Earlier this year, we took a look at some of the young guns making a name for themselves on the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Modified tour. Young racers like Max Cookson and Garrett Lamb bring a lot to the table, and have bolstered the ranks with their presence.
Yet there is another young Maine racer within the pit area who was already here, one with a racing pedigree all his own and the same burning desire to win races. For 18-year-old Belmont native Colby Benjamin, the goal of reaching Victory Lane is a challenge he loves. Now, he’s within striking distance.
“In the first few races this year, we were kind of out to lunch,” Benjamin admitted. “We had some overheating issues that took me out of a few races. We’ve made progress in the last few events, and have shown some speed lately. If we can keep that up and get a little luck, we’ll have our shot at a win.”
Benjamin got an early start to his racing career, at the tender age of 4 he was already in a Kart. This year marks his 14th season of racing some type of vehicle, and it’s been an interesting ride thus far.
“I started off in the Karts at Thundering Valley Raceway,” he explained. “I ran in a few different classes there, and eventually moved to Richmond Karting Speedway. The competition level jumped from five or six Karts that could win up to 20-plus. I think it was a good move, it forced me to step up my game.
“I won a championship and a runner-up points finish in the same year. In 2013 I ran in 34 races, earned nine wins, 27 top-three finishes and was named Kart Racer-of-the-Year. From there, I ran the NELCAR Legends tour and earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2018. That’s where I learned to be smooth.”
While he gained knowledge and honed his driving skills there, an on-track incident brought a change.
“I had a really bad accident at Wiscasset Speedway,” Benjamin explained. “The car was completely totaled; the only thing worth saving was the engine. We pulled it out of the twisted car, then went to Loudon and bought a brand new chassis.
“We put it together in five days, from a bare chassis to a race-ready car. I raced it the last four races of that season, then my father and I agreed – it was time to get out of the Legends car. I got knocked out in that wreck due to the severe impact. I’m a big guy, so that little car wasn’t really practical for me at all.”
From that stint in Legends, it was onward and upward to something a little larger and more sensible. This hard-working young racer did what he needed to do in order to keep climbing that ladder.
“I’ve worked at Keene’s Dairy Farm, in Belfast, Maine, for four years now,” Benjamin explained. “I had saved up some money, and bought my PASS Modified on May 5 of 2019. That year, I earned one podium finish, a pair of top-fives, six top-10s and ended up ninth in points. My rookie season was nice.
“I was surprised actually at how well we did for just jumping into the division. We were pretty happy.”
Every driver we’ve spoken with this year agrees, it’s getting pretty tough to run up front or win on the PASS Mod tour in 2021. In six starts this year, Benjamin has one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
“It’s amazing to see how much the level of competition has increased this year,” he said. “It’s really tough now, it takes a perfect setup and everything has to come together just right. We have a great group of guys on this tour, a great package overall, and I’m working towards a visit to Victory Lane.”
When this highly-focused young racer suits up and gets ready to race, he crawls into a car with quite the story behind it. It was built by a teacher in western Maine and driven by a well-known racer.
“The car we have was originally built by Scott McDaniel,” Benjamin explained. “We actually got it from Bruce Helmuth, who raced it for several years as well. If it could talk, it may have some stories to tell. But it’s still a very solid race car, and we feel pretty strongly that it has the potential to win.”
Most folks would agree, we all need something to look forward to as each week, month and year progresses. It just keeps our spirits and enthusiasm up where it should be. For Benjamin, the chance to climb into a different ride later this year has him pretty excited.
“I’m getting the chance to race a Super Late Model a couple times later this season,” he said with all the energy and excitement you’d expect. “I’m excited for it, but still very focused on the Modified for now.”
One very cool and noteworthy thing Benjamin is doing this year involves a tribute to Military Veterans.
“I’m working to raise money for the Travis Mills Foundation,” Benjamin explained. “We have our car all wrapped up like an American flag, and for every race we carry a decal with the name of a U.S. Military Veteran. We’re trying to give back to the ones who made a sacrifice for our freedom.”
Along with that big heart and his immense natural talent behind the wheel, Benjamin also has several key people working behind the scenes to ensure his racing program stays on-track.
“I’d like to give a special thanks to the people who give me all their time and effort every week; Mom and Dad, Nana, Greg Cormier, Garrett Libby, Corey Seekins, Tristan Fogg, Andrew Campbell, Bruce Benjamin, Ron Benjamin, Kelci Faulkingham, Kelli Stark, Kaleb Benjamin, Greg Curtis, Travis Benjamin, Zampell Facilities Management, Moore’s Septic Inc, Signature Excavation and Belfast Variety Rt.52. I truly appreciate all they do for me.
“I’d also like to bring attention to the fact that while racing this year, we’ve also been supporting my Mom in her fight against breast cancer. She was recently declared cancer free, and I couldn’t be any happier for her. That was the best news I’ve heard all year, she is what keeps this family together.”
As the second half of summer flies by here in northern New England (all too quickly), Benjamin knows what he wants to accomplish before the final checkered flag waves over the stellar field of PASS Mods.
“I’m not going to be cocky and say we’re ready to win just yet,” he concluded. “I’d love to get that soon, but with the car count we have now and all the talent, I know it’s a big goal. I won’t be upset to score another podium finish or even a top-five. It’s a fun but incredibly competitive series this year.”
– Story by Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
– Photo by Norm Marx/PASS