Bennett's stock is rising fast
By Phil Burgess, NHRA.com
Late last year, Ed Bennett III was sitting on top of the world. The second-generation racer, whose father once managed General Motors' drag racing efforts, had just quieted the naysayers who said he couldn't possibly tame racks in Division 3 with Bob Phelps' radical supercharged A/A '63 Corvette.
"It was challenging because everyone told us it would be too hard to be consistent," he said. "That's the worst thing they could have said to me, because I took it as a challenge to prove them wrong."
With three wins, he had already claimed the Division 3 title and had his eyes on bigger accomplishments. That world came crashing down when Phelps unexpectedly decided to park the car.
"Bob and I just went out separate ways before last year's Joliet points race," said Bennett. "It's a real shame because I had a shot at making the top 10 and still had an outside chance at the championship.
"It was just one of those racing things; he said he wasn't getting enough out of what he was putting into it. I decided to just move on and make best of the situation."
One door closes, another opens
Earlier this summer, Bennett ran a stunning 6.59 at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, breaking the class' longtime "low e.t." record of 6.60, set by fuel altered racer John Shoemaker at the 1973 U.S. Nationals. Bennett also scored back-to-back runner-ups at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing and the Sears Craftsman Nationals.
"When you move out of a car in which you won three divisional races and the division championship, a car that you know can run .80 or .90 under, and move to a different car that can run .60 or .65 under, my confidence needed that kind of boost, to show that I can still go rounds," said Bennett.
"The car's been unbelievable and I'm driving halfway decent," he added Bennett. "It's really an honor to break a record that's been around for 27 years. We always knew the power was there, but when we made some gearing changes, it really picked up. I really believe we can run in the 40s. Everyone at Book Racing has done an incredible job. There are people with more money, but it would be hard to say they could do any better."
Amazing altered could be next
"Both cars weigh the same, so there's no reason the altered can't run 6.60s," said Bennett. "I think it can go faster because, with the suspension -- a 4-link in the back and a Pro Stock-style strut up front -- you can attack the starting line a little harder. If it handles well downtrack, it could run faster than the dragster."
Book had purchased the altered last year, but teething problems sidelined it. He contacted Bennett, who had just lost his ride in Phelps' car, for his help in taming the new ride. Midwest chassis guru Jesse Plant has just completed and front- and back-half reconstruction of the car, and Bennett is eager to try it out.
"I love that dragster -- it's unbelievable - but the altered is supposed to be my baby. If it comes together, Bob would probably get back into the dragster and I would be in the altered. That would be an amazing combination."
Powerful, attention-getting cars are nothing new to Bennett, and the altered may be just another step in Bennett's evolution.
"I'll admit that I like the higher-profile type of cars," he said. "It's more my style. Of course, ultimately I'd love to run Pro Stock or Pro Stock Truck. That's been my dream since I was young. My dad -- he has been my driving force; everything I've learned, I've learned from him -- and my uncle always made sure I drove only stick-shift cars so I could learn how to hit the shift points. I'd love to have my own team."
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