MOULTRIE -- Tom Beard sums up his feelings about the Winston Cup season-opening race at the Daytona International Speedway like this: "Daytona's like a train wreck. You don't want to see it, but you don't want to miss it either.

"The real season starts this week."

And that's just fine with the crews and drivers of the two cars Beard and his partners operate.

Johnny Benson was forced to drive his backup Valvoline Pontiac in Sunday's Daytona 500 and said he was "tickled to death" to finish 19th.

And on Friday at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., where he got his only Winston Cup victory last November, Benson qualified second for Sunday's Subway 400.

Jerry Nadeau's first race in the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac resulted in a 28th-place finish in the rain-shortened Great American Race, won by Michael Waltrip.

Nadeau, in his first full season with MB2 Motorsports, ran a 153.035 qualifying on the the first two of his qualifying laps on Friday. He lost control on the second and spun out, but managed to keep the car off the wall and will start 24th.

It will be hard for this week to be as exciting for Nadeau as last week was.

Not only did he run the Daytona 500 on Sunday, he witnessed the birth of his first child, Natalie Kate, who was born Monday at Spartanburg (S.C.) Regional Medical Center.

Nadeau said that except for a pit road incident at Daytona, he believes his Pontiac was good enough for a top-five finish.

Several teams did not bother with qualifying on a cold, wet day in Rockingham on Friday, when practice and qualifying were delayed by rain.

Dave Blaney took the pole for Sunday's race by running a lap in his Ford at 154.683. It was first pole in 113 Winston Cup starts.

Benson turned his lap on the high-banked 1.017-mile oval at 154.553. Mark Martin qualified third in his Ford, followed by Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott in Dodges. Bobby Labonte had the highest qualifying Chevrolet and will start 10th. Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip will start 22nd.

Benson was pleased to be back at Rockingham, where, in addition last last year's win in the Pop Secret 400, he also finished third two years ago.

"I like Rockingham," Benson said this week. "Obviously, part of it is that it's fast and kind of medium-banked, which fits my driving style.

"The other part is something I can't explain. I just feel comfortable there. We clinched the Busch Series title there in 1995 and then to get our first Cup victory makes Rockingham a really special place to me."

And Benson hopes talk of having just one race a year at Rockingham is unfounded.

"It's a neat place and well-run and it's close to home," he said. "I understand the need to expand the sport, but I hope Rockingham will always be a part of NASCAR."



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