DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The white car driven by Johnny Benson tonight at the Daytona International Speedway should look familiar. It's the same one he used to almost win the Daytona 500.
Benson's return to a white Pontiac Grand Prix for the Pepsi 400 isn't by design. It's not to commemorate the way Benson came within three laps of completing perhaps the greatest upset in stock car history.
It's all business.
The sponsor for Tyler Jet Motorsports apparently didn't get its check in the mail on time, so the car was stripped of all decals that promoted Lycos, an Internet search engine. With no decals, the car returned to the all-white appearance that started the season.
"There's a good old saying that `wider is better' with Pontiac," Benson said. "Now this team has it's own saying: `whiter is better.' I just drive the car. We're going to keep on doing what we know how to do. James (Ince, crew chief) and I are going to get in there and do our best and try to get this thing back up front."
Benson led 38 laps during the Daytona 500, but a gang of Fords teamed up on him and passed him with three laps to go. By the time the onslaught ended, he wound up with a 14th-place finish.
Since then, Benson's team has put up a valiant fight in the Winston Cup Series points race despite its financial problems. He finished second at Bristol, Tenn., and is 21st in the standings.
Benson's car will start 20th.
"I think the car is going to be very good," he said. "You just have to be in the right place at the right time and make it through the draft. We'll be happy if we're up front at the end."
NO FEAR: Geoffrey Bodine said he had no problems climbing back in the race car at Daytona following his horrific accident at the 2.5-mile raceway last February.
Bodine crashed at Daytona five months ago during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The accident left him with an assortment of broken bones, but the fact he survived the 13-flip, fiery crash remains one of the sport's biggest miracles.
"I got on the horse as soon as I could, and that was at Richmond (Va.)," Bodine said of his return to racing nearly two months after the crash. "I'm still dealing with some things from that accident -- sore wrists and joints and elbows, things like that, but nothing I can't deal with."
NEED A LIFT? The makers of Viagra upped the ante among sponsors, earning rights to plaster their logo on Mark Martin's car for what is believed to be one of the richest deals in racing.
The agreement with Pfizer Inc., begins next year. It is believed to be worth about $14 million per season, in the same neighborhood as Jeff Gordon's new deal with Dupont, which was described last month as the biggest in the business.
Neither Martin, owner Jack Roush nor Pfizer officials would confirm the amount, although the 41-year-old Martin said it would run through 2005 and he expected to drive for Roush Racing through the duration of the contract.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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