(Stafford Springs, CT)—After a 3-year hiatus from Stafford Speedway’s Late Model division as he tried his hand in the SK Modified® ranks, hometown driver Michael Bennett returned to the Late Model ranks in 2014. Bennett tied a career high with 2 wins and he finished 5th in the standings, but behind the scenes things were harder then they appeared as Bennett struggled with the consistency of his Late Model machine.
“It was a good year but it was also a frustrating year with our car, we had a hard time keeping it consistent,” said Bennett. “We were fortunate to get two wins. We did that once before in 2010 and I think that 2010 was my best season. If you can’t win the championship, the next thing is how many wins did you have? Even on the nights that we won, we struggled with the car for whatever reason. But everyone on the team stayed focused, no one gave up, and I think we actually worked harder on things because we were struggling. While it was a gratifying and frustrating year, it was good to be back in the Late Model division. We’ve since sold that car and we bought D.J. Burnham’s #54 Limited late Model car and we’ve converted it over to a Late Model car for the 2015 season.”
“We didn’t really align ourselves to have the best success in the SK Modified® division,” said Bennett. “It seemed no matter what we tried, we couldn’t make it work. I got all my guys back that were helping out before who weren’t so involved with helping me with the SK stuff. It was good to have everything in house and everyone back together and that really rejuvenated everyone on the team. It was kind of like when we first started in the Late Model division. It was really cool to win races again with all of my guys together.”
Bennett will have Mastiff Armory along with TSI Harley-Davidson as the primary sponsors of his #16 car along with support from several associate sponsors and his family.
“We’re fortunate that we have some great sponsors like TSI Harley-Davidson, who has been with us since 2005 when we won the Limited Late Model championship along with my grandfather and H+B Siding,” said Bennett. “My grandmother was a huge help buying the car last season after we decided to go back Late Model racing and we have a guy named Bingo who purchased the car that I’ll be driving this season, so a big thanks to him. Ben Dodge has helped us out a ton in the last 5-6 years, Alpine Tree Service, Visual Perceptions, Think Green Pest Control, all these sponsors make it easier for us week to week and we’re always looking for more sponsors.”
Bennett and his teams will have their work cut out for themselves at the start of the 2015 season. A new car to him and his crew, along with new Late Model shock and sway bar rules and a new tire will give the #16 team several new variables that they will have to familiarize themselves with. Despite that fact, Bennett feels confident that he can again drive the car into NAPA Victory Lane and be a championship contender this year.
“I’m fairly optimistic everyone will be in the same boat with the tires and the new springs,” said Bennett. “It’ll be like any other year where you’re playing around with all 4 corners of the car to try to get the best balance. It is a little different than what we were used to running but like anything else, you do the best you can. I think we all don’t know what to expect with the new tires. We may have to change our driving style a little, but we’ll find that out at the first practice and even then practice is totally different from a 30-lap race. I think there will be a couple of guys who are quick right out of the gate like there is every season but it’s a chess game throughout the season and we just have to keep working at it. Hopefully we can be one of the quick cars, I don’t feel like struggling. It’s a new year and we ended 2014 with a DNF, so we don’t really have any momentum going into 2015. Having the group that we have together and knowing that we can win races, our focus is to go out and win races and see where the points fall. I think we should be a contender for the championship, we’ve done this enough and I think we’ve set ourselves up to be in the right position to go out and win it.
Bennett and the rest of the Late Model division will have their first opportunity to race for victory in the the 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler on April 24-26. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $38.50 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. All tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax.
For more information on the 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler, or to order tickets, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.