Columbus: Benza braces for memorable weekend

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 12) -- Pro Stock driver Bob Benza will be easy to find at this weekend's 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals -- he'll be the one anxiously awaiting his first trip down National Trail Raceway's smooth quarter-mile. The ...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 12) -- Pro Stock driver Bob Benza will be easy to find at this weekend's 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals -- he'll be the one anxiously awaiting his first trip down National Trail Raceway's smooth quarter-mile. The reason for Benza's renewed enthusiasm is clear; he strongly believes he and his BNB Racing crew have finally found the perfect set-up for their brand-new 2001 Pontiac Grand Am.

Benza was prepared to kick-off a successful full-time racing schedule a month ago at his home track of Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey after taking delivery of a powerful Frank Iaconio motor. But electrical problems surfaced at the event and he sputtered to an unthinkable DNQ (did not qualify) finish. Two weeks ago in Chicago more tribulations occurred, once again sending the team home early in search of answers.

Now, after an exhaustive two weeks of work that included some eye-opening discoveries within the car, the problems appear to be solved, which has Benza primed for action.

"I'm pretty psyched up," Benza said. "We made some major changes to the car. I'm talking about major surgery here. But we strongly believe we found out what was wrong with the car and why we weren't running any speed and we fixed the problem. I don't want to disclose too much but it involved the suspension and chassis and it was something that was fairly obvious once we took the car apart.

"Now we're all patched up and I fully expect for us to be very quick and very competitive in Ohio. We are all very optimistic on this team and this should be a great weekend for us. I can't wait to get in the car. I'm literally buzzing with excitement about our potential."

Benza already has one memorable weekend in Mid-Ohio. In 1991, he survived a spectacular collision with Jeff Gillette during the third round of Competition Eliminator action in which his B-Altered Firebird was yanked off the track surface by a new parachute system. No one was hurt in the incident and Benza even took the round win.

"We got through the lights and I pulled the chute," Benza said. "It was a new Stroud system and it shot the parachute straight up. The wind caught it and lifted the back end of my car off the ground and turned me totally sideways. I was headed for the wall but Jeff's dragster was in the way and I hit him instead. That spun me around several times but it kept me off the wall. I took the win and, with some help from Jerry Haas and Jim Yates, actually had my car ready to go by the next round but I lost the race on the tree.

"I hope to have another weekend to remember this time around but it doesn't need to be that spectacular. Just qualifying well, making the elimination field, and having a chance on Sunday would be fine. I believe it's going to happen."

ESPN 2 has expanded its coverage of the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing. Highlights of the qualifying rounds will air from 10 p.m. until Midnight ET, Saturday, with a rebroadcast from 4-6 a.m. ET, Sunday. The elimination rounds will air from 8-10 p.m. ET, Sunday, with a rebroadcast from 4-6 a.m. ET, Tuesday, June 19, and again from 1-3 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 20.

-BNBR-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Benza , Jerry Haas