Belfast, Maine's Travis Benjamin, who has just completed his second full season on the NASCAR Busch North Series circuit driving for his own Benjamin Motorsports team, is searching for sponsorship for the 2003 Busch North season.
Benjamin, whose sponsor from the his first two years is not returning, showed significant improvement in 2001 over the 2000 season. Following a 21st place finish in the 2000 points standings, Benjamin finished 20th in 2002 even without running the final two races of the year. He qualified for every race he attempted in 2002, with a best qualifying effort of twelfth at Thompson International Speedway in July. His best finish was also twelfth, which he scored at Holland International Speedway in June.
Benjamin was a ready and willing representative of his sponsor, attending frequent autograph sessions and personal appearances both at the track and away from it. He continues to have nothing bad to say about the company.
"They gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, they were awesome," he said. "But now we're sponsor hunting or ride-hunting. I'm hoping to find a ride with someone.
"The best thing I think would be for me to find a ride with somebody, I think that would take a lot of the pressure off myself," Benjamin said. "I wouldn't have to own the team, pay the bills, work on the car, and drive the car. But either way, I enjoy it. I've got some good opportunities if I do continue to own my own team in this series. I have a guy who's won championships in this series before who wants to come on and help us. He's willing to let me have my cars in his shop. He'd work with me all week long, and the car would be prepared right. He's also got setups for all the tracks. That would be good, but I'd really like to find a ride with a team that's competitive right now."
Benjamin knows that having a sponsor means more than putting its decals on his car, and he's happy to do whatever needs to be done to promote the next sponsors of Benjamin Motorsports.
"The had me do ten shows last year, and I did extra things like the car shows," he said. "I tried to sell as much as I can for the sponsors because they supported me every week. I know the first thing I have to do is make a sponsor happy, because they're going to be with me every week."
Benjamin's on-track performances were just starting to turn around when he was forced to park his car with two races to run in the 2002 season. A significant discovery pointed to the fact that the team was ready to show what it was really capable of late in the year.
"We found out a lot at Loudon in September when we realized our tire pressure gauge was reading wrong all year long. I mean, when you start with seven pounds of air more than you think every week, the tires grow so much that you're not going to have a good setup. I really think that hurt us all year long. At Dover we were running twelfth or thirteenth, right in the middle of the pack, and we had a good car. But a lot of little stuff has happened to us over the last couple years. We're learning every week, and if we take advantage of moving our stuff into that new shop, that'll help us a lot. He knows all that little stuff, and he knows how to start with a good baseline setup so when we get to the track we'll be prepared, and that's what we really need."
Benjamin, seen at the series next-to-last race as a spectator, did not like the fact that his race car was not in attendance.
"It's painful," he said. "But I knew I should be showing my face around so people will know I want to be back. You have to do what you have to do, hopefully this will work out the right way."