. "That was a tough race," Benson said after climbing from the Pennzoil Pontiac. "We were loose going into the turn and then tight off the turn." That means the car's backend wants to come around going into the turn and then the car won't turn coming off the corner. That translates into a lot of work for the driver. "I'm pretty tired, but I wish the race would have lasted a little longer because we could have passed a few more cars," Benson said. Immediately after the green flag, Benson reported handling problems like most of his competitors. The Bahari' crew took advantage of being at the rear of the field and brought Benson into the pits for several adjustments. When the race finally got rolling caution free, Benson lagged in the back and lost a lap during the green flag stops. Benson hovered near 25th place about halfway through the race and lost another lap. As the laps began to dwindle, Benson mounted a charge moving up through the field and climbing to 13th place when the race ended. "I think under the long green periods our Pennzoil Pontiac didn't fall off as much as the other cars and I think that was why we were able to pass so many cars there at the end," Benson said. Benson's performance shouldn't surprise anyone. He began the race at Richmond in 43rd position after a practice crash and climbed to ninth place at the finish. At this race last year, he turned a 38th place start into a 10th-place finish. "Yeah I guess there is a pattern, but I sure hope next time we can start a little bit closer to the front," he said. "Guess we are going to have to get the driver to qualify better!" Benson and the Pennzoil Pontiac return to the track Sunday at the New Hampshire International Speedway. Contact: Drew Brown Cohn & Wolfe (404) 880-5269