Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Superstar" Benning Reveling In Eldora Limelight

For most fans, the highlight of Wednesday night’s Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway was Austin Dillon’s sterling drive from the middle of the pack to Victory Lane. For many of those inside the sport, however, the high-water mark of the evening came when independent campaigner Norm Benning won a door-slamming duel with Clay Greenfield to claim the final starting position in the main event, with a fifth-place finish in the Last Chance Qualifying race.

Benning’s underfunded No. 57 Chevrolet qualified only 27th in the 35-truck time trial field and failed to transfer in his eight-lap heat race. The 61-year old Pennsylvania native started seventh in the 15-lap “do or die” dash, and quickly surged forward into the fifth and final qualified position. He sat on that hot seat throughout the event, staying just ahead of a snarling, four-truck pack of challengers intent on stealing his transfer spot.
Clay Greenfield made a pair of banzai-charges in the final two laps, diving under Benning and making heavy, door-to-door contact each time. Greenfield and Benning emerged side-by-side from the final turn, bouncing off each other (and the concrete wall) in a wide-open sprint to the finish. Benning prevailed by approximately three feet, triggering a roar from Eldora’s capacity crowd of 18,000 fans and a torrent of high-fives from the crewmembers and drivers who lined the legendary track’s front straightaway.
Unfortunately for Benning, the celebration was short-lived. The left side of his Silverado was badly battered, with exhaust pipes torn from their mounts and dragging on the ground. Almost before he could climb from his truck, crewmen from Richard Childress Racing, Turner-Scott Motorsports, Ken Schrader Racing and numerous other operations swarmed over it, pounding out fenders, changing tires and repairing the broken exhaust.
“I couldn’t get to my own truck through all the people working on it,” recalled Benning today. “I want to personally thank each and every one of them. There were so many, I can’t remember them all.  But I really appreciate what they did.
“I don’t get an opportunity to have a level playing field too often,” said Benning, who began his racing career on dirt at age 15, two years before he was legally allowed to do so. “It wasn’t about aerodynamics at Eldora and it wasn’t about big horsepower. I’d love an opportunity to come out and do it right every week, but I just don’t have the money.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do for Pocono,” he said. “The only piece on that truck that’s not wrecked is the roof. The right-front frame rail is bent, everything’s torn up. But at least for one night, I felt like a superstar. People were happy I made the race, and it’s nice to have that respect.”
“No matter how big this (sport) gets, tonight was an example of the passion we all have for what we do,” said Eldora owner and Sprint Cup Series regular Tony Stewart. “You don’t see that with pavement racing. It gives us hope for why we all do this.”
While Benning was never a threat to win Wednesday’s Mudsummer Classic, he was competitive throughout the 150 laps. Midway in the event, he passed dirt Late Model standout (and pre-race favorite) Scott Bloomquist for position, a pass that would have paid astronomical odds had anyone been prescient enough to bet a few dollars on it in Las Vegas.
It was a move Stewart jokingly called, “like watching an episode of 'The Twilight Zone,’” and it illustrated precisely what is right with the sport.



  1. I sat in turn one, and I think the cheers were louder, down there, for Benning making the transfer than they were for Austin Dillon at the checkered flag. Congrats and great job, Norm. Thank you Tony Stewart for putting on one of the best shows in quite some time.
    Indiana Rick

  2. Awesome to see Norm make the race, and even better to see the reactions from other drivers and their team's efforts to help repair the truck.

  3. THIS is what racing is all about!!!!!

  4. Gary Thompson8:28 PM

    You know what? I like Norm, always have. He makes most of the races, he races clean, gets out of the way of the leaders when he needs to, and he finishes races. He might be 20 laps down, but he finishes, and that speaks volumes for the guy's commitment to doing what he loves to do. It was nice to see that battle with Clay Greenfield, nice to see everyone cheering on the underdog, and it was a wonderful preview of an incredible night of racing.

    Norm, keep fighting the good fight buddy, you do have fans out here.

  5. Remember Norm trying to qualify for many a Cup race in Daytona and Talladega a few years back. Was rooting for him to get in then and Definitely last night at Eldora. Wish some sponsors would give him a little support with the effort he puts in every week. If sponsors would start helping the smaller teams rather than every single sponsor wanting to pile on the big boys, there would BE more big teams than just a handful.

  6. Anonymous8:49 PM


    I love your articles!

  7. zhills fan5:25 AM

    Great race, brings back fond memories to me of Peoria back in the 50's. Tony done a great job, but hey he always does!

  8. Anonymous11:12 AM

    And you forgot to mention that he had the gentlemanly courtesy to drop the window net and tell Clay Greenfield that "he was number 1" on national tv with Fox's wonderful slow motion replay. Gotta love dirt racing. Na$car is usually way too sanitized. King Brian has probably put him on double secret probation, but it would be worth it.

    Dave in Ohio

  9. Anonymous1:25 PM

    Greenfield earned no respect by his post race interview. His sponsor needs to take his money to Norm. It was great to see the big name driver rooting for Norm. Hopefully somebody will help him get his truck back together or give him a good hand-me-down.

  10. Anonymous1:51 PM

    That hooligan race was the best I've seen in years, I forgot how much I love racing, way to go norm.

  11. Andy G.3:48 PM

    Great Story Dave!! Way to go Norm!! On a personal note, About three years ago, I have a friend that loves NASCAR, but could not afford to go to a race. My wife and I had two extra tickets for the Vegas truck race weekend so He took the tickets I offered free of cost! At the race, We had our favorites, he chose Norm!! He said it was because he always rooted for the underdog!! It was great to watch him cheer for "his driver" as the leaders were about to lap norm, he would tell me, " look, Norms winning" ! It was a great time and I can say I gained the sport at least one lifelong fan!!He still texts me on race weekends!! We have two extra tix to the race again this year, and I will offer them to him again!! Well Done Norm Benning!!

  12. Thanks for a great story Dave , Norm lives in my town and I drive by his house everyday ,of people could see how small of a operation this is they would be amazed ,this is all he does , he even drives his hauler to the track , Norm is one of the last of a dyeing breed