Englishtown: Computer glitch spoils Benza's debut

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 20) -- A mysterious glitch in Bob Benza's on-board computer system ruined the debut weekend of the 41-year-old's full-time professional driving career on the competitive NHRA Championship Drag Racing circuit. Benza, from...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 20) -- A mysterious glitch in Bob Benza's on-board computer system ruined the debut weekend of the 41-year-old's full-time professional driving career on the competitive NHRA Championship Drag Racing circuit.

Benza, from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., was attempting to qualify for the 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals at his home track of Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, but the unexpected gremlins caused him to miss the exceptionally quick elimination field by .098 seconds. The BNB Racing crew added a digital oil gauge to the instrumentation panel of their sleek, 2001 Pontiac Grand Am prior to the event's first qualifying session and never recovered from the move as all data-gathering attempts in each subsequent time trail session were foiled.

"We're very upset with the way things turned out," Benza said. "We took delivery of a brand-new Frank Iaconio motor just before this event and we were excited about the potential of our car. But our Racepak system totally failed and I had to tune for every run by the seat of my pants. That may have worked in the old days but the competition in this class is too tight to get by with that approach these days. Basically, every tune-up I used this weekend was a guess. I never had one bit of data to analyze."

The "Old School" style of tuning Benza employed left him wishing for more after each session. He finally finished the weekend with quarter-mile numbers of 7.009 seconds at 198.29 mph, well off the 6.911-second pace necessary for qualifying at this event.

"The only bright spots from this race are the numbers this new motor is producing," said Benza, a multiple-event winner at this racetrack. "Across the board we showed an average increase of 50 horsepower. I think our top speed here shows what we should be capable of doing in the future. To reach 198 mph when the car rattled the tires as much as it did on the front end of the track during that particular run is very encouraging.

"I'm not happy at all to have had this happen but we'll just have to move forward and redeem ourselves at the next event. We've pulled all the on-board circuitry off the car and we even purged the computer in the trailer of all the Racepak software. We're going to start all over with new stuff. I don't want to take any chances. Hopefully, we'll be back up to speed by Topeka. If not, we'll definitely be ready to go by Chicago."

The next event for Benza and the rest of the NHRA pros is the Advance Auto Parts Nationals this Thursday through Sunday in Topeka, Kan. The circuit then turns to Chicago May 31-June 3 for the Lucas Oil Products Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

-BNBR-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Benza