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Pennzoil Dodge Racing Report: Benson Marks Another Memorable Brickyard Performance

4 August 1997

Brickyard 400
August 2, 1997
Indianapolis, Ind.   

Pit Strategy, Hard Driving Give Benson Another Memorable Brickyard 

   Ricky Rudd won the 1997 Brickyard 400, but Pennzoil Pontiac driver 
Johnny Benson might have worn the biggest smile. Benson saw his 
fortunes go from near disaster in a third turn collision to a 
respectable 7th-place finish and a move to 12th-place in the 1997 
Winston Cup point standings.

   Benson knew he had a tough act to follow at the Indianapolis Motor 
Speedway. Last year, the 1996 Rookie of the Year came from mid-pack to 
lead  70 laps in the Brickyard 400 before finishing eighth. 

   It appeared the 34-year-old Michigan native had little chance of 
duplicating the impressive performance midway through Saturday's 1997 
edition of the 400-mile race. Benson ran consistent laps throughout 
the day, but from his 20th starting spot he hovered just outside the 
top ten most of the day. 

   Then Benson and his Bahari' teammates parlayed fuel strategy to 
perfection.  As other cars battled for track position, Bahari' Crew 
Chief Doug Hewitt called Benson into the pit on lap 117 so gas man 
Bill Tucker could squeeze just a few more gallons into the Pennzoil 

   The move put the second-year driver back in the pack in 29th but in 
a position to drive the rest of the race without a pitstop and 
possibly win the prestigious race. If it remained caution  free, 
nearly every car required another fuel stop.
   Benson's chances brightened as the laps dwindled, but a caution 
with 13 laps left seemed to eliminate chances of victory. Only Ricky 
Rudd and Benson remained on the track as all of the leaders made quick 
gas-only pit stops. Benson moved to third with about a dozen of the 
faster cars breathing on his back.

   "I'm just going to do my best and see what happens," Benson said to 
the crew over the car radio.

   Benson's best proved spectacular as he held off the charging cars 
and clung to third place. After another brief caution the race resumed 
with only three laps remaining. Benson continued to maintain his 
position until Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett dove under Benson in turn 
three. Martin might have clipped Jarrett before he slammed into the 
Pennzoil Pontiac sending Benson sliding through the turn and 
apparently into a race-ending crash.

   "Man, I had to do everything I could to save it. He hit us pretty 
good," Benson said after the race. "It will be pretty exciting when we 
look at this on the video."

   Benson's car swung wide in turn three nearly wrecking as a few cars 
managed to slip past. Benson regained control and drove the car to a 
seventh-place finish.

   "Well, we weren't as good here as we were last year, but we had a 
pretty good finish," Benson said after the race. "We probably have one 
of the top averages over the last two years here so I think we have 
something to be pretty proud of."

   The 7th-place finish moved Benson from 13th to 12th place in the 
1997 Winston Cup point standings. Benson is 50 points behind 
10th-place Bill Elliott.

   Benson and the Pennzoil Pontiac return to the track next weekend in 
the Bud at the Glen in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

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