Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001
Benson not lacking confidence despite Cracker Barrel record
Although Johnny Benson's team had financial setbacks that forced it to race without sponsorship at times last season, on the track there was only one big bump in the road as he drove to a 13th-place finish in the Winston Cup standings.
Benson hopes to avoid a repeat performance this weekend in the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was the only race Benson missed last year when he was unable to make the field on owner points after rain washed out the second round of qualifying.
There was an upside, however. He spent race day away from the track -- a rarity among the Sunday warriors of NASCAR.
"I took my daughters out to lunch that day and to a fun park that afternoon," he said. "But I hope the only fun park they are going to get to go to this Sunday is Victory Lane."
Benson certainly isn't short of confidence after a 10th-place finish in Atlanta in November.
"Everyone is pretty enthused around the shop these days," Benson said. "This is the most optimistic I have ever been in my racing career without a doubt."
He has every right to feel that way despite being winless in 164 career starts. Benson has top-five finishes in each of the past two races, and is sixth in the series standings.
ACTING UP: Christian Fittipaldi, a driver with movie star looks and a movie star boss, has no thoughts of becoming an actor.
Fittipaldi, along with former Newman-Haas Racing teammate Michael Andretti, taped an appearance on the Disney Channel's The Jersey, which is being shown at 8 tonight.
The episode was filmed Oct. 25, shortly before his last race of the season in Fontana, Calif., "and I won, so I hope the show brings me the same luck at the first race of this season in Mexico since it airs right before the race," Fittipaldi said.
CART opens the 2001 season Sunday in Monterrey, Mexico.
"I definitely have no acting aspirations like my boss, Paul (Newman)," Fittipaldi said. "But being a part of a different world for the shoot was interesting. It was pretty confusing because the real name of the star of the show is Michael (Galeota) and the name of the kid that turned into Michael on the show was Christian (Copelin).
"They kept saying, 'Michael, come here,' or 'Christian, do that,' and none of us knew who they were talking to. I saw a tape of the show and I think it turned out well."
AOL WAITING: Richard Childress says he is looking for a driver to take part in a postponed Winston Cup program with America Online.
The No. 30 AOL car was scheduled to debut Sunday with rookie Kevin Harvick at the wheel. Instead, Harvick will be starting his third race in the No. 29 Goodwrench Chevrolet.
Harvick was signed to drive seven races this season and a full schedule in 2002 in the AOL car but was pressed into full-time service after Dale Earnhardt was killed in the Daytona 500.
WHAT: Cracker Barrel 500.
WHEN/WHERE/TV: Friday, qualifying, 3 p.m., Fox Sports Net; Sunday, race, 1 p.m., Ch. 13; Hampton, Ga.
2000 WINNER: Dale Earnhardt.
FAST FACTS: Jeff Gordon took the lead 20 laps from the end and drove away for an easy victory in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday for his first victory since September in Richmond. ... Bill Elliott, driving a Dodge this season, leads active drivers with four poles and five wins at Atlanta. ... Thirteen races have been won at the track from the pole. ... Earnhardt held off a determined effort by Bobby Labonte to win by less than 2 feet last year, earning the last of a record nine Atlanta victories.
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Sterling Marlin, 468; 2. Gordon, 433; 3. Michael Waltrip, 415; 4. Dale Jarrett, 411; 5. Steve Park, 401; 6. Johnny Benson, 394; 7. Elliott, 380; 8. Robert Pressley, 363; 9. Elliott Sadler, 347; 10. Tony Stewart, 347.
WHAT: Aaron's 312.
WHEN/WHERE/TV: Friday, qualifying; Saturday, race (12:30 p.m., FX); Hampton, Ga.
2000 WINNER: Mark Martin.
FAST FACTS: Gordon won the inaugural Atlanta BGN race in 1992. ... Martin, who retired from the Busch series at the end of last season, is the leader with three victories at Atlanta. ... Greg Biffle is the only driver to lead at least one lap in each race this season. ... Seven drivers have made their Busch debuts this season. ... Todd Bodine outraced Biffle on a late restart to win the Sam's Town 300 in Las Vegas last weekend for his second straight Busch series victory. Bodine's victory ended a string of five straight Las Vegas wins -- in both the Busch and Winston Cup series -- by Roush Racing drivers Jeff Burton and Martin. ... Martin overwhelmed the field to win last year. Rain interrupted the event for almost six hours, and Martin overcame late-race engine trouble for his second win in three starts.
