Long Pond: Johnny Benson - NASCAR spotlight

Benson to make return at Pocono 500 following three-race absence. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 4, 2002)-- Johnny Benson, who has been sidelined since sustaining rib injuries from a May 3 accident, is set to return to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series...

Benson to make return at Pocono 500 following three-race absence.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 4, 2002)-- Johnny Benson, who has been sidelined since sustaining rib injuries from a May 3 accident, is set to return to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series beginning with this weekend's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Benson has missed the past three races-- Richmond, Charlotte and Dover-- due to a broken rib and two additional cracked ones as a result of an accident in the NASCAR Busch Series race at Richmond International Raceway.

Benson will be making his first competitive appearance in the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac since April 28, when he finished 15th at California Speedway after qualifying 11th.

"I'm excited to come back," Benson said." Three weeks is a little too long just to sit and watch. The recovery has been tough because not only have I missed racing, but I haven't been able to work out a lot I'm sure because of the ribs. They (ribs) are going to probably make Pocono a little bit tiring, but I don't think it will be that bad. Pocono is a good track to go to. You get a little bit of time to rest on the straightaways so I think we will be in good shape."

Benson, however, will get an opportunity to get behind the wheel prior to the Pocono 500. He was scheduled to run a test session today on the road course of Virginia International Raceway.

"The reason we are going to VIR is to test the road course car for Sears Point not to test me," Benson said." We've had this test on the schedule for awhile and decided not to take it off. Sure, it will be good exercise for me.

"I'll need to see what areas I need to work on regarding the seat and stuff like that. I don't foresee running VIR to be too big of a problem. It will be demanding to start with, but that's okay."

In his absence, Joe Nemechek and Jerry Nadeau filled the vacancy. Nemechek stepped in at Richmond and finished 12th while Nadeau handled the driving duties at Charlotte and Dover where he finished 28th and 27th, respectively.

In Benson's 10 starts, he has registered three top-15 finishes, including a season-best 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500. He has fared better on the qualifying side with four top-10 starts, including a season-best third at Rockingham.

He is hopeful of a strong return, especially since he had an impressive outing in his last appearance at Pocono's 2.5-mile layout. In last season's Pennsylvania 500 in late July, Benson started ninth, led eight laps and finished fifth.

"I don't know if I will try any harder at Pocono," Benson said."You always run as hard as you can and this weekend at Pocono will be no different."

Benson has been recovering from his injuries through physical therapy, including water aerobics and stretching exercises. Despite the injuries, Benson attended the Charlotte and Dover events in an effort to assist crew chief James Ince and Nadeau. It proved to be a learning experience for him.

"I learned some things. And it was good to get a different perspective on the race," Benson said."I got a better idea of how the pit stops go and things like that. I have never stood on that side of the pit wall and that was interesting. I'd still rather be on the other side."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Joe Nemechek , Jerry Nadeau , Johnny Benson