BENJAMIN DETERMINED TO MAKE HIS MARK IN RACING by Mike Twist
Yankee Racer Brings His Never-Quit Attitude to PASS Racing in '04
Belfast, Maine is a small coastal town that has graced more than a few postcards.  There are several places in town to order up a lobster roll, a variety of Bed and Breakfasts to stay in and the Belfast Variety Store, an old New England style establishment where you can fill your tank with gasoline or satisfy your appetite with pizza.
On any given day, you'll find Travis Benjamin working at the Belfast Variety store, which is owned by his family, through the mid-morning.  Then the friendly 25 year old heads over to his raceshop and gets to work in the role that he is best known for in the midcoast Maine community - a racecar driver.

"I help out in the store, but my father lets me work on the cars most of the time."  said Benjamin.  "I'm very lucky to be able to do that."

After testing the waters of the NASCAR Busch North Series world as a regular few years back, Benjamin's team has
The #35 is Leighton's ride for a planned eight Busch North races in 2004.
regrouped and is focusing, but not limiting, their efforts on the PASS Pro Stock (Super Late Model)
tour this year.

"I love to race and we're going to go anywhere and everywhere that we can," Benjamin said.  "We'll do as much racing as we can.  We're going to start out the season with PASS, run the Busch North race at Beech Ridge and see what else we can do on the open dates that we have."

The lighter and quicker pro stocks of the PASS series are a type of race machine that is well suited for Benjamin.
The cockpit of a Busch North car is very familar to this PASS regular.  (NASCAR Touring Photo)
"My driving style really fits these kinds of cars,"  Benjamin said.  "I'm the type of driver who likes to drive into a corner as hard as I can and get back on the gas as hard as you can.  With the Busch car, you roll off the gas and have to be nice and smooth."

Benjamin has had plenty of laps to bond with his eight-year old PASS car.

"Stan Meserve built this car and used to race it himself,"  Benjamin said.  "We bought it off him and it was one of the best moves we ever made.  I've had it since '98 and I've been racing it since then.  It's a good car.  Sometimes it even sits outdoors if we don't have enough room in the garage for it."
Last season, Benjamin was able to run with the leaders when the Busch North Series visited Beech Ridge.  (NASCAR Touring Photo)
"I learned a big lesson running the Busch North race at Beech Ridge last season.  We had a one-race deal and we were prepared and ran really well.  We qualified seventh, ran in the top ten all night and finished eighth.  It enjoyed it because we had a really good car.  It's probably been the highlight of my career so far because we could run with those guys in that race."

As tempted as he is to stretch his racing budget once again, Benjamin is trying to keep his team somewhat grounded.  For example, after running the Busch North race at New Hampshire International Speedway for the past few years, he does not have any plans to enter any of the
"I'd love to be back in Busch North in the next few years,"  Benjamin said.  "We had a lot of fun in Busch North, but I'm not going to do it unless the budget is right.  We've always been a little bit behind and it's a struggle."

In the more immediate future, Benjamin is setting his sights on the DNK 250 PASS race at the Unity Speedway (ME) coming up in a few weeks.  The high-dollar race is attracting much attention in the region and Benjamin would love to make his mark in the event.

"We're going to be tough at Unity," said Benjamin.  "I think
that we have a good shot at winning there and if we do - Wow!  That's where I did most of my racing when I started.  That's my home track.  It would be a great place to turn some of our luck around."

Benjamin was almost able to score a victory in last season's Big Dawg 400 open show at the Wiscasset Speedway.  He was having a good run, but got taken out of the event in the middle stages of the race.
Benjamin heads out to qualify for the PASS race at the White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH) earlier this season. (51 Photo)

"We're going to be tough at Unity," said Benjamin.  "I think that we have a good shot at winning there and if we do - Wow!  That's where I did most of my racing when I started.  That's my home track.  It would be a great place to turn some of our luck around."

Benjamin was almost able to score a victory in last season's Big Dawg 400 open show at the Wiscasset Speedway.  He was having a good run, but got taken out of the event in the middle stages of the race.

"We ran good in that race,"  Benjamin said.  "I remember that in the race before at Thompson, we led over 100 laps and ran out of gas with three laps to go.  So at the Big Dawg, we were kind of timid to stretch our fuel mileage to make it to the halfway point.  We pitted early and got stuck in the pack.  Coming back up through, we got caught up in a mess and that ended out race."

That wasn't the only time that bad luck struck the team in 2003.

"At Bangor, we were running fourth and got spun under yellow, at Wiscasset (earlier in the season) we were leading and I had a flat tire,"  Benjamin recalls.  "After the Thompson race, I was laughing on
the way home and wondering how else we could lose a race."

Still, a little bit of Yankee ingenuity and a refusal to give up keeps Benjamin going.  A perfect example of this came last week in his heat race for the PASS show at Lee.  Benjamin's car suffered from electrical problems and he found the culprit to be a loose ground wire.  Rather than give up, he kept driving.

"I held the ground wire down with one hand and drove with the other,"  Benjamin said.  "It wasn't too bad.  I kind of liked it.  Maybe I'll drive one-handed more often now."


Benjamin takes part in driver introductions during a PASS event. (PASS Photo)
Benjamin stepped up to the Busch North Series from running the Pro Stock in 2001.  At the time, it looked like a great career move.  However, Benjamin isn't sure that he made the jump to NASCAR quite the way that he should have.

"In the Busch North series, we had a major sponsor in Irving Oil," Benjamin explained.  "They gave me the budget to run 10 races and we stretched it to run 18.  We wanted to do the whole series - if there's a race, I want to be in it.  We tried to spread out what we had over the whole year and had a shoestring budget for that.  The Irving deal was great for the races that they wanted to do and if I were to do things
over again I would have just run those 10 races.  It didn't make us look as good as we should have been."
of the events at the one-mile track in 2004, even though he has two Busch North cars at his disposal.

"It's fun to be at New Hampshire and we had pretty good runs there last year.  We finished on the lead lap for both races,"  said Benjamin.  "I was happy with that, but we just don't have enough power there. We buy a lot of used stuff off people and try to put into together and do the best that we can.  That makes it hard to perform well at a place like New Hampshire."

Benjamin hasn't given up on returning to the series full-time either.
"I'd love to be back in Busch North in the next few years,"  Benjamin said.  "We had a lot of fun in Busch North, but I'm not going to do it unless the budget is right.  We've always been a little bit behind and it's a struggle."

In the more immediate future, Benjamin is setting his sights on the DNK 250 PASS race at the Unity Speedway (ME) coming up in a few weeks.  The high-dollar race is attracting much attention in the region and Benjamin would love to make his mark in the event
Benjamin qualified in the top 10, but finished 18th in the PASS feature at the I-95 Speedway (ME) last month. (Norm Marx Photo)