Originally created 02/24/02

Schrader-Benson team ready to challenge



ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - According to Ken Schrader, the business of racing, with all of its technicalities and intricacies, really isn't all that difficult.

"You go there Friday; you want to sit on the pole," he said. "You get up Sunday; you want to win the race. That's just real simple what you want to do. If you don't get it done, then you've got next week to try it."

Schrader has been coming back to try again the following week for years. His last pole came in 1999; his last victory all the way back in 1991.

And he's back for more at today's Subway 400 (12:30 p.m., Fox) at the North Carolina Speedway. But unlike so many starts of the past, he comes to the punishing 1.017-mile raceway with a real chance to prove racing's most fundamental principle: the first one across the finish line wins.

Not only is Schrader's Pontiac fast, it's rebuilt to resemble the Pontiac of his teammate, Johnny Benson. The MB2 racing team must have followed the recipe to perfection since Schrader was second-fastest in time trials and Benson was third.

Today they will tackle one of the toughest racetracks on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series as a tag-team.

Benson finished sixth and third in the two stops at the North Carolina Speedway a year ago and he added that knowledge with things learned a month ago in a private test session to refine both team's approach.

"I like this place," Benson said. "I've always liked Rockingham. It's a slip-'n-slide type racetrack. You've got to finesse it a little bit and we've been able to get our Pontiac to really handle there the last few times.

"You can hustle the car, but you don't want to be sliding the car sideways coming off the corners or you'll eat the tires up pretty quick. You've just got to be smooth. I think if you stay smooth, you can still run hard. You've just got to keep the car underneath you as opposed to dirt-tracking it off the corners or something like that."

Benson best understands Schrader's approach of trying until you get it right. He is winless in 198 career starts.

Schrader and Benson became teammates midway into the 2000 season, but they didn't start to incorporate each other's success into their cars until July of last year. During the off-season, most of Schrader's cars were disassembled and rebuilt to match Benson's. That's why when one of them is fast, so is the other.

"Over the second half of last year and this winter is when we started to get stuff a lot more alike. Now, it's very, very similar," Schrader said. "The way Johnny's team ran all last year _ we didn't want to build their stuff like mine. We knew that, so we started building my stuff like theirs'. We've started doing everything together."

Ricky Craven will start on the pole. His Tide Ford turned a fast lap of 156.008 mph in Friday's time trials.

Schrader was second at 154.696 mph while Benson was third at 154.631.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.



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