Johnny Benson was born on June 27th 1963 in Grand Rapids Michigan. His parents were John and Judy Benson. In 1982 Johnny jump started his racing career by racing local dirt cars in Michigan. Soon Benson would join Late Models, and capture his first championship in any racing series! But this was just a sign of good things to come!
After competing in the late model series…Benson moved to ASA which is the American Speed Association. In Benson’s rookie year in the ASA series he captured 1 pole position and led 174 laps. He also got 8 top 10 finishes and won rookie of the year! Benson’s second year in the ASA series he grabbed 13 top 10 finishes and 4 second place finishes…but still couldn’t find his way to victory lane, he did finish 4th in points though. But finally his 4th year in the ASA series he captured his first big time championship! During his time in the ASA series he drove the #21 Valvoline Chevrolet for Throop Motorsports.
Benson made his first Busch/Nationwide series start at Michigan in 1993, the year he won the ASA championship. He drove the #41 Delco Remy Chevrolet for Ernie Irvin Motorsports. He started a solid 20th position but at the end of the day he finished 40th after an early crash. He ran three more Busch/Nationwide series race in 1993 in the #74 Staff America Chevy for BACE Motorsports. In the #74 car he qualified and impressive 3rd at Hickory Motor Speedway but didn’t even finish inside the top 20. His best finish of the 1993 season was 18th, at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In 1994 he was hired full time to drive the #74 car for BACE Motorsports. The same year (1994) he finished 6th in points, won rookie of the year and captured his first win at the Split Fire 200. The following season of 1995 Benson got his 2nd win early in the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway and soon his 3rd win at Hickory Motor Speedway. In 1995 he had nineteen top 10′s and won the championship for the #74 team!! He also ventured out a little in the 1995 season and started driving the #18 Performance Friction Chevy for Kurt Roehig. In his first season in the trucks (1995) his best finish was 2nd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The following season (1996) he won his first pole at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
In 1996 he jumped to the Winston/Sprint Cup series! He joined the #30 Pennzoil team owned by Bahari’s Racing. He only failed to qualify for one race, which was the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. But he did win rookie of the year and won one pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had dominated the Brickyard 400 and looked like he would win it…till a late pit stop he had problems which cost him the win. He ended the season with 7 top 10′s and finished 21st in points.
In 1997 Benson got back to work in the Winston/Sprint Cup series…but only had 9 top 10′s but no top fives or wins. Although he did win his second Career pole at Michigan International Speedway. He finished 11th in points…Ken Schrader finished 10th in points, only 1 point ahead of Benson. At the end of the 1997 season he announced he would move to Roush Fenway Racing! He would drive the brand new #26 General Mills Ford for Fenway Racing.
In 1998 when Benson was with Roush Fenway Racing…he missed the season opener at Daytona, then finished 30th the following race. He then had a streak of no finishes worst then 9th for the next five races, and rose as high as 10th in points. His momentum was quickly stopped by finishes of 38th and 41st in the next two races. For the rest of the year his best finish was 9th and best qualifying effort was 2nd. He finished 21st in points in 1998.In 1999 he continued with Roush Racing but switched between multiple crew chiefs and had only 2 top 10 finishes and finished a very disappointing 28th in points. After a long process he was able to buy out of his contract with Fenway Racing.
At the start of the 2000 season Benson had no sponsor and would drive the #10 car for Tyler Jet Motorsports. The team showed up to Daytona with a white clear not sponsored Pontiac. But Lycos.com signed a contract to be on the car for the entire season, on the Daytona 500 morning!! Benson gambled on pit strategy and found himself leading on a late restart but Dale Jarrett wasn’t having any of it and bumped him up the track…Jarrett took the win and Benson found himself outside of the top 10 and finished 12th. Benson grabbed his first top 5 of his Winston/Sprint Cup career in the third race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 4 weeks after Las Vegas Benson finished 3rd…his 2nd career top five! At the Daytona race later in the year Tyler Jet Motorsports showed up with a white car again…why was Lycos.com off the car? Reports say they didn’t pay the amount they were suppose to. The #10 car went sponsor less for the next 4 races until Aarons came aboard right before the team shut down for good. The team was sold to MB2 Motorsports…In August Valvoline said it would sponsor the car and would become part owners of the team. Benson finished 13th in points after a very crazy season. He also grabbed 2 more top fives, at Texas and Indianapolis in the 2000 season.
