ORONO, ON – Rising star Danny Benedict will enter Sunset Speedway’s twin 35-lap features on Saturday just 1-point behind reigning and defending Ltd. Late Model title-holder Gord Shepherd in the battle for the 2018 season championship.
For Benedict, the moment is every bit as much a cause for celebration as it is an opportunity to think of just how quickly he has transformed from Mini Stock feature winner to Ltd. Late Model mid-packer and – finally – to Ltd. Late Model contender.
“It’s been a long road of figuring out all the things that don’t work before we got to the part where we were learning about the things that did work,” laughs Benedict when noting his team’s progress since moving to Late Model competition in 2016.
“Every single one of those nights were worth it though,” adds the second-generation racer. “There’s no chance we would enjoy where we’re at right now nearly as much as we do if we had just found success right from the start. The wins and the podiums feel a lot better when you look back on all the times you tripped and fell on your face.”
When asked if it’s a reality check to stare across the pits at Shepherd – a perennial division heavyweight and multiple time champion – Benedict admits that he sees it as a healthy reminder of how far his family-run operation has come.
“You see that team and that driver and you know how much they’ve accomplished – and you know that being mentioned in the same breath as them is a huge deal,” says Benedict. “And then, at the same time, you remember practice day three years ago when you pulled your car off the trailer without having a clue of what you were getting yourself into.”
“It’s awesome,” continues the Orono, ON product with a smile. “Gord and his guys are the ultimate professionals. I’ve loved racing with him so far. He pushes you. On and off the track. It’s not easy to stick with him on a Saturday night and it’s just as hard to put in the hours at the shop to make sure that you’re on top of your game the same way that the (Ridge Road Racing) guys are.”
And, while Benedict remains unwilling to publicly address his push towards a first career Sunset Speedway championship, it’s clear just how committed he is to giving his team a fighting chance at victory each time they unload.
“I’m still not even going to talk about points racing,” laughs the fan favourite. “It’s just not my style. I’m not paying any attention to it.”
“Right now – my goal every night is to give everything that I have to make sure this team has the type of performances that we work for. There are a lot of hours in every corner of this car – and they were out there because we want to run up front with the best guys in the province and we want to win. That’s what we’re here for.”