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He raced in the American Speed Association, earning its Rookie of the Year award in 1990.
Benson was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was late model champion at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan before joining the American Speed Association (ASA) in 1990. During Benson's rookie season in the ASA he captured one pole position, led 174 laps and scored eight top 10 finishes to blitz the competition for the ASA's Pat Schauer Rookie of the Year award. In 1991 Benson compiled 13 top 10s including four second-place finishes. Benson ranked fourth in the ASA AC-Delco Challenge Series in 1991. Benson later went on to win the 1993 ASA championship. During his time in the ASA series he drove the No. 21 Valvoline Chevrolet for Throop Motorsports.
In 1993, Benson made his Busch Series debut at Michigan International Speedway, driving the No. 41 Delco Remy Chevrolet for Ernie Irvan. He started 20th, but finished 40th after an early crash when he had flipped in the race. He ran three more races that season in the No. 74 Staff America Chevy for BACE Motorsports, qualifying third at Hickory Motor Speedway. His best finish was an eighteenth at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Benson was hired to drive full-time for BACE in 1994. He won his first career race at the SplitFire 200 and finished sixth in points, winning Rookie of the Year honors. The following season, Benson won early in the season at Atlanta and Hickory and had nineteen top-tens, winning the championship. He also began running in the Truck Series in the No. 18 Performance Friction Chevrolet Silverado for Kurt Roehrig. In his first season, his best finish was a second at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The following season, he won the pole at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
In 1996, he moved up to the Winston Cup Series, a series Benson's father John Benson Sr. competed in for one race back in 1973. He joined the No. 30 Pennzoil-sponsored team owned by Bahari Racing. He failed to qualify for one race at the Food City 500, but won the 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year title. He won one pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In August, he dominated the Brickyard 400 before a problem on the last pit stop ended his chances for victory. He ended the season with seven Top 10's and was 21st in points. He was invited to the 1996 International Race of Champions as the reigning Busch Series champion, and finished third in the final points, finishing in the Top 10 in all four races.
In 1997, Benson had eight Top 10's, but did not finish in the Top 5 once. He won his second career pole at Michigan and finished outside of the Top 10 by one point to Ken Schrader. At the end of the season, he announced he would be joining Roush Racing to run the brand-new No. 26 General Mills/Cheerios-sponsored Ford Taurus.
He missed the season opening Daytona 500, then finished 30th at the following race. He then had a streak of no finishes worse than ninth over the next five races and rose as high as tenth in points, before he finished 38th and 41st in the next two races. For the rest of the season, his best finish was ninth and he qualified no higher than second. He finished 20th in points. Benson had numerous crew chiefs in 1999. He had two Top 10 finishes and finished 28th in the final standings. After a long negotiation, he was able to buy out his contract and announced he would leave Roush.
Benson began his 2001 season with an engine failure that relegated him to 28th place, a few laps after the race's "Big One" involving 19 cars took place. He had Top 10 finishes in each of the next four races, including a fourth-place run in the UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400, which allowed him to be a career high second in the points (tied with Sterling Marlin) following the spring Darlington Race. He finished third at Texas and Indianapolis. He did not win a points race, although he did win the non-points Winston Open at Charlotte from the pole after leader Ryan Newman in the No. 02 Alltel-sponsored Ford suffered a blown engine late in the race. Benson finished eleventh in the final points standings in 2001.
Benson started 2002 with a 10th-place finish in the Daytona 500 despite a crash early in the race. In May, Benson agreed to race in the Richmond Busch Series race for Marsh Racing in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering-sponsored Chevrolet. Benson was involved in a wreck in the early stages of the races and ended up with broken ribs and he missed three Cup races. At the Pepsi 400 in Daytona, he started sixth, and on the eighth lap he got together with Michael Waltrip. Benson ended up rebreaking his ribs which put him out of action for two more races. At Loudon, Benson started second, led 53 of 207 laps, and finished fourth. Benson tied a career-best second-place finish at the Martinsville Speedway, which he got twice in 2000. On November 3, he started 26th in the 43 car field at the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at Rockingham. With 50 laps to go, he was running in fifth, and with 28 laps left he passed Mark Martin (who coincidentally had Valvoline as his sponsor for many years) for the lead. In the last 10 laps, other drivers were running out of gas, including his teammate Ken Schrader. However, Benson held off Martin by 0.26 seconds to win the race.
