Benza returns to Pro Stock after seven years
By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Pro Stock driver Bob Benza returned to the category recently. He competed in the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennsylvania.
This was his first time competing in the category in seven years.
“Back in 2012 was my last race,” he said. “I had sold everything, except I kept the trailer. I also kept some parts and our engines were still available. We have an engine shop in New Jersey — and between myself and Tom Martino, we have three engines that we ran in Pro Stock. We kept updating it as the years went on. In 2016, I took delivery of a brand new car from Jerry Haas, as the plan was to continue racing at some point. We’ve all been busy with different parts of our businesses, work, and other obligations, so it never really came together. Earlier this year, we decided to put everything back in gear and get this thing going. We got our motors ready and slowly, but surely, we had the car come together. We had never run fuel injection and we got the car running 4-5 weeks ago.
“We didn’t have time to go testing and we really weren’t where we wanted to be. I wanted to run Maple Grove and was finally able to make a deal with Richard Freeman at Elite Motorsports to run his engine at that race and the plan came together. The car was untested and untried before my first pass.”
While Benza returned at The Grove, this race was not the initial plan. He planned on coming back to the category earlier in the year before things did not work out.
“Our original plans were to start running in Gainesville [Gainesville, Florida], but we couldn’t get everything together,” Benza said. “I didn’t think about doing anything with Richard until literally a week before the Maple Grove event. He’s great to work with and I’ve known him for a long time. He was able to put something together for us and it worked out. We wanted to run earlier this year but we were never really able to get our ducks in a row.”
During the weekend of the race on Sept. 13-15, Benza flew the Trump 2020 campaign stickers. President Donald Trump is campaigning to get re-elected for a second four-year term, while also overseeing his daily duties as the President.
He will face a Democratic challenger for re-election.
“We flew the decals for the Trump 2020 campaign to “Keep America Great,” he said. “The Trump family, and especially, President Trump has gone a good job, I feel, for our country. I think we’re in a better place then we’ve ever been. I proudly put those banners on the car.”
Despite limited action with the car, he was able to make eliminations on Sept. 15. The Briarcliff Manor, New York native was defeated in the first round of eliminations by Jeg Coughlin Jr.
The Delaware, Ohio native went 6.552 at 210.08 mph, while Benza went 6.593 at 208.10 mph.
“We qualified 12th and he qualified 5th,” Benza said. “It was my first time back in eliminations in a long time. I got up on the wheel and did my job. We both had identical reaction times, but the outcome on the other end was in Jeg’s favor. He’s one of the best ever and has a well-tracked car. The car that I drove that day had three runs on it, which were all at Maple Grove. We were basically untried and had very little data to make any kind of real changes. There’s a lot more to be had there. We can go a lot faster for sure.”
Benza does not know when he’ll be back in action. He is presently seeking marketing marketers. If you are interested in becoming a marketing partner with his team, he can be reached at email@example.com.
“I don’t know what we’re doing moving forward,” he said. “We’re actively seeking sponsorship and marketing partners every day. At this point, we’re not really sure what’s going to happen in the future. It’s a day-by-day, week-by-week thing. We really don’t know what’s happening. We’ll see who is going to be on board with us as we move forward. We have about 5-6 things in the fire right now and we’re going to continue to pursue them. We would like to run 6-10 races next year depending on who comes on board.”
As a drag racer that is not with a primary sponsor and an elite team in the sport, he lives the day-by-day, week-by-week lifestyle.
“I’ve been racing the better part of the last 38 years,” Benza said. “Quite honestly, that’s what racing is all about. As a team and as a driver, a lot of this stuff just happens quickly and you make the best of it. It’s not the ideal way we want to do it, but it would be ideal to have an overall plan. That’s why we’re pursuing marketing partners on a daily basis. A lot of the times, things just happen. It adds a little bit of turmoil and chaos, but you make due. A couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t driven in seven years and I wanted to go racing — and the car was completely untried and untested and I had no idea what was going to happen. I went out there and got it done. That’s really what it’s all about.
“I’m a drag racer at heart and I’ve got 5,000 runs on a clutch-driven race car, so I know my way around the car. We got really good people working with us. The crew we had were tried and true Pro Stock guys and did a great job. My family has been involved since the beginning.”
The Pro Stock category welcomed him back with open arms at The Grove. He said he had some contact with drivers while he was away.
“Like I said, I had been away for seven years,” he said. “I had contact with a lot of different drivers and manufactures during the seven years, but I was mostly away from it and didn’t even go to a dragstrip to see a race. I think I may have been to Englishtown [Old Bridge Township Raceway Park] in 2014, but that was really my last time at a dragstrip. I missed it dearly and it’s ingrained in the inner workings of my brain and my body. I felt comfortable going back. I have to tell you, all the drivers, including the ones that I raced against previously, welcomed me back and gave me a big handshake and a big hug.
“It made me feel comfortable, especially with my family. That also went for the other race crew members and such. A lot of the new drivers that I hadn’t even really known welcomed me on board and were pleased to meet me. The feeling was mutual. A lot of fans came by that I hadn’t seen in many, many years — and I got a lot of positive comments from everybody. It made me feel really good, but that’s what drag racing is. That’s what the NHRA is a close-knit family. I’m really glad to be a part of it.”