Travis Benjamin’s 2019 Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model North stock car season did not get off to the best of starts.
The two-time PASS SLM North points champion, who last season missed out on a third title by eight points to D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, New Hampshire, has posted just one top-five finish through his first five races.
He is adjusting to a new car and a different, but familiar, crew chief and team. Benjamin has been reunited with his longtime friends and race team members.
The Morrrill native, a two-time Oxford 250 winner, is still racing for the Biddeford-based Petit Motorsports team. But now his car is in housed in his race shop in Morrill instead of at the Petit shop in Biddeford, where it had been the previous three seasons.
Former crew chief Mark Lyden, who worked on Benjamin’s race car with Todd Graffam in the Biddeford shop, left the team before the last race of the 2018 season.
Ryan Leadbetter, who was the crew chief when Benjamin had his own race team, is back in that role. Nate Littlefield is his tire man, and Kyle Keene is a mechanic on the team.
Benjamin, who is driving a new Distance Racing Products Chevrolet, turned in three top-10 showings through his first four races. Last weekend, he finished 23rd in the 150-lap event at Oxford Plains Speedway.
That came a week after his best finish, a fourth at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont. He opened the season with an eighth-place finish at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut and a ninth at the Honey Badger Bar and Grill 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Benjamin said Sunday’s showing was the first time they have been what he called “horrible” this season.
“We aren’t where we want to be at all. But we can make a lot of improvements,” the 40-year-old Benjamin said.
He said the car is awesome and has the best of everything.
But he acknowledged that he and his crew and still “working the bugs out of it.
“Once we get everything clicking, we’re going to be really good,” Benjamin said.
Under the new setup, Benjamin and friends are doing all the work on the car in their own shop rather than having two full-time Petit members handling those duties.
“These guys are my best friends, and we get to see each other every night,” Benjamin said. “But it’s a lot more work.”
Benjamin won his first PASS title in 2012 with his own team and won again in 2017 in his second year with Petit Motorsports.
The former standout basketball point guard at Belfast High School has finished in the top five in points seven times in the past eight years.
After winning the last race in 2018 at Seekonk Speedway (Massachusetts) to almost wrest the points title away from Shaw, Benjamin said be began the season with a lot of momentum and energy.
“I was so excited to get this season started,” Benjamin said. “We haven’t started off quite the way I thought we would.”
Shaw and Garrett Hall of Scarborough, each of whom has two wins, are two of the front-runners, and Farmingdale’s Johnny Clark is another top contender.
“D.J. is the man to beat. He’s very good. Johnny [Clark] is running good, and Garrett Hall is tough,” Benjamin said.
The next race is Sunday, June 16, at 1:30 p.m., the Hopkins Milling and Paving PASS 150 at Speedway 95 in Hermon.