2004 started off with Benson signing on with Phoenix Racing to run the full 2004 Busch Series schedule. Benson won his first and only career Busch pole at Rockingham, but a rules violation relegated him to last place when the green flag dropped for the race. He was poised to win at Bristol in the spring until Benson was caught up in a late race incident between Kevin Harvick and David Stremme. Benson was also involved in a crash between the top 4 drivers at Nashville while racing for the win, and parted ways with Phoenix before the Richmond race. He also drove four races in Phoenix's No. 09 Cup ride, his best finish 27th at the Daytona 500.
Over the next few months Benson ran one Busch race for Matt Kenseth and Robbie and John Reiser. In August he was offered a ride in the Bill Davis Racing No. 23 truck in the Craftsman Truck Series, which was previously driven by Shelby Howard before he was released from the team. Benson had eight Top 10 finishes in thirteen races, finishing 25th in the 2004 series' points standings. Benson had ten Top 10 finishes in 25 races, and was 10th in the 2005 points standings. He ran four Busch races, one for FitzBradshaw Racing, and another for Smith Bros. Racing, finishing 18th at Nashville. He also had three Cup starts, two of them in the No. 00 Sara Lee Chevy for Michael Waltrip, and another at Atlanta in the No. 23 Dodge Intrepid for Bill Davis, finishing 28th.
For the 2007 season, Benson continued to drive in the No. 23 truck for Bill Davis Racing. He finished the season in third place with four wins: the Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200 at Milwaukee Mile, the O'Reilly 200 presented by Valvoline Maxlife at Bristol, the Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway, and the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Benson was named the series' Most Popular Driver for the second year in row, becoming the first driver to repeat as award recipient. Benson also returned to NEXTEL Cup racing by driving the Wyler Racing No. 46 Toyota Camry in the 2007 Crown Royal Presents The Jim Stewart 400. He also returned to the Busch racing by driving the Phoenix Racing No. 1 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS in the 2007 AT&T 250. Bill Davis also had Benson pull "double duty", driving the No. 23 truck and the No. 36 Toyota Camry in the Cup Series on the same weekend; he did so at the final two races of the year (Phoenix and Homestead-Miami).
Benson drove the No. 23 truck in the 2008 Craftsman Truck Series, winning the series championship in the last race of the season. With the title, he became the second driver to win both the Busch Grand National Series and Craftsman Truck Series championships (Greg Biffle accomplished this in 2002). In addition, to date he joined a list of only 6 drivers to ever win at least one championship in more than one of the three main title series (Bobby Labonte, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch are the others, and they have won championships in the second tier and Cup Series.) His first win of the season came at the Camping World RV Sales 200 at the Milwaukee Mile, the third consecutive race that Benson has won as Milwaukee Mile. His second, third, and fourth wins came at the Built Ford Tough 225 at Kentucky Speedway, the Power Stroke Diesel 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park, and the Toyota Tundra 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. With this series of wins, he became the fifth driver in the Craftsman Truck Series to win three races in a row. His fifth win of the year came at the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway. Benson was named the series' Most Popular Driver for the third year in row.
Also in 2008, after a deal for Jacques Villeneuve to drive the Bill Davis Racing No. 27 Toyota Camry fell through, it was announced that Benson and Mike Skinner would share driving duties for the No. 27. Benson failed to qualify in his first appearance in 2008 at the Kobalt Tools 500, which is also Benson's last attempt to run a Sprint Cup series race to date.
On November 6, 2008, Benson announced that he would not be returning to Bill Davis Racing after the 2008 season. On December 8, 2008, Benson announced that he would be joining the Red Horse Racing team to drive the No. 1 Toyota Tundra in the 2009 season. Benson's crew chief from the 2008 season, Trip Bruce, also joined the No. 1 team. On June 8, 2009, it was announced that Red Horse Racing was having to suspend the No. 1 due to a lack of sponsorship after competing in eight races with four top 10 finishes.
On June 13, 2009 Benson was burned in a fiery crash in an ISMA Supermodifieds race at Berlin Raceway. He was transported to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital with where he was hospitalized suffering from a broken collarbone, separated shoulder, 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 Malsam. Benson drove for Team Gill Racing in the season opener at Daytona finishing 8th. He then drove for Billy Ballew Motorsports at Martinsville, Kansas, and Dover finishing in the top 10 in all 3 races including a pair of 5th-place finishes at Martinsville and Kansas. Benson's only race for Kyle Busch Motorsports came at Texas where he finished 10th. This was his final race in NASCAR.
Turn One Racing announced in 2011 that they intended to field a truck for Benson in 2012, but the deal fell through due to sponsorship issues.
Currently, Johnny Benson Jr. is 57 years old. Johnny Benson Jr. will celebrate 58th birthday on Sunday, June 27, 2021.
Find out about Johnny Benson Jr. birthday activities in timeline view here.