Johnny Benson has known since Christmas that the kind of gift he planned to give his mother for Mother's Day on Sunday - but it may not be exactly what Judy Benson had in mind!

Benson, his wife Debbie, and two young daughters are returning to their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, this week, not just for a family reunion but for the Valvoline Pontiac regular's first appearance in a race car he has spent countless hours building by himself in a friend's garage.

Benson plans on racing Wednesday and Saturday night at Berlin Raceway in nearby Marne - a high-speed half-mile track where he and his father John Benson won track championships. Benson became part owner of the track last year.

"Our family is pretty excited," he said, "It will be kind of a nice Mother's Day weekend. My wife Debbie is going up, we are bringing the kids, and my mother and grandmother are up there. So everybody is going to be in the same place. I guess your could say this is my Mother's Day present.

"I think this is my hobby. I enjoy a lot of other things. I like taking the boat out with the kids. I like riding my motorcycle. But I love building race cars. It's something that relaxes me. Once this is done, maybe I'll finally get a little bit of time to go out on the boat with the kids."

It has taken a lot of effort for Benson's #10 late model car - sponsored by Berger Chevrolet and Valvoline - to make it to the track, and he finished the car only hours before he left for Richmond International Raceway on Thursday, before hurrying back on Saturday night after finishing sixth in the race so that he and a friend could load the car into a truck and begin the 13-hour drive to
Grand Rapids on Sunday morning.

More than 10,000 fans are expected to attend each race, and Benson plans to spend every off weekend this season racing his late model at Berlin.

"I grew up in racing and grew up building race cars. Now that I'm in Winston Cup, it's a little harder to work on cars because we have so many highly skilled guys working on these cars. They don't want you messing them up. They want us drivers to come by and do some things from time to time but, for the most part, I never get to work on the car. That's their job.

"This deal here is all mine. I get to build the car from the ground up, work on the car and race the car. This is something I don't get to do too much of, so I'm pretty excited. I started building this car around the Christmas holidays. I've been working as much as I can on it. I've been going from 8:30am to 11pm each night - but now it's finally done and I'm looking forward to racing it. I'm not sure I knew it would take this long but I think when they drop the green flag it will be worth it.

"This is a late model. I'm not sure it is the same type of late model that they have in the South, but it's a pretty radical car. There aren't as many rules with these cars. It's got totally different suspensions and a whole bunch of other things. They look pretty cool in my eyes. I don't know how fast it will go, though. At Berlin, these cars will get over 100mph, so we are moving. It's a half-mile track and we get around there in less than 16 seconds. It will go faster than a Winston Cup car on that type of racetrack. We don't have as many rule restrictions as the Cup cars.

"I'd like flowers, but I'd rather have a win instead," smiled Judy Benson, when asked whether she agreed with her son's choice of present, "This is the best weekend we could imagine, other than him winning at Charlotte the following weekend."