Sponsorship allows Morrill’s Benjamin to vie for PASS North SLM points championship

Posted Sept. 19, 2012, at 4:56 p.m.

MORRILL, Maine — Morrill’s Travis Benjamin had no intention of running the full Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North Division tour season.

“A month before the season, I hadn’t planned on racing more than four races,” said the 33-year-old Benjamin, a former standout basketball point guard at Belfast Area High School.

“Then A.G. [Associated Grocers] of Maine came on board in March to give me the budget to go to nine races,” he said.

Benjamin has taken care of the rest.

He has been a model of consistency with nine top-five and eight top-three finishes in 13 races, and those finishes “kept giving us enough budget to keep going.”

Now, with just two races remaining, he sits in second place in the points, eight behind Cassius Clark of Farmington.

Drivers receive 50 points for a win and there is a two-point drop for each place after that. They also receive five points for winning a heat race with a one-point drop down to fifth.

Benjamin made a bold decision in the offseason to sell one of his two Ford Fusions.

“We wanted to keep things simple this year,” explained Benjamin. “In the past, when we had two cars, we didn’t have a big enough budget to keep both of them on top. We had to borrow stuff from one car and put it on the other car and that made things confusing.”

The decision to switch to one car was risky, he admitted.

“If I wrecked the car [badly] or blew an engine, I wouldn’t have been able to race the next week,” he said.

Benjamin has avoided both scenarios so far.

“We’ve been lucky,” said Benjamin, whose team comprises his father, Ron, his uncle Bruce Benjamin, Nate Littlefield, Ryan Leadbetter and Kerry Merrifield.

“They’ve been with me a long time,” Travis Benjamin said.

He said top-three finishes in the fourth, fifth and sixth races of the season were critical in supplying him and his team with confidence.

He finished second at Speedway 660 in Geary, New Brunswick, on June 10; he won the North Habitations Dany Lagace 150 at Autodrome Chaudiere on June 23; and was third in the North Firecracker 150 at Canaan Fair Speedway (N.H.) on June 30.

“Momentum is huge,” said Benjamin.

The tour will finish up with races at White Mountain Motorsports Park in New Hampshire on Saturday night and Oxford Plains Speedway on Sept. 30.

Benjamin said he will take the same approach as he tries to chase down Cassius Clark.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Benjamin. “We learned how to lose a championship in ’08. In our last four or five races, I was just happy to finish in the top five. But I’m shooting for top threes in the next two races. I’m not backing down.”

He wound up third in points in 2008, his best-ever finish.

He said he considers this his best season ever in PASS dating back to his first full year in 2005.

“I’ve had the most fun, for sure. I have really looked forward to going to every race,” said Benjamin, who added that he will enjoy dueling Clark for the title.

“We have a great relationship. It’s going to be interesting.”

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