NASCAR

McGEE: Healthy Benson is Pontiac's "A" Team

Share This Story

Ryan McGee

 
   
 

2002: 29th in points, 1 win, 7 top 10's
Key Stat: 5 races missed

Yes, five races missed an even more important number than his oh-for-225 career slump-ending win at Rockingham. Why? Because it begs the question -- what kind of numbers would we have seen from the MBV team if Johnny been behind the wheel for all 36 races?

Fractured ribs at Richmond in May and again at Daytona in July forced Benson to hand over the Valvoline Pontiac to the tag team of and for five races.

When the Michigan native was finally back in the car for good in July, the 10 car took off, posting nine top-18 finishes -- including the win -- over the final 17 races of the season.

"We knew we were better than we had shown in the weeks following Daytona," says James Ince, Benson's crew chief since 2000.

"We got Johnny healthy and got things together in the pits all at the same time, and I think it showed on the track."

What's different for 2003

First off, no cracked bones, which is always a good thing.

Secondly, the question, "When are you finally going to win a damn race?" moves on to someone else for a change.

Thirdly, supersub Nadeau is now a permanent member of the team, taking over driving duties of what was the number 36 Pontiac from the departed Kenny Schrader. It's now the No. 01 U.S. Army machine.

Fourth -- and watch close to see if this is a good or bad thing -- Benson and Ince now take over the role of Pontiac's "A Team" after the Chevy defection of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Why he won't do better than 19th

There's a great scene in The Right Stuff when the Air Force P.R. guy starts explaining to his astronaut wannabes why they might want to be a little nicer to press. "You know what makes these birds go up? Not aerodynamics, boys. Funding -- that's what makes these birds go up."

MBV/MB2 Motorsports has one of the most solid no-nonsense management teams in racing. Benson and Ince have the know-how, chemistry and drive to become NASCAR Winston Cup champions. Valvoline is the first -- and so far only -- corporation to buy into a race team as partial owners.

All of that is great, but it is still a mid-level organization when it comes to horsepower in the accounting department, well behind Hendrick, Childress, DEI, Evernham, Yates and next-door neighbor Roush Racing.

"It's true. We don't have the massive amount of resources that those larger teams have," admits General Manager Jay Frye.

"It wasn't so long ago that we just wanted to makes races. Now we have proven that we know how to win races. The next step is to contend week in and week out. We're getting there."

Ryan McGee is the managing editor of which returns Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. local on Fox Sports Net and which returns on Feb. 16 at 10:30 a.m. ET on Fox Sports Net.

More Stories From Ryan McGee



NASCAR Videos

Larry’s Notebook: Is Jimmie Johnson Behind the Curve? Posted: Jul 15, 2014
Larry McReynolds weighs in on whether or not the No. 48 will be at a disadvantag...

Larry’s Notebook: Off-Week Blues Posted: Jul 15, 2014
Larry McReynolds weighs in on which teams will benefit the most from the week of...

Winner's Weekend: Brad Keselowski Unstoppable at Loudon Posted: Jul 15, 2014
The biggest issue the No. 2 team faced at Loudon was where to hide the champagne...

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Chase Authentics Danica Patrick Big Rig Tri-Blend T-Shirt - Charcoal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Danica_Patrick/browse/featuredproduct/974547/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_974000/ff_974547_xl.jpg&w=100 26.95 Chase Authentics Danica Patrick Big Rig Tri-Blend T-Shirt - Charcoal
    Kyle Busch One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Kyle_Busch/browse/featuredproduct/1011659/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1011000/ff_1011659_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Kyle Busch One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black
    Matt Kenseth One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Matt_Kenseth/browse/featuredproduct/1011661/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1011000/ff_1011661_xl.jpg&w=100 9.99 Matt Kenseth One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black
    Chase Authentics Carl Edwards 2013 Driver Schedule T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Carl_Edwards/browse/featuredproduct/1041164/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1041000/ff_1041164_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Chase Authentics Carl Edwards 2013 Driver Schedule T-Shirt - Ash