Bennett brings record-setting momentum into Baton Rouge
Nitro Jam Media
Feb 10, 2011
Chris Bennett in "Pure Heaven"
For most racers, the first event of the season is typically a chance to shake off the cobwebs of a long offseason and try to get back in rhythm with a few smooth, consistent laps.
That certainly wasn’t the case for third generation racer Chris Bennett.
You could almost say Bennett was in “heaven” following the opening race of the 2011 Nitro Jam season as Bennett and the “Pure Heaven” Fuel Altered team fired off one career best lap after another en route to winning the first ever Fuel Altered race as a part of Nitro Jam competition while setting the bar for the new class entering the second event of the year February 19-20 at the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam in Baton Rouge.
“We came to Palm Beach International with an educated guess of what it would take to really make this car run well. That guess really paid off as it ripped off an amazing 6.03 off the trailer,” Bennett said. “The entire crew was elated as that was our personal best ever for both the funny car and the Fuel Altered. That number erased years of frustration.”
Jason Richey in 'Pure Hell' gave Bennett all he could handle at the Palm Beach Nitro Jam
Using that opening round shot, Bennett advanced to the first final of the new season where he easily dispatched of the “Pure Hell” machine driven by Jason Richey to claim his first career victory and the first Fuel Altered win in Nitro Jam competition.
“The car fell off a little on the second run, which we expected, but it was still enough to take the win,” Bennett said. “That was my first official win since I’ve been driving these things and I just couldn’t stop pumping my fists at the top end. What an experience. And to top it off racing the “Pure Hell” guys, what more could you ask for in a final?”
But Bennett wasn’t done quite yet. With the momentum carried over from day one, Bennett followed up his career best lap on Friday with another shot heard round the world in front of the huge Saturday crowd that truly turned heads among his competitors.
“On Saturday we ran a 5.93 at over 235 miles per hour and that was a handful. Our rear wing isn’t really putting down the force you would hope for which makes for an interesting ride from about halftrack on,” Bennett said. “I knew it was on a good run when it launched hard out of the gate. Before halftrack it started to wander around and I was fighting to keep it in the groove, but I wasn’t going to lift.
“At the finish line it got really close to the center line and I was about to give in when it finally crossed the traps. We really weren’t trying to run that stout of a number and to be honest we were actually trying to settle it down, but you can’t really settle one of these things down. After all, it is a Fuel Altered.”
Unfortunately, that is where Bennett’s Cinderella story came to a less than happy ending. Upon returning to the pits following his record-setting run, Bennett and his team found that they had broken a rod which caused considerable damage to the engine and forced Bennett to miss Saturday’s final, advancing the next quickest car into the championship pairing.
The 'Pure Heaven' team works on the car prior to the Nitro Jam show
Even with the fastest lap of the weekend, Bennett was left sitting on the sideline for the final as Ron Maroney and “Super Nanook” took the win on Saturday against Ron Hope’s legendary “Rat Trap.”
“It appeared the rod broke from fatigue as the motor didn’t phased by the tune-up,” Bennett said. “Our computer showed oil pressure was steady through the entire run and it never dropped a cylinder. And without enough time to repair and swap out motors, we were forced to sit out the final. Needless to say, the entire team went from being on top of the world to being devastated.”
Despite the less than memorable ending, Bennett is looking forward to building off of his success from Palm Beach and continuing to make noise in the class at the Mardi Gras Nitro Jam at State Capitol Raceway February 19-20 in Baton Rouge.
And Bennett is especially looking forward to another race competing with the Nitro Jam series after a memorable first race with the organization.
“The IHRA really knows how to treat the racers and fans right. We traveled over 2,700 miles from the event in Florida and we would do it again in a heartbeat,” Bennett said. “There is a lot of history with this Fuel Altered group and I take a lot of pride in being a third generation pilot of these cars. My biggest heroes in this sport are and were Fuel Altered drivers and I am humbled to be a part of their group.”
Bennett and the rest of the Fuel Altered gang will join four other nitro classes and a host of extras at the annual Mardi Gras Nitro Jam at State Capitol Raceway February 19-20.