Inotebook:/I Benson Breaks Ribs

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Johnny Benson’s Pepsi 400 came to a grinding halt when he slammed the wall entering Turn 3 early in the 160-lap race.

Benson was taken to the infield care center, where X-rays revealed he had two rib fractures on his right side. He was taken to Halifax Medical Center, where he was admitted for further observation.

Benson, who started sixth, was nudged by Michael Waltrip down the backstretch and turned right into the wall. The right side of Benson’s car was flattened, and he had to be helped from his car by emergency workers.

Benson broke a rib at Richmond in early May and missed three races.

The crash was part of a flurry of yellows in the first 25 laps of the race. Tony Stewart was bounced around and hit the outside wall on Lap 3, and then Mike Wallace was hit from behind by Steve Park and hit the wall in the frontstretch on Lap 17. Later, NASCAR displayed the yellow on Lap 25 for teams to check the tires and chassis since there was no practice Friday because of rain.

William Curwood, a rear tire changer on Todd Bodine’s No. 26, had X-rays on his right knee and right lower leg in the infield care center. The X-rays were negative, and he was released.

Busch Penalized Four Laps
Kurt Busch was issued a four-lap penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after an initial penalty for illegally passing cars under the yellow.

After the first penalty, Busch apparently yelled obscenities over his in-car radio, targeting NASCAR officials in the control tower.

NASCAR Talks Traction Control
NASCAR reiterated its position that traction control is illegal, and the sanctioning body will continue to police it. At Martinsville in April, NASCAR president Mike Helton said any team caught using traction control would be punished, but the debate over the electronic devices hasn’t subsided.

Winston Cup cars use analog ignition systems, and Winston Cup director John Darby said he is confident his inspection process can detect traction control. One device the sanctioning body uses is a microphone designed to hear subtle changes in engine RPMs.

Darby also said analog systems have to have a wire from “Point A to Point b.” If traction control is present, a processor has to somehow be installed in that system.

“All of our approved ignition boxes are required to have a certain number of wires in and out, and the connectors are pretty well described in the rule book,” Darby said. “If we trace every wire from Point A to Point B and reference exactly what it does – and that somewhere in midstream there’s not somewhere an additional signal being allowed to enter, we’re pretty confident everything is working like it should.”

Darby also said that if a traction control device was found, the penalty would go “way above a monetary fine.”

Managing director of competition Gary Nelson said officials have debated whether to simply legalize traction control.

“But is it the tip of the iceberg?” Nelson said. “Somebody says it only costs a few thousand bucks, but it really is a threshold. Do we allow processors is the question. And if we allowed processors …

“If we do allow them, where’s the sport going from there? It would be easy to say, ‘Put the processors on. We’re tired of looking.’ But we’re not going to roll over that easy. If we allowed them, every car owner would start a department for processors.”

Nemechek, Pattie Hope for Turnaround
Joe Nemechek and crew chief Brian Pattie have a special relationship, and Nemechek was thrilled when Hendrick Motorsports hired Pattie to lead the No. 25 team.

“He’s been involved with our Busch team for a long time,” Nemechek said. “We’ve talked about going Winston Cup racing, and it’d be great to do it together. What do you know? We get the opportunity of a lifetime.”

The chance to drive the car lasts only until the end of the year, but Nemechek wants to prove he belongs in the car long-term.

“We’re starting way behind the 8-ball because all the cars are built,” Nemechek said. “We have to figure out what they have and what we need to do to them to make me comfortable. The best person I know to do that is Brian Pattie.

“Chicago is kind of the first car we’ve tuned up to get it to where I like it. The races after that, I think you’re going to see a big turnaround in the team.”

Petty: Age Not Catching Up
Seven-time Winston Cup champion Richard Petty celebrated his 65th birthday earlier this week, but he joked about his advancing age.

“As long as I keep moving, I don’t think age will catch up with me,” Petty said. “It’s like Satchel Paige: ‘Don’t look back. It might be gaining.’ I don’t know if I feel 65 because it’s the first time I’ve ever been 65. Hopefully, you don’t feel age.

“I know people who have worked all their life and retired, and two or three years later they die. They don’t have a reason for getting up in the morning. Right now, I still have a reason for getting up. Lynda (his wife) is still there and gets me up.”

Staff Writer Lee Montgomery can be reached at lee.montgomery@rmg3.com

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