Johnny Benson to Drive No. 46 Toyota Camry

by : Lauren Woods

The tenth race of the ongoing Nextel Cup Series is set to take place on the 5th May this year at the Richmond International Speedway. This year's race will be called the "Crown Royal Presents the Jim Stewart 400" after the winner of the essay writing contest sponsored by the Crown Royal.

As drivers, engineers and racing personalities gear up for the race, Johnny Benson is also taking preparation in his sixth start this year. Recently, the veteran driver talked about his relationship with present employer Wyler Racing.

Johnny Benson was recently named by the team to drive the no. 46 Toyota Camry at the next race of the season. Benson looked back on how he got the job. "The Wyler's and (Crew Chief) Tony Furr asked me to do some testing for them at the end of last year and we thought that test went pretty well," says Benson. "As this year got underway, they were talking about doing some more testing and called to see if I would do it. I said, "Yeah, I'd be glad." I thought it would be pretty cool to help them test and just to help them out. I like doing that type of stuff," he continued. After testing, the team apparently liked his performance which led to him being named as the team's starter. "We went to Richmond earlier this month and the test went very well. I was hoping that if they ever went racing I'd get an opportunity to drive. I told them that they didn't have any obligation for me to drive it, but that I would love to have the chance. This past week they called and said that we were going to race at Richmond and that I could drive, so I was pretty excited about it. It's a pretty cool deal," enthused Benson.

As far as his expectation for the upcoming race and his familiarity with the track, Benson appears to be ready for the race. "I think as a whole Richmond has been a great track for me. I love racing there. I love the type of track it is. I like how the racers approach that track knowing it's a two groove race track." Benson also pointed out his love for the track in his recent statement. "You can race anywhere you want," he says. "You don't have to beat and bang your way past somebody. It's just a great race track. And it's a Saturday night race which is great for the fans and you know the whole atmosphere aspect of it is good. It's a type of track that I like. It's a challenging track but it's also a finesse style race track. I think that falls within my suit. I've had a lot of great races there and some that we've run really well that don't have the finishes to prove that based off being caught up in something. But it's a place that I really enjoy and love to race at."

The next race will be held in relatively shorter tracks than other speedways. For Benson, this fact is considered as an advantage. "I like racing on all of the tracks that we go too. They all have their own challenges. But I think as most racers - because we grew up on short tracks - we always enjoy racing on them," says Benson. "We do so many intermediate tracks now that the short tracks are a little more few and far between; maybe not so much in the Truck Series, but in the Cup Series. So I think we all enjoy going back and running the short track races."

While Benson has had good races in Richmond and he admitted that the track is to his liking, how he performs in the actual race is evident on how he has tested his Camry at the speedway. To his credit, Benson looks set to have a good race after he has completed his test of the track with no sign of problems at all. "I think the communication that I had with Tony Furr at the test in Richmond was excellent," he said. "We unloaded for the test and were decent right off of the truck," he added. He also credited his team for the way the test has gone. "As the day went on, I was pretty impressed by Tony and all the guys that work at Wyler Racing. I was impressed when I worked with them at the Homestead test last year and then, of course, at Richmond too. They all work well together and communicate well. Our speeds were good and we were happy with our qualifying efforts and our speeds in race trim."

While testing good is a positive boost for the team, Benson knows that the actual race will be a different area. "It will be a different deal going back for the race, but I hope we can maintain the type of run that we had at the test," Benson said. "The opportunity sitting in front of us is a good opportunity to hopefully go there and run well," he concluded.

With Benson's driving experience, his familiarity with the track and his admission that the next track they will be racing on is to his liking, there is a positive chance that he will have a good race come May 5. Aside from that, he has a Toyota Camry to drive which is engineered to provide more boost than standard a Toyota Camry equipped with a system.