By John Sleeper
MONROE – Greg Bennett just learned that sometimes, fate makes decisions for us.
Bennett, a NASCAR Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series driver from Monroe, was thinking about scrapping his stock car and starting over from the ground up.
He was struggling in 15th place in the standings. He missed qualifying for a May 12 race in Tenino. In his third season on the Northwest Series, Bennett had no victories and just two top-10 finishes. This, after finishing an impressive second in the Weekly Racing Series at Evergreen Speedway in 1998.
The quandary: Change cars now, or ride out the season and then make the change for next season?
Then Bennett shattered his car in a race at the East Wenatchee Super Oval July 7.
That made the decision easier. And tonight, he unveils his new car in the Parts Plus 125.
“I think we should be able to pull out a top-five,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we should be able to get up there. We’ll be a factor at Evergreen. I have no doubt about that.”
So it’s a new chassis, better equipment and stepped-up horsepower in the engine.
But will it all result in better success on the track? Who knows? But at least now, he’s going into the gunfight fully armed.
“You have to have the best equipment on the tour,” Bennett said. “Sometimes, in the local Saturday night shows, you can get by with not the best equipment. We’re not a big-budget team, so we had to do with what we had. Because of that wreck in Wenatchee, we had to build this new car in about 2 1/2 weeks, which is a pretty aggressive schedule.”
This is not unlike a rookie year for Bennett; therefore his and his crew’s learning curve is near vertical.
“The competition on the tour is tough,” Bennett said. “I think that’s why you don’t find a lot of the Southwest Tour guys who want to come in on our territory. A lot of guys come in who are really good on their local tracks, but they step up on the tour and you have to have the best of the best equipment. You’ve got to be making horsepower and you’ve got to be on your game. Otherwise, you’re just going to flounder and fail.”
Bennett knows a little about that.
Going into the season, Bennett had just 12 races under his belt. Before he joined the series in 1999, the only track other than Evergreen that he’d competed on was in Yakima.
Last year was a virtual wash because the team was a victim of a pricey tire war between Goodyear and Hoosier that became so expensive that many teams simply couldn’t afford to run.
“I was getting pretty frustrated with the tire issue,” Bennett said. “With the amount of money we have to spend to run in this thing, when you’re dealing with something like that, it’s almost better to take a break, step back and let it play itself out. Everybody was bringing fast-qualifying tires, but nobody was bringing tires you could race on. So I just helped out a few people during the year and decided to come back this year.”
Now with a new car, Bennett appears to be helping himself.