MORRILL, Maine — Morrill’s Travis Benjamin has been a consistently successful auto racer in the Pro All-Stars Series North Super Late Model division.
He finished fifth in points last year and has four top-six point finishes over the last six seasons.
His 2012 season outlook was ominous due to the economy until Associated Grocers of New England and Shurfine brands products decided to sponsor a five-race deal with him.
“This is huge,” said Benjamin. “We didn’t know if we were going to race at all this year. If we did, we were just going to pick local races that didn’t cost a whole lot.
“For these guys to step up is huge for me,” added Benjamin.
His primary sponsors have been his father, Ron’s, three variety stores in Belfast and Morrill.
“That has accounted for 50-60 percent of our budget so when the stores aren’t as busy, we can’t do as much,” said Benjamin. “The stores haven’t been as busy as they normally are.”
His father’s stores are affiliated with AGNE and they carry Shurfine products. And they answered Benjamin’s emails pertaining to sponsorship.
Benjamin has had a full-time employee working on his cars over the previous three years after having two in 2008 when he posted a career-best third place points finish.
But he won’t have any this season and he sold one of his two Ford Fusion race cars.
However, he is optimistic about the season thanks to the new sponsorship and his strong outings in his last two races last season.
“In the next-to-last race, we started 15th and finished fifth. In the last race, we started 13th and were leading by lap 70. We got passed on lap 112 and it rained out on lap 116. We wound up second,” said the 33-year-old Benjamin.
Benjamin said he had a “real fast car” for 50-60 laps in previous races “but then it would fall off.”
“It was really discouraging. But we found a couple of problems with the shock absorbers and the tires and we got them figured out. The car stayed under me the last two races,” he said. “We had a real good car.”
That same Fusion will be the one he will run this season.
“And I’m not going to do a whole lot to it. I’ll put new body panels on it to make it look good and refresh the engine,” said Benjamin.
“I’m excited for the season,” he added. “It should be a good year. With a little luck, hopefully we can win some races.”
He has one career PASS victory.
Without a full-time mechanic, he will continue to rely on friends Kerry Merrifield and Nate Littlefield as well as his family to help him with his car.
He said he used to spend every night in his race shop swapping stories with his friends while working on the cars but now that he doesn’t have a full-time mechanic, “I’ll have to work [harder]” he quipped.
He isn’t sure if he will run for points.
“I’ll do the first five races and go from there. If we’re running up [near the] front [in points], we’ll stick with it [and run for points],” said Benjamin, who is looking for more sponsors. “If we aren’t doing well, we’ll skip a couple of races and just run for wins.”
The first PASS race will be on Saturday, May 5 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough.