Johnny Benson and his General Mills Ford Taurus team will be looking for bigger and better things in 1999 after going through some growing pains in their inaugural season together. Benson, who will be in his second year with Roush Racing after a two-year stint with Bahari Racing, had a number of ups and downs as he finished 20th in the point standings last season.
The 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year got off to a rough start with his new team as a late-race accident in the final Gatorade Twin 125 knocked him out of the Daytona 500. He finished 30th in his Roush debut at Rockingham before rattling off five straight top-10 finishes to move all the way from 40th to 10th in the point standings. During that impressive stretch Benson placed a career-best fourth at Las Vegas and then had back-to-back fifth-place showings at Bristol and Texas. For the season, Benson had 10 top-10 outings, which nearly matched his total from the previous two years combined of 14.
Benson, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., got interested in racing while working for his dad at Benson Speed Equipment. He worked on race cars as a youngster and eventually got started running Late Model stock cars. Benson won the 1989 Berlin Raceway championship in that division before graduating to ASA where he won the 1990 rookie of the year award.
After taking the 1993 ASA point championship, he tried his luck in the Busch Grand National Division and made an immediate impact as he won at Dover in only his 29th career start and captured rookie of the year honors. Like his ASA career, Benson later captured the Busch Series championship as he posted 10 top-10 finishes, 12 top-fives, and two wins in 1995.
If history holds true to form, Benson's best days in NASCAR Winston Cup are still ahead of him as he enters his fourth season behind the wheel. Even though he's still in search of that first victory, he has already has a rookie of the year title and two poles to his credit. That first pole opened up a lot of eyes because it came at the 1996 Purolator 500 in Atlanta in only his fourth career NASCAR Winston Cup start. His other pole came one year later at Michigan.
Benson has finished among the top 20 in the final NASCAR Winston Cup standings twice in his first three seasons. Besides that 20th-place effort last year, Benson finished a career-best 11th in '97 and 21st in his rookie season of '96.