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Pennzoil Pontiac Racing Report: Benson Finishes 19th at Martinsville

1 October 1997

Hanes 500
Martinsville, Va.  

Benson Hangs on For 19th-Place Finish

Before Monday's rain-delayed Hanes 500, nearly every crew chief 
reminded their drivers about the two most important ingredients for 
success at the flat, half-mile race track in Martinsville.

Brakes, and fenders. 

Without brakes and with damage fenders, the 42 teams and drivers 
gathered for the race could expect a very long day. Five hundred laps 
on Martinsville's long straight-aways and sharp corners made braking 
difficult and contact with other competitors probable.

Pennzoil Pontiac driver Johnny Benson knew just how important a role 
each item played and kept both fairly well intact until late in the 
race. It was a third ingredient that kept the Pennzoil Pontiac from 
finishing higher than 19th place -- tires. More precisely, the ability 
to race with only two new tires instead of four tires.

Benson turned some impressive lap times as he moved up from his 
26th-place starting position early in the race. Then the Pennzoil 
Pontiac tried a two-tire pitstop.

A few laps later everyone knew the result.

"I don't think we should try another two-tire stop again," Benson said 
over the car radio early in the race and he struggled to keep the 
Pennzoil Pontiac on the track after making the Bahari' team's only 
two-tire stop of the race.

 "It just doesn't handle at all."

Throughout the day, most teams sandwiched the quicker two-tire pit 
stops among the regular four-tire stops. The quicker stops allowed for 
better track position avoiding the congestion of  the 42-car field. 
The cars that could run with only two new tires gained many positions 
in the pits during the race. If they could hold their own on the track 
then the two-tire stops made sense.

The Pennzoil Pontiac's inability to run as well as other cars on 
two-tires made the four-tire stops mandatory. The time it took in the 
pits kept Benson near the back of the field on restarts.  Still, 
Benson and his Bahari' teammates battled all day and appeared headed 
for a top-10 finish when brake problems switched the emphasis from a 
high finish to just simply finishing.

And he had ample reason to finish.

Benson nursed the Pennzoil Pontiac home ahead of Jeremy Mayfield and 
Ted Musgrave -- his main competitors in the battle to finish in the 
top-10 in the Winston Cup points standings. Benson gained some ground 
but remains in 12th place.

"It was a tough day, but we finished and on this track just finishing 
is an accomplishment," Benson said after the race. 

The Pennzoil Pontiac returns to the track Wednesday night in 
qualifying for Sunday's race in Charlotte.

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