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Pennzoil Pontiac Racing Report: Benson Posts Best Finish of Season

3 November 1997

Johnny Benson Finishes 7th; Equals Best of the Season

Somebody in sports once said they would rather be lucky than good. 
In auto racing, the key to a good day is being both lucky and good; 
and that's just what happened to Pennzoil Pontiac driver Johnny Benson 
and his Bahari' Racing teammates on Sunday in the season's penultimate 
race at Phoenix International Raceway. 

Not only did the Pennzoil Pontiac  benefit from a timely pitstop 
call by crew chief Doug Hewitt, but the bright yellow car was good -- 
very good. So good that it equaled its 7th-place finish at 
Indianapolis --the best of the season. 

Sunday's strong performance in a race that went the final 183 laps 
caution-free moved the Bahari' team to a tie for 12th in the points 
race with a reasonable shot at catching Ted Musgrave who occupies 10th 
place some 45 points ahead of Benson.

"Man, to finish seventh is great especially after considering we 
were about the worst car after that Friday morning practice," Benson 
said. "We just kept working and working and working at it and finally 
got the Pennzoil Pontiac running pretty good to qualify eighth and 
then to do this well today is pretty cool."

Dale Jarett won Sunday's race and inched past Mark Martin for 
second place by 10 points in the points race but he trails leader Jeff 
Gordon, who finished 17th, by 77 points.

Benson ran among the leaders until the first round of pit stops. 
The narrow, one-mile oval makes passing difficult so Hewitt and Benson 
elected to change only two right side tires on lap 42 and beat the 
cars making four tire stops back on the track.

"We were pretty loose then and it got real hard to drive the car," 
Benson said after the race. "But, we just couldn't risk coming in."

As the race proceeded, Benson persevered and stayed on the track 
sometimes struggling with only two fresh tires. Several top runners 
pitted to take advantage of new tires around the 115-to-120-lap mark. 
Benson and company planned a pit on lap 128 hoping for a caution to 
come soon.

Suddenly, Ward Burton's Pontiac careened into the first turn wall 
bringing out the yellow flag and catching several teams a lap down or 
at the tail end of the lead lap. Benson managed to stay on the track 
and then pit under yellow on lap 130. 

Instead of falling a lap down, the timely pit strategy enabled him 
to remain one of about 13 cars on the lead lap. When the race resumed 
Benson began his charge to the front using every inch of the track and 
on one occasion brushing the wall to reel in the leaders.

"After that the car ran pretty well and we were able to work 
ourselves up to seventh place," Benson said. "It was getting pretty 
hard to drive at the end, but things turned out well."

There were no caution flags for the rest of the race and a 19 
second pit stop on lap 227 enable Benson to finish the race among the 

One of Benson biggest supporters in the pit on Sunday was Jac 
Haudenschild, Pennzoil's World of Outlaws driver who raced at nearby 
Manzanita Speedway near Phoenix during the weekend. 

Benson along with several Bahari' crew members attended the World 
of Outlaws races on Friday and Saturday night. "The Wild Child" 
attended his first Winston Cup race as a guest of Benson on Sunday.

Benson and his teammates will enjoy an off weekend before the 
season-ending race at the newly reconfigured Atlanta International 

Points race

1. Jeff  Gordon            4598
2. Dale Jarrett            4521
3. Mark Martin             4511
4. Jeff Burton             4224
5. Dale Earnhardt          4096
6. Terry Labonte           4077
7. Bobby Labonte           3916
8. Bill Elliott            3781
9. Rusty Wallace           3531
10 Ted Musgrave            3486
11 Ken Schrader            3473
12 Jeremy Mayfield         3441
13 Johnny Benson           3441
14 Ernie Irvan             3402
15 Bobby Hamilton          3304

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