Bristol Race Can't Start Without Scorer Before NASCAR allows Johnny Benson's ...
Bristol Race Can't Start Without Scorer
Before NASCAR allows Johnny Benson's #10 Valvoline Pontiac to fire its engine Sunday afternoons it checks to make sure someone is sitting in the right place.
But it isn't Benson they check on. It's the team's scorer Terry Lane.
If she isn't in her seat then the Valvoline Pontiac isn't allowed to leave pit road and race. That's how important NASCAR takes the team scorer's position.
A position race fans and media know little about.
Terry Lane is in her third year scoring for Benson's team and has picked up the job quickly. The mother of two spends her week at the Valvoline race shop overseeing the complicated travel plans involved in a 36-race schedule. On Sunday mornings she gets up early and flies with the race day crewmembers to the track to score the race.
This weekend Lane and Benson face one of their most difficult races of the year. Benson must drive in excess of 120 mph on the half-mile high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway while Lane must score the Valvoline car as it turns a lap about every 16 seconds 500 times.
Neither can afford to let their concentration slip and both are guaranteed a heck of a headache after the checkered flag flies at Bristol.
Valvoline Scorer Terry Lane On Scoring & Bristol:
"Being a scorer makes you feel part of the team. If I'm not in my scorer's seat our car doesn't start the race. I joke with our team that the scorer is just as important as the driver. If Johnny isn't sitting in the car and I'm not sitting in my seat they can't start without us.
"We usually sit in the scoring stand on the front stretch. A scorer's job is to watch for her car to come around the track and push a button when it crosses the start/finish line then write down the time displayed on a second clock in front of us. We do that every single lap. It's easy for the most part, but you have to keep your concentration. You can't even begin to daydream or give in to any distraction.
"Road courses and big tracks like Daytona and Talladega are the easiest but Bristol is the hardest place for a scorer. There aren't too many tracks that compare to that place. The cars come by about every 16 seconds. By the time you look at the clock and write down what you have to write down your car is right in front of you again. Do that for three plus hours and you walk out of the there with a headache.
"NASCAR doesn't have people looking over your shoulder but they have people there to help you. If you happen to miss a lap, a computer is there to tell you that you missed the lap. They'll tap you on the shoulder if they find you have made a mistake. Messing up would be embarrassing but a scorer's worst nightmare is your car not being in the race. When that happens you don't even get to go to the track. That's the most depressing feeling in the world.
"You get into scoring just like any other job. It pays to know someone. I had always wanted to be involved with a race team and just kept going to the track letting people know that I was out there looking for a job. I did the travel for the #10 team but scoring is what I always wanted to do in racing. Doing hotels, rental cars, and airplane reservations during the week is work but being a scorer on Sunday is fun. If your team does well you feel great. If it doesn't then you feel just as bad as they do. Sure you get excited in the scorer's stand. Sometimes you cheer. Sometimes we will look at each other if our cars are racing each other on the track or if something happens between them. It's all good-natured joking --most of the time.
"Scorers are a backup to the transponders they put on each car. If something happens to the transponders in the cars then they use us. I don't think we will ever get to a day when they will do away with scorers. Computers can always go down or something else could go wrong. I think we will always use humans as backups.
Johnny Benson On Scorer, Bristol:
"I know the driver's have to pay attention doing what they do but I'm not sure I could sit there like the scorer's do writing down lap times every lap and paying attention. I think I would mess it up. I'd watch the racing and forget about my car.
"Bristol is tough on drivers as well. It's so fast and such a hard to place to pass. Everybody wants to run the bottom of the track so you fight for that spot all the time. I like racing there better than practice and qualifying. Once you get a rhythm going you can pass but it's hard.
"I don't think you have to be in any better physical shape. The biggest elements you battle at Bristol are heat and carbon monoxide. You have a lot of exhaust in the car and a lot of times if you get too much of that and with the track being so rough you will have a headache for a day or two after the race.
"I don't get dizzy or anything like that at Bristol. The first time you go out on the track you don't get dizzy but it takes you a while to get used to the speed and the centrifugal force of the track. It takes about two or three laps to get your bearings. You get out of the car, walk around and then you are good to go for the weekend. It's that first one or two laps that take some getting used to."
Big Brothers Big Sisters Of America:
Benson is racing this week for the The Bridge - Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters Of America. Each week Valvoline donates money to the national Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America organization as well as an individual local chapter based on Benson's on-track performance. Valvoline matches Benson's performance by donating $5,000 for a win, $2,500 for a pole, $1,000 for a top ten 10 finish, $500 for a top 20 finish and $20 for each lap led. The 3-year program has raised over $750,000.