The view from my couch
Benny Gordon - Third Times the Charm
by Cheryl Lauer
August 18, 2005
Benny Gordon finished second in overall USAR, Hooters Pro Cup points in 2003 and 2004. With four wins to his credit already in 2005, the Northern Division points leader is hoping the old adage “third time's the charm” proves true for him in 2005.
After missing the first three races of the 2003 USAR season, Benny ended up finishing an impressive second in his first USAR race. I always enjoying hearing how people got their start in their chosen career field and this is particularly true with race car drivers. I'd been wondering where Gordon cut his racing teeth before appearing to come out nowhere four races into the 2003 season, and then go on to finish second in the overall points as well as claiming the 2003 Rookie of the Year Award. When I asked to inteview Benny about his background, he seemed happy to answer my questions.
He was born and raised in Dubois, Pennsylvania and began racing quarter midgets at the age of eight. He raced the midgets until he was eleven years old. His first experience in stock cars came when he spent a year racing at Clearfield Mountain Speedway in Pennsylvania. In 1991, he decided to move to South Carolina to run at Summerville Speedway where he won back-to-back Super Stock Championships in 1991 and 1992. Always looking to move onto bigger challenges, Benny entered the Synergy Truck Series, which was his first touring series. He ran at tracks such as Hickory Motor Speedway, Myrtle Beach, Florence, and Greenville-Pickens. He won the championship in the Synergy series three consecutive years, 1996-1998.
1999 saw another step up as Benny joined the All-Pro Series, where he ran for the next three years and won the Rookie of the Year title in 1999. He had planned to run the All-Pro Series in 2003, but was offered the seat in the 44 car in the USAR Southern Division by owners, Johnny Dangerfield and Troy Baird. He debuted in their car at Ace Speedway in April of 2003 was immediately impressive in bringing the car home to a second place finish. After a solid remainder of the season and a resetting of the points for the USAR Championship Series races, all of a sudden the rookie was in the heat of the 2003 championship battle with USAR veteran, Shane Huffman. Their competition for the 2003 title was not without controversy when Gordon was involved in a couple of skirmishes with Huffman during the five championship races. In the end, Gordon won two of the five races, and Huffman won the remaining three races and the championship. As in 2004, the 2003 championship was not decided until the final race at Lakeland, with Huffman edging Gordon out. Benny had to content himself with winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year for 2003. Not a bad consolation prize for a driver who didn’t even run until the fourth race of the season!
In January 2004, Gordon was offered the seat of the newly established Predator Performance Team based out of his hometown of Dubois, PA. This required him to switch from the Southern to Northern Division of USAR, but also allowed him to move back home to Dubois.
Unfortunately, Benny began the season with a substantial points deficit after wrecks and mechanical problems in the first and second Northern races at South Boston and Lonesome Pine. Despite this early setback, Gordon and his team began gathering momentum by finishing second at Indianapolis Raceway Park and from that point on his progress to the top of the points standing never slowed. That second place finish in May vaulted him into the top 10 in Northern Division points, where he stayed for the rest of the season. By the July race at Mansfield, he was leading the Northern points and had clinched the Northern Division championship by August. Along the way, Benny also won five regular season races.
Again Benny and his team had to fight back from adversity. They cut a tire at the first championship race at Jennerstown in September, but then won back to back championship races at Mansfield and Myrtle Beach. This brought Benny's season win total up to seven for 2004. With a truly impressive season, Gordon looked poised to win the 2004 Championship this past November at Lakeland. Unfortunately, mechanical gremlins, this time due to a broken alternator bracket, caused him to come up short in his second championship bid in just two seasons.
So, although his 2004 championship run was derailed in the very last race, Benny and the Predator Performance team are already showing they have the strength to make another run at the title in 2005. He remains the guy to beat every week in the Northern Division, despite facing the challenges presented by an influx of several new teams with NASCAR backing. Gordon and his team showed their strength winning the first Northern race at South Boston in April of 2005. Benny has led the Northern points since that time, also collecting victories at Jennerstown, Lake Erie, and Motor Mile Speedway along the way.
As a fan of USAR racing, I've watched Gordon mature a lot as a driver since he came on the scene in 2003. Perhaps it has to do with Benny's comfort level since his new team is run out of his hometown of Dubois, PA allowing him to move back home after all those years running in the south. Maybe it's because Benny is surrounded by family much of the time. His older brother, Todd, serves as his crew chief, and Benny told me his parents travel to every race with him. Added to that is the tremendous support Benny receives from his large continent of fans. I think that is what has impressed me as much as Benny's driving style. Every race that I've been to as a fan sitting in the stands, I noticed there was always a large group of fans cheering for Benny. This started out primarily at Jennerstown, PA which was not far from where he grew up. But last October in Mansfield, OH, there was a huge group of fans wearing Predator Performance attire where we were sitting on the hillside between turns 3 and 4. And they were all cheering for Benny Gordon. Although USAR is a touring series, at most tracks where they race, many of the fans in the grandstands are local to the track and don't really know much about the USAR drivers. A few may know past champions such as Bobby Gill, Jeff Agnew, or maybe Shane Huffman. Benny Gordon seems to be one driver who creates enough excitement from his driving style and accomplishment to attract a large and loyal fan base that actually follows him to many of the venues. You can't beat that!
Wiith just two races left in each division's regular season, it seems likely Benny Gordon and Shane Huffman will be facing off for the title as they did back in 2003.
Based on his strong performances over the last two seasons, it's very possible the third time will be the charm for Benny Gordon. It that happens, USAR will finally see their first overall champion coming from the Northern Division in 2005.
As always, good luck to Predator Performance and all of the race teams in USAR! I’ve never met harder working or nicer bunch of folks!
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