Norm Benning proved that age is nothing but a number in Thursday’s practice session for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway. The 71-year-old racer turned the 10th-fastest lap in the session, and the Pennsylvania native stunned many driving the No. 46 G2G Racing Toyota Tundra.
In the garage area after the practice session, Benning was all smiles. And the mood in the G2G camp was as if the team had won the Daytona 500.
“I’m excited. This is a dream come true. G2G, and Tim Viens, and Bill and my sponsor MDIA, I wouldn’t be here without them,” Benning said to TobyChristie.com.
You could sense the joy Benning was feeling just from his facial expressions. And if it wasn’t evidently clear that the veteran racer was elated, his quick wit would have been all you needed to draw the conclusion.
When asked how he ran so fast in the session, Benning joked, “Eh, the throttle stuck.”
Benning continued by saying, “It was a lot of fun.”
While the 10th-place effort in practice was a big deal for Benning and the G2G Racing team, Benning believes the truck could have topped the speed charts had it not incurred damage from bottoming out on the banking in turns 1 and 2.
“We have a lot of damage on the bottom right front, there and the splitter also. If it wasn’t for that, I honestly believe I would have had the pole,” Benning stated confidently.
Benning being fast shouldn’t be a surprise, as he is a lifelong racer. He’s forgotten more about racing than most of us have ever known. But heading into this weekend at Daytona, the NASCAR community on Twitter was busy cracking jokes about Benning and the G2G Racing team, which was originally slated to have NASCAR Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter in its truck.
It didn’t bother Norm one bit.
“I’ve lived that my whole life,” Benning said of the doubters. “I’ve never had big, big money. But somehow I make what I have work.”
It’s been rough sledding for Benning the last couple of years, as he turned in the worst average finish of his Truck Series career in 2021 (32.3). Last year, Benning failed to make the show in all four of the races he attempted to qualify for.
“It’s been a dry spell for a while, but this is very exciting,” Benning interjected.
For those who discounted G2G Racing as a legitimate race team, Benning says folks need to open their eyes. And Benning makes a great point, as equipment is as important at Daytona and Talladega as anywhere else on the schedule.
“All to do with the equipment. The equipment makes the difference here. You could put a monkey out there,” Benning explained. “I mean, equipment is what makes you go fast and I’ve got good equipment.”
Benning and the No. 46 team are still not locked into Friday’s race. They’ll have to work their way into the field through qualifying on Friday in order to secure one of the 36 starting spots. But Benning is emphatic that if he makes the show, he’s going to become the show.
“Well, stay tuned. If we get into the show, it’s going to be exciting,” Benning said. “Have them think about Eldora.”
To date, Benning’s most famous moment in NASCAR Competition was his dramatic advancement to the Main Event in the Inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Dirt Race at Eldora Speedway in 2013.
Benning was such an unexpected transfer into the big show for that race, and he advanced in such a spectacular manner in the last chance qualifier that Tony Stewart purchased the Eldora truck from Benning and has it permanently displayed at