USAR: Ricky Benton Racing hires Dange Hanniford

Ricky Benton Racing Hires Hanniford Longs, SC-With the new generation of cradle-to-cockpit drivers coming along, it's refreshing to see a driver taking a somewhat old-school approach to career advancement and hitting nearly every rung on the ...

Ricky Benton Racing Hires Hanniford

Longs, SC-With the new generation of cradle-to-cockpit drivers coming along, it's refreshing to see a driver taking a somewhat old-school approach to career advancement and hitting nearly every rung on the ladder along the way.

Dange Hanniford started in go-karts, moved onto Mini-Stocks and local Late Models, before moving into the UARA-Stars Series. And when Hanniford wasn't behind the wheel, he was helping others who were, crewing for Hal Goodson's All-Pro team and working for Ricky Benton Racing. In 2006, Hanniford's persistence and patience will pay off.

Instead of preparing the No. 22 Black's Tire Service Fords for Ricky Benton Racing this year, he'll get to pilot the rides in the Southern Division of the Hooters Pro Cup Series.

"I really appreciate Ricky Sr. and Rick Jr. giving me this opportunity," said Hanniford, who will compete for Miller Lite Rookie of the Year honors. "They told me if I came in and worked hard, they'd give me shot. They have, and now I need to go out and perform."

Based on his track record, Hanniford should perform well in his rookie campaign.

The last three years, Hanniford has put up some impressive stats. In 2003, he finished third in UARA points in 2003. In '04, Hanniford made mostly spot starts in UARA and spent most of the year preparing Matt Carter's cars. Last year, Hanniford ran eight races and notched five top-5 finishes at various tracks. In two year-ending Late Model galas, Martinsville and Myrtle Beach Speedway, Hanniford qualified 15th and eighth, respectively.

"I think racing in UARA [in 2003] is really going to help me this season," said Hanniford. "It's set up a lot like Pro Cup. You race at different tracks, and you've only got about two hours to get your car right for the race."

But Hanniford's biggest asset in Pro Cup may come from off-the-track knowledge.

"Working on [Pro Cup] cars the last few years and knowing the cars is going to make the transition smoother," said Hanniford. "I think that will make everything a lot easier on me."

RBR team manager, Rick Benton, agrees.

"The communication between Dange and the team is great," said Benton. "We wanted someone with driving skills and knowledge of our shop, and I believe we've got that in him. He's helped us over time, and we're going to help the local guy out."

Hanniford's knowledge of the shop will be a necessity with the loss of longtime RBR crew chief, Mike Hester, who moved over to the Wood Brothers Racing. But Hanniford won't be completely on his own setting up the cars.

Until a full-time crew chief is announced, former Pro Cup regular Hal Goodson will be at selected races and Lucas Tucker will be back at car chief, helping Hanniford chase the team's goal.

"Our goal is to win as many of [Miller Lite] Rookie of the Race awards as we can," said Hanniford. "If we do that, the overall Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award will take care of itself. With the team we have in place, I think we can achieve those things and more. I'm excited about the season, and I'm ready."

And "ready" to continue his climb up the ladder.

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Series Stock car
Teams Wood Brothers Racing