CHICAGO (May 30) -- After eliminating a computer bug that crippled his on-board data-collection system at his last race, BNB Racing Pro Stock driver Bob Benza arrives at this weekend's fourth annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals at Route 66 ...
CHICAGO (May 30) -- After eliminating a computer bug that crippled his on-board data-collection system at his last race, BNB Racing Pro Stock driver Bob Benza arrives at this weekend's fourth annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway intent on earning a spot in the elimination field of drag racing's toughest and closest category.
Once that immediate goal is accomplished, Benza knows it's anyone's game on Race Day. With seven different victors in the first nine races of the season, the Pro Stock class is as wide-open as it's ever been, a fact that has not escaped the attention of the 41-year-old from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., who is searching for his first win as a professional driver.
"We're basically a start-up team at this point," Benza said, referring to his mid-season entry into full-time competition. "But we're not new at this. I've been racing my entire adult life in the sportsman class and for three part-time years as a professional. We've been waiting until all the pieces were in place before attacking the circuit. Now we feel like we're there and, to be honest, we won't be satisfied with anything other than qualifying in Chicago.
"I thought we were good to go in New Jersey. We had our car in perfect shape and we had taken delivery of a new Frank Iaconio motor just before the race. But we got sidetracked with a computer problem and we were basically flying by the seat of our pants all weekend. It turned out to be a tiny shard of metal that was short-circuiting everything. The good news is that it's fixed and we should be up to speed in Chicago."
Benza has some experience at Chicago's state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway. He has competed there twice and recorded some stout numbers during various qualifying sessions. But this visit should be different as Benza matches his new powerplant's awesome horsepower to his sleek 2001 Pontiac Grand Am.
"We have the car and the horsepower," Benza said. "We ran some good mph numbers in Englishtown (N.J.) despite the fact we were guessing at the set-up so I'm confident we can run with the established teams when everything is working properly.
"The key to doing well in these summertime races is to post a great number Friday evening. It's the only night session and, barring any extreme weather, it's usually where the elimination field is set. It's imperative for us to be up to speed by then."
ESPN2 will carry several hours of the Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals. Highlights of the qualifying rounds will air from 9-11 p.m. (ET), Saturday. The elimination rounds will be broadcast from 7-10 p.m. (ET), Sunday, with a repeat from 1-4 p.m. (ET), Monday.