In 2002 Benson started out with a 10th place finish in Daytona despite a crash early in the race. Later in the year Benson agreed tot race the Busch/Nationwide race at Richmond for Marsh Racing in the #31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet. Benson was involved in a wreck and broke his ribs…and would miss 3 Winston/Sprint Cup races. In his return at the Pepsi 400 in Daytona Michael Waltrip and Benson got together, wrecked and Benson re broke his ribs sitting him out for 2 more cup races. At Loudon in his return he finished 4th. Benson had a career best finish of 2nd at Martinsville the same 2002 season. On November 3rd Benson started 26th in the 43 car field and with 50 laps to go he was running 5th. With 28 laps to go he passed Mark Martin for the lead. In the last 10 laps many cars were running out of fuel including his teammate Ken Schrader, but he held off Mark Martin by 0.26 second to win his first career NASCAR Sprint/Winston Cup race!! In 2003 Benson had a disappointing season… he finished 24th in points. Valvoline decide to release Benson and pick up driver Scott Riggs after the year was over.
In 2004 Benson signed a contract with Phoenix Racing to run the full Busch/Nationwide Series season. Benson won his first career pole at Rockingham in 2004. Benson was in position to win many races but got caught up in late race incidents that cost him the win. He left Phoenix racing before the Richmond race of the 2004 season. In August he was offered a contract to driver #23 truck in the Craftsman Truck Series for Bill Davis Racing. In just 13 races he captured 8 top 10 finishes in the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series season. In 2005 he continued racing for Bill Davis and end up with 25 top 10 finishes but no wins and finished 10th in points. He had 3 cup starts the same season (2005) and finished a best 28th for the #00 team of Michael Waltrip Racing.
In 2006 he won his first Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway. With the win he grabbed a win in all of NASCAR’S top 3 series! Then he followed up the Michigan win with a win the next week at Milwaukee Mile. His 3rd win came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and his fourth win came at Nashville and came away with his 5th win of the year at Phoenix International Speedway. Even though he captured 5 wins, he was only able to finish 2nd in the points. In 2007 he continued racing for Bill Davis Racing in the Truck series and finished 3rd in points with four wins! Benson was named most popular driver for the 2nd year in a row! In 2008 Benson finally won the Truck series championship for Bill Davis Racing!! He became just the second driver to win both the Nationwide/Busch and Truck series championship! He had 5 wins in the year and won most popular driver of the year for the 3rd year in a row! Benson announced after the 2008 season he would not return to Bill Davis Racing!
In 2009 Benson was burned in a fire crash at a Super modified Race at Berlin Raceway. He was transported to a hospital and suffered a broken collar bone and separated shoulder as well as three broken ribs, bruised lungs, a fractured wrist and third-degree burns on one elbow. After undergoing two surgeries for the burns and a separated shoulder, Benson fully recovered!! For the 2010 season, Kyle Busch Motorsports intended to field a truck for Benson, but did not to secure the necessary sponsorship. Benson served as a mentor to Kyle Busch Motorsports’ drivers Brian Ickler and Tayler Malsm. On October 2, 2010 Johnny Benson won the Racing Against Breast Cancer 100 lap event at the famed “Cement Palace” Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Massachusetts.
Benson is now 49 years old and after his scary crash he hasn’t been very “jumpy” about getting in a race car. But I can almost guarantee if Benson got a shot he would climb back in a car no matter what!!