Business as usual for Benders on Father's Day at Pocono Call Joe's Garage in Duryea, Pa., at the crack of dawn on weekday mornings, and Joe Bender will answer the phone. Ask for something to eat on the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film...
Business as usual for Benders on Father's Day at Pocono
Call Joe's Garage in Duryea, Pa., at the crack of dawn on weekday mornings, and Joe Bender will answer the phone. Ask for something to eat on the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Racing Team transport truck in the NASCAR Winston Cup garage on weekends, and Joe Bender will serve you with a smile. Bender, a 58-year-old NASCAR veteran, has 26 years of Winston Cup experience. He's been a jackman, a crew chief and now he's the cook for the Morgan-McClure Motorsports team. Most of the top teams have cooks these days. Some of them even bring along chefs. Bender said he was one of the first cooks on the circuit and proudly says he'll put his menu up against any of the fancy chefs, but don't expect any souffles or quiche at the Kodak hauler. "I've got a little grill and a Fry Daddy, and I can cook anything they can cook," Bender said. "My guys try eating at the other trucks, but they always come back here to eat." As the Winston Cup circuit heads to Pocono Raceway for Sunday's Pocono 500, Bender will celebrate Father's Day pretty much like he does any other Sunday. His 29-year-old son Jimmy, a first-year tire changer for the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film team, and his father will share lunch together and then pull for driver Bobby Hamilton to lap the field after everyone has lapped up his vittles. "Joe Bender is a class act," Hamilton said. "Everyone in the garage respects him because he tells it like it is. Jimmy helps us a lot, too, and I know it means a lot to Joe to be able to watch him develop. I know I enjoy working with Bobby Jr., and it's real special when a father and son can work and play side by side." Joe Bender started working with his father years ago in Joe's Garage. He's been working at the two-car garage the past 50 years during the week and racing since he was 32 years old on weekends.
"All I ever did was repair cars," Bender said. "I started with D.K. Ulrich and worked with him a long time. I've been with the Kodak team since 1990. Before I used to work on cars and jack cars on pit stops. "Jimmy got a little bit older, and I got a little bit older. I just like to cook now. I'm probably the first guy who ever cooked for anyone in this league. It is a family sport, and families like to eat. I guess Jimmy has come to the track since he was about three years old. "Since he moved away from home, I really look forward to seeing him at the track on weekends now. I've done just about everything at the track. I was a jack man for 12 years. I was the first crew chief Tim Richmond had. I helped J.D. McDuffie and Jimmy Means and Dave Marcis. "My wife (Mary) used to light the cigar for J.D. My other son, Joe Jr., is a medic in the Navy down in New Bern, N.C. He never got interested in racing. Since he was in the seventh or eighth grade he wanted to be a doctor." Joe Bender didn't always want to be a cook, but he's developed quite a knack for serving up grub. He can put out a spread that offers something appealing to everyone on the No. 4 Kodak crew. "I bring down most of the food from Pennsylvania," Bender said. "Everyone seems to like the pierogies best, but we have a lot of meat and potatoes, too. The most potatoes I ever cooked in my Fry Daddy with the perogies was 45 pounds down in Bristol. We usually go through 25 or 30 pounds of potatoes a weekend and seven or eight dozen pierogies. "The turkey is about 10 or 12 pounds, and the roast beef is probably another 10 or 12 pounds. We go through three dozen hamburgers and two dozen hot dogs, plus the vegetables. I try to give them carrots and cucumbers and tomatoes. I try to give them something healthy to eat, too, and everyone seems to appreciate that." Jimmy Bender may appreciate it more than anyone else on the team. Knowing his father will be at the track makes Jimmy's job a little easier. "When he comes it's a big relief," Jimmy said. "Usually you have to go buy food at the track, and that's not the best food in the world anyway. He brings some good food and breaks up the monotony of the work week. I get to see him and mom sometimes and don't have to go all the way home to Pennsylvania to see them. "It's amazing he only comes on some weekends and I come to the track every week. He knows a lot more people than I do. People will come over and ask me where my dad is, and I don't even know who they are." Racing has been a way of life for the Benders since Jimmy can remember. And Pocono Raceway, which is only about 35 minutes from the Benders' hometown, played a big role in that life. "I can remember going to Pocono and staying in the infield in a camper," Jimmy said. "I played outside while dad was working in the garage area. I didn't really know much about it then, but as I stayed out there I got to know more people and got more interested in it, so I stayed with it. "I've been with the Kodak team since 1990 when Ernie Irvan came over here. I worked with Ernie when he ran for rookie of the year with D.K., and I worked for Eddie Bierschwale before that in Charlotte. I just started back full-time this year. "I'm the rear tire changer. Working with the tires is a full-time job. I work at the shop during the week. I take care of the truck and make sure everything we need is on it. I take care of the tires and keep real busy during the week. "I always wanted to be on a pit crew, and I always wanted to change tires. I'm still young. I can do this a little while and see what I think. It's pretty good right now. I thought it would be worse than it is because of all the hours and stuff, but as long as you pace yourself you're all right." And as long as Joe Bender comes to the track on Father's Day at Pocono with his little grill and Fry Daddy, everyone on the Kodak team will be more than "all right" when it comes time to eat.
Here's one of Bender's favorite recipes. It doesn't last long at the race track but then neither do any of his dishes.
KODAK MAX HUNGER ATTACK CHICKEN
2 boxes of rice (12 oz. each) 2 cans of black beans 1 bundle of celery stalks chopped 1 large onion chopped 5 large boneless chicken breasts-marinated and sauteed 1 small jar of cajun spice mix 2 tbsp. salt and pepper pinch of red pepper 2 tbsp. white vinegar water
Marinate chicken breasts in Ziploc bag overnight in a mixture of vinegar, water and half of cajun seasonings. Saute in a pan with butter. Add chopped celery and onion. Cook rice as directed. Add beans, chicken mixture, red pepper and remaining cajun spices. Let simmer to enhance flavor. Can be frozen and reheated.