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Kevin Harvick, 467; 1. Jeff Green, 467; 3. Biffle, 447; 4. Jason Keller, 445; 5. Bodine, 419; 6. Mike McLaughlin, 409; 7. Jimmie Johnson, 405; 8. Kenny Wallace, 393; 9. Rich Bickle, 379; 10. Chad Little, 371.
WHEN/WHERE/TV: Saturday, qualifying, 3:45 p.m.; Sunday, race (4 p.m., Ch. 28); Monterrey, Mexico
2000 WINNER: Gil de Ferran.
FAST FACTS: This is CART's first race in Mexico since 1981 in Mexico City. ... The site of the track was originally Mexico's first steel mill. It closed in 1983. ... de Ferran looks to join Rick Mears (1981-82), Bobby Rahal (1986-87) and Alex Zanardi (1997-98) as drivers to win consecutive titles. ... Zanardi is back in CART this season after a two-year absence.
2000 POINT STANDINGS: 1. de Ferran, 168; 2. Adrian Fernandez, 158; 3. Roberto Moreno, 147; 4. Kenny Brack, 135; 5. Paul Tracy, 134; 6. Jimmy Vasser, 131; 7. Helio Castroneves, 129; 8. Michael Andretti, 127; 9. Juan Montoya, 126; 10. Cristiano da Matta, 112.
UP NEXT: Chevy Silverado 150, March 17, Avondale, Ariz.
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Scott Riggs, 335; 2. Ricky Hendrick, 330; 3. Joe Ruttman, 328; 4. Randy Tolsma, 310; 5. Jack Sprague, 302; 6. Terry Cook, 289; 7. Ted Musgrave, 287; 8. Rick Crawford, 286; 9. Lance Norick, 284; 10. Coy Gibbs, 276.
UP NEXT: Malaysian Grand Prix, March 18, Kuala Lumpur.
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Michael Schumacher, 10; 2. David Coulthard, 6; 3. Rubens Barrichello, 4; 4. Nick Heidfeld, 3; 5. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, 2.
UP NEXT: Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 18, Gainesville.
POINT STANDINGS: Top Fuel -- 1. Darrell Russell, 205; 2. Doug Kalitta, 170; 3. Mike Dunn, 155; 4. Larry Dixon, 133; 5. Gary Scelzi, 108; 6. Tony Schumacher, 107; 7. Kenny Bernstein, 106; 8. Bobby Baldwin, 102; 9. Doug Herbert, 91; 10. David Grubnic, 87. Funny Car -- 1. Bruce Sarver, 208; 2. John Force, 150; 3. Ron Capps, 129; 4. Tony Pedregon, 126; 4. Chuck Etchells, 126; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 110; 7. Whit Bazemore, 108; 8. Gary Densham, 102; 9. Frank Pedregon, 90; 10. Scotty Cannon, 87. Pro Stock -- 1. Warren Johnson, 193; 2. Kurt Johnson, 171; 3. Darrell Alderman, 126; 4. Brad Jeter, 124; 5. Mike Edwards, 113; 6. Bruce Allen, 109; 7. Jim Yates, 107; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 106; 9. Mark Pawuk, 105; 10. Ron Krisher, 91; Pro Stock Truck -- 1. Randy Daniels, 118; 2. Greg Stanfield, 93; 3. Scott Perin, 76; 4. Jeff Gracia, 74; 5. Bob Panella, 57; 6. Brian Self, 54; 7. Todd Patterson, 53; 8. Michael Corvo, 51; 9. Don Smith, 35; 10. Mike Coughlin, 32, Joe Pigford 32, Bart Price 32, Mark Whisnant 32.
UP NEXT: Pennzoil Copper World 200, March 18, Avondale, Ariz.
2000 POINT STANDINGS: 1. Buddy Lazier, 290; 2. Scott Goodyear, 272; 3. Eddie Cheever, 257; 4. Eliseo Salazar, 210; 5. Mark Dismore, 202; 6. Donnie Beechler, 202; 7. Scott Sharp, 196; 8. Robbie Buhl, 190; 9. Al Unser Jr., 188; 10. Billy Boat 181.