ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 10) -- The newest driver in the competitive world of the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) Pro Stock class is primed and ready to unveil his team to the world at a racetrack he calls home. Bob Benza, a 41-year-old bridge...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 10) -- The newest driver in the competitive world of the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) Pro Stock class is primed and ready to unveil his team to the world at a racetrack he calls home. Bob Benza, a 41-year-old bridge builder from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., first cut his drag racing teeth at New Jersey's historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park as a sportsman racer in the late 1970s. Now he returns for the 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, May 17-20, to start a full-time pro career.
With a brand-new 2001 Pontiac Grand Am outfitted with the latest Frank Iaconio motor, a crew of seasoned wrench-turners, and a second-to-none transporter and mobile race shop, Benza finally feels he has what it takes to battle in drag racing's toughest category.
"We're ready to go," said Benza. "I believe we've built a first-class operation here. From the crew, to our new Pontiac Grand Am and Competition rig, to the new engine from Frank Iaconio, I'm convinced we have all the necessary pieces in place.
"We've tested well this year and made a couple of great passes in Atlanta at the last national event, but we just didn't have the horsepower we needed. Now we do so it's time to hit the track and see what happens. It's an exciting moment for us."
Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is a comfortable official starting point for Benza's full-time pro career. As a sportsman racer in the NHRA's Competition Eliminator class, Benza spent numerous weekend's at the venerable old track over the past two decades, winning several match races and divisional meets. He even scored his first National Event win in Englishtown when he collected the trophy of the 1986 NHRA Summernationals.
"It's my home track," Benza said. "I have so many special memories there. They'd hold Modified Comp races and the best 40 or so cars in the country would show up. I was lucky enough to get my first win at one of those races. Then in 1986 I won the season-opening Div. 1 points meet and came back a few months later and won the Summernationals. The following year I was runner-up at the points meet and a semifinalist at the national event. You just tend to feel comfortable racing at a place where you've had success in the past.
"It's exciting to go back now and open this new chapter in my life and my racing career. It's a good feeling to know we have the power and all the other pieces you need to compete with the best teams. I feel confident. We've been to the Winner's Circle before. We've raced in the finals of national events. I know what pressure to expect and I'm confident in my driving ability. It'll be fun to put it all on the track and see what transpires."
ESPN 2 has scheduled four hours of primetime coverage for the 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals. Highlights of the four qualifying rounds will air from 7-9 p.m. ET, Saturday, May 19. The elimination rounds will be broadcast from 8-10 p.m. ET, Sunday, May 20.