RIR Memories Rough For Benson

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RICHMOND, Va. – The last time we saw Johnny Benson race at Richmond International Raceway, he looked a little puzzled. He looked like Michael Waltrip in the commercial where Waltrip realizes he’s at the wrong track.

In May, Benson probably didn’t realize he was at the wrong track. Heck, he probably didn’t realize he was at any track.

Benson crashed hard in the NASCAR Busch Series race at RIR in an accident that injured three ribs and forced him to miss three races and The Winston.

That was only the start of Benson’s troubles this season, as another crash, this one at Daytona in July, left him on the sidelines for two more races.

But he’s back at Richmond this weekend, and apparently he’s not gun-shy. He’s qualified ninth for Saturday night’s Monte Carlo 400 and was pretty quick in Happy Hour.

“I remember most of the time I was there last time, but not all of it,” Benson said. “I remember getting hit, and I remember going all the way up and hitting the wall. But it’s really weird to watch the video and see me getting out of the car. I don’t remember that, so there is a little bit that’s fuzzy. But I guess I wasn’t knocked out. They said I was moving right away, but I don’t remember some of that.”

He does, however, remember running well in both the Busch and Cup cars that weekend, so not being able to finish any better – or even start the Cup car – hurt as much as the injuries.

“There are weekends where things don’t go well and you get pretty frustrated,” Benson said. “Wrecking during one of those weekends might be a bit easier to swallow. But at Richmond in May we were the best in both garages.”

When he thinks about Richmond in May, he doesn’t think about broken ribs. He thinks about good cars.

“I look back at that weekend, and what I remember most is that we had a great race car on the Cup side and on the Busch side,” Benson said. “That’s what I think about. It was just unfortunate we had the accident, and I couldn’t race on Sunday. There isn’t much you can do about it so you don’t worry about it.”

That philosophical outlook is used by most drivers – who don’t want to focus on accidents. Drivers have to feel almost invincible when they get in a race car, so thinking about an accident isn’t the way to go fast.

So while the crash in May might enter Benson’s mind a time or two this weekend, it probably will vanish from his memory as quickly as it entered. And there’s no way he’ll think about when it comes time to crawl in his race car.

“If you were going to a track where you screwed up and had a bad wreck then you might think twice about going back,” Benson said. “That’s just human nature. But when somebody else does something to you at a track then you really don’t think about the track. I mean last time we were here at Richmond we were minding our own business and got wrecked. There’s not much you can do about that, and you certainly can’t think the track had any part of that.”

But Benson joked about being careful, just to make sure.

“Well, I’m not running the Busch race, for one thing,” Benson said. “Maybe I won’t even use any steps or anything this weekend, either, just to make sure. I’m looking forward to the race, no doubt. It was unfortunate last time. But running the Whelan Busch car was a benefit for us in the sense that it helped us with our Valvoline Pontiac here, and I think that is one of the reasons that we had a good car.

“We pretty much put this car back to where we had it in the spring – a couple little changes, just because you have to, and there are a couple little things that I think we got on that are a little better. Hopefully, it will help us run a little bit better (Saturday) night.”

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