Columbus: Back to the drawing board for Benza

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 18) -- After another frustrating weekend of drag racing, Pro Stock driver Bob Benza has decided to get back to basics and "run the wheels" off his 2001 Pontiac Grand Am in testing before he returns to the National Hot Rod ...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 18) -- After another frustrating weekend of drag racing, Pro Stock driver Bob Benza has decided to get back to basics and "run the wheels" off his 2001 Pontiac Grand Am in testing before he returns to the National Hot Rod Association circuit full-time.

Since taking delivery of a new Frank Iaconio powerplant a little over a month ago -- a move Benza had hoped would put him on level with the sport's top teams -- the 41-year-old from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., has instead languished through three unsuccessful national events, failing to find a spot in the elimination fields in Englishtown, N.J., Chicago, and Columbus, Ohio.

"I've never been through any thing like this in my life," said Benza, a 26-year veteran sportsman-class racer who turned pro on a part-time basis in 1998. "I've always prided myself on the fact that we can always get our racecars down the track, no matter where we are, what the conditions are like, or what car we're racing that particular weekend. This last stretch of races has been like nothing I've ever experienced before. It's been extremely frustrating."

Benza's bad-luck streak on the quarter-mile battlefield reached a crescendo this past weekend in Columbus during the running of the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals when he completed just one of four qualifying attempts under power. His one full pass, a 7.039-second effort at 194.94 mph, was .05 of a second short of the elapsed time needed to make the field.

"It's time for some extensive testing," Benza said. "I refuse to come out here and have weekends like this. We've just been besieged with problems. In Englishtown we had computer problems. In Chicago it was a bad batch of clutch discs. This weekend we discovered a problem with the crank trigger. We just need to run this car down the track as many times as it takes to get a consistent, reliable racecar that will go down the track every lap."

A crowded race schedule that has called for races virtually every weekend has slowed many of the teams in the Pro Stock class, especially those that are trying to adapt to the new body styles introduced at the start of the 2001 season. Looking forward, Benza will skip this weekend's event in St. Louis due to prior commitments and is uncertain if he will compete July 5-7 in Pomona, Calif. He does hope to have his car up to speed by July 19-22 for the Denver event.

"We'll be back and when we do come back we'll be running strong," Benza said. "Our problems need to be fixed, that's all. I have to say that through this period I have been extremely proud of my team's effort. My wife Nancy, crew chief Andy Enax, and Tom Vollbrecht have all put 100-percent of their time and energy into this project and they continue to do so. I'm confident we'll have this car running well very shortly."

-BR-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Benza