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Pennzoil Pontiac Race Report: Benson Misses Top 10 by 1 Point

17 November 1997

Pennzoil Race Report
Napa 500
Nov. 16,1997
Atlanta Motor Speedway

Benson's 10th-Place Leaves Him A Single Point Out of Top-10 in Point 

After ten months of week in and week out travel all over America, 
more than 32 races, more than 150 pitstops, thousands of laps, plus 
tens of thousands of man hours working on the cars, a single point 
turned out to be all that kept Pennzoil Pontiac driver Johnny Benson 
from climbing into the top ten of 1997 Winston Cup point standings. 

Bobby Labonte won the race for the second consecutive year -- the 
first time at Atlanta since Richard Petty in 1970 and 1971. Jeff 
Gordon clinched the 1997 championship on Sunday. It was Gordon's 
second title and inches him closer to Petty and Dale Earnhardt who 
each have seven trophies.

Benson's charge to ninth-place near the end of Sunday's 
season-ending race at Atlanta Motor Speedway appeared to put him on 
the cusp of an accomplishment few have earned so early in their 
careers, but a next-to-the-last lap pass by Ward Burton moved Benson 
to tenth. More importantly the pass cost Benson 4 points thus making 
Kenny Schrader's 20th-place finish good enough to garner the 10th spot 
and ensure a podium appearance at the New York City awards banquet 
next month.

Schrader ended the season with 3,576 points while Benson tallied 
3,575 points. Benson trailed Schrader by 32 points before the race.

"As I said before the race if we finished tenth today we would have 
had a good season," Benson said. "If we finished 11th or 12th we would 
have also had a good season. Sure the one point difference is 
frustrating but this is the best finish ever for Bahari' and Pennzoil 
and nobody has any reason to hang their head."

Benson started Sunday's race in 12th place and stayed in the top-15 
throughout the day. Crew Chief Doug Hewitt pitted the Pennzoil Pontiac 
every 40 laps because the high speeds on the newly configured track 
took a dramatic toll on right rear tires  worn down to the cords after 
each segment.

Going into the race, Benson trailed Ted Musgrave and Schrader, but 
tied with Jeremy Mayfield. Benson outran that trio on Sunday with 
Musgrave finishing 31st, Mayfield 19th and Schrader 20th. However 
Schrader needed to finish one position worse or Benson one position 
better for Benson to move into the top 10 in points..

The Atlanta race was the final with Bahari' Racing for both Benson 
and Pennzoil. Benson joins Roush Racing next season and Pennzoil moves 
to Dale Earnhardt Inc., and driver Steve Park. Gumout takes over as 
the Bahari' sponsor with driver Derrike Cope.

"We are all proud of this team and Johnny's performance this year," 
said car-owner Chuck Rider. "We wish him well. We feel like we 
accomplished a lot this year and look forward to next year with 

1997 Final Point Standings

1.Jeff Gordon              4710
2.Dale Jarrett             4696
3.Mark Martin              4681
4.Jeff Burton              4285
5.Dale Earnhardt           4216
6.Terry Labonte            4177
7.Bobby Labonte            4101
8.Bill Elliott             3836
9.Rusty Wallace            3598
10.Ken Schrader            3576
11.Johnny Benson           3575
12.Ted Musgrave            3556
13.Jeremy Mayfield         3547
14.Ernie Irvan             3534
15.Kyle Petty              3455
16.Bobby Hamilton          3450
17.Ricky Rudd              3330
18.Michael Waltrip         3173
19.Ricky Craven            3108
20.Jimmy Spencer           3079

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