NEWS OF NOTE * Benson's back... Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac) is set to resume racing this week. He has been sidelined since a July 6 accident in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, when he suffered three broken...
NEWS OF NOTE
* Benson's back... Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac) is set to resume racing this week. He has been sidelined since a July 6 accident in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, when he suffered three broken ribs. Mike Wallace substituted for Benson at Chicago and Jerry Nadeau subbed at New Hampshire. Sunday will mark the second time this season that Pocono will serve as a" comeback" track for Benson. He missed three races after a May 3 accident in a NASCAR Busch Series race at Richmond where he suffered two cracked ribs and one broken rib; Benson made his return at Pocono on June 9, finishing 20th.
* Nadeau in No. 44... Benson's return caused a domino effect. Nadeau was out of a ride, albeit briefly. Petty Enterprises' No. 44 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge team snatched him up, signing him to drive for the remainder of the season. Nadeau replaces Steve Grissom, who earlier this year replaced Buckshot Jones. Nadeau also drove the No. 44 at the Infineon Raceway road-course event June 23, challenging for the win until a late mechanical problem.
* Consistency paying off, as always...This season is another example of how important consistency is in the NASCAR Winston Cup point system. Points leader Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) leads the series (drivers who have competed in every race) in average finish - 10.89. Marlin, whose reputation formerly was based almost exclusively on restrictor-plate success, has two victories this season. Overall, he has six top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes.
* Etc.... Competitive depth continues to be the rule in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. There have been 13 different race winners in this season's 19 races, including nine different winners in the last nine races.... Pocono pole parity is even more extreme. There have been 11 different Bud Pole winners in the 11 Pennsylvania 500s since 1991.... The top four drivers in the current NASCAR Winston Cup points - Marlin (2,604), Martin (2,549), Jimmie Johnson (2,512) and Rusty Wallace (2,477) - have mathematical chances of leaving Pocono as the points leader.... The Winston Cup Leader Bonus has mushroomed to $150,000 for this week's race. It can be collected if the race winner also is the series points leader. The bonus increases in $10,000 increments each week if it's not collected.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* You've heard this line before, but... this would appear to be a prime week for Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) to finally get his first victory of the season. Gordon finished first or second in seven of the eight NASCAR Winston Cup races at Pocono between July 1995 and June 1999 and seventh in the other. In the six races since, he has finished eighth or better five times and 32nd in the other - his only finish outside the top-10 in the 14-race span. Gordon has three career Pocono victories.
* Mark Martin's challenge for his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship will continue this week in friendly confines. Martin (No. 6 Viagra/Pfizer Ford), second in the points race, has, like Gordon, posted 13 top-10 finishes in his last 14 races at Pocono.
* In his seven previous starts at Pocono, Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac) has only one finish outside the top 10.
WHAT'S THE WORD?
* "A good run at Pocono shows your flat-track program is pretty good. But at the same time, it's no guarantee that you're going to run well at the Brickyard." - Tony Stewart, on using the summer Pocono race as a gauge for the Brickyard 400, set for next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
* "I'm not rushing. I'm ready to get back in the race car. You are always going to have people questioning whether it is too early or not. But, health-wise I'm ahead of where I was last time when I got back in the car. I don't think my health will be an issue this weekend. We aren't even going to have a back-up driver. - Johnny Benson, on his optimism about returning to competition after a two-race layoff caused by injuries.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
It's safe to say that Pocono Raceway hit the big time quickly. Starting with the track's 1974 inclusion into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, the first six races at the track were won by past or future NASCAR Winston Cup champions - Richard Petty in' 74 and' 76; David Pearson in' 75, Benny Parsons in' 77, Darrell Waltrip in' 78 and Cale Yarborough in' 79.
TV: TNT (beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET).
Weekend schedule: Friday-Practice, 11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:05. Saturday-Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m. and 11:15-Noon. Sunday-11 a.m., Drivers/crew chiefs meeting; 12:30 p.m., Driver intros; 1 p.m., Pennsylvania 500.