50 Years:
Oswego Speedway International Classic

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Semi-Monthly
Racing Commentary
with
LEW BOYD

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com



Johnny Benson Jr. nips Chris Perley in ISMA action at Seekonk Speedway.
[Jim Feeney Photo/ISMAsupers.com]


10/29/10

THE JOHNNY BENSONS AND THEIR SUPERS

Things keep poppin’ up since that TEAROFF “Ode to Senior Supers” was posted. Supers have a way of driving deep into the soul, preciously protected by lasting memories. Take what happened a couple of weeks ago.

2008 Craftsman Truck Champion Johnny Benson Jr. of Cornelius, N.C., pulled into Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway on a night off, October 2. He’d never been to Seekonk before, but he would challenge it in the most brutish of cars – an ISMA supermodified.

Benson had dabbled with supers along the way. He had never won, but he had been bitten sorely in a grinding crash in Michigan. This night, though, was his. He whopped the field aboard Mark Lichty’s #74, outdueling ISMA megastar Chris Perley.

Benson was clearly moved. The first moment he could, he disappeared to call his dad to say he’d won.

No wonder. When Johnny was knee-high to a hub cap, Johnny Benson Sr. was one hot item in super circles in the upper Midwest. Senior was also a starring actor in one of the most often discussed performances in supermodified history.

“Back in 1965,” he recalls, “I was driving down the street – about 70 miles an hour, arm out the window – thinking about a super I wanted to build. I felt the pressures on my palm when it was flat against the wind and then horizontal to the ground. I’m going to use that wind, I thought.

“You see, it was a tough time back then. Lots of guys were buying Indy roadsters – beautiful things, all chromed out, that you could get for around $30,000. They were designed to go down the straight with those little Offies with no drag. I thought they were missing the boat on downforce.

“I incorporated as much downforce as I could in the roof – and a lot in the fuselage of the car.

“The chassis itself was just basic. We welded and welded. Had no pipe bender, so all the joints were fabricated square. We even made our own axle tubes. The whole thing weighed 1400 pounds soaking wet when we were done.

“The motor was a 327 stroked out to about 383. We put some big valves in it, but concentrated more on reliability than speed. It had injection with fuel.

“I had a 35-gallon tank out back and one 15-gallon tank along each side of the driveshaft. I was careful about that. It worried me about how guys would put 55- gallon drums on their cars with just metal strapping for long races.

“When it was ready to go, we’d spent $3500 total. To be honest, though, the magneto may have been used…

“We went to Berlin Speedway near Grand Rapids with it and it went okay, so we decided to take it to the Oswego Classic in 1966. A 13-hour drive.

“We got there, and I felt pretty self-conscious among all that fancy equipment with this little dog we’d welded and ground on. And we weren’t used to 200-lappers. But it worked. We got the pole with a new track record.


Johnny Benson Sr. brings a varied field down to the green at the Oswego Classic
in 1966. From 50 Years: Oswego Speedway International Classic,  by George
Caruso Jr. and Carol D. Haynes. [Photo Courtesy Speedway Press Archives]

“The race was a shootout with Bentley Warren in the Purdy Deuce, Gordon Dukes in a roadster, and me. I won it, totally wiped out from no power steering and not knowing what to expect.

“What a time in racing that was. There were about 80 cars at Oswego that day – and they all were different.

“That little #21 of ours was something. One night I rolled it at Berlin, turned it back over, cleared out the fuel, put in some oil, went back out, and won the feature.


Benson aboard his aero-conscious #21 duels with Bentley Warren in the Purdy Deuce. From 50 Years: Oswego Speedway International Classic, by George
Caruso Jr. and Carol D. Haynes. [Photo Courtesy Speedway Press Archives]

“That kind of thing will never happen again. Things are so different now. Innovators – guys like Jim Shampine and me, I guess – caused problems by making the cars faster and faster. The promoters had to slow them down because people were getting hurt. Rules made the cars get more and more the same. Soon they become all alike – like the old time midgets did, and the excitement goes away from the racing.

“Johnny Jr. did call me after that race at Seekonk. He knows I disapprove slightly of his running supermodifieds these days, but I sure was happy for him. After all, I knew just how he felt!

“You know, a race car is a race car. I’ve built and raced them all. But a super is the most basic to build and to drive, and it’s the fastest.

“Run what you brung has always been best.”

Dick O’Brien holds the Classic Trophy
for one tuckered-out Johnny Benson.
From 50 Years: Oswego Speedway International Classic, by George
Caruso Jr. and Carol D. Haynes. [Photo Courtesy Speedway Press Archives]

 Like father like son. 44 years later it’s a Johnny Benson again.
[Jim Feeney Photo/ISMAsupers.com]

© 2010 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

10/13/10 - Anatomy of an Accident

9/28/10 - Maybe Marty

9/14/10 - Push Refresh for Speedway Illustrated

8/23/10 - An Ode to Senior Supers

8/6/10 - Adrian and the Deep Water

7/20/10 - Holdout in Yuppieville

7/7/10 - The Wins are Gustin

6/16/10 - Racin' Kid, Racin' Dad

5/28/10 - The Monk and Matty D.

5/15/10 - Bluebird

4/27/10 - Catching Up With Steve Arpin

4/11/10 - The Song of the Fifties

3/22/10 - Davey!

3/8/10 - Restart!

2/21/10 - Miracles of the Rock

2/8/10 - Roger The Remarkable

1/21/10 -  Shane's Sensational '78

12/28/09 - The Flying Finn and The All American Boy

12/12/09 - Hello Wall

11/29/09 - Once More for Ernie

11/15/09 - Ernie's Excellent Chase

11/1/09 - In The Zone

10/19/09 - Rough Week in the Midwest

10/1/09 - Common Starts, Uncommon Comebacks

9/4/09 - South Dakota Chris

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2007-10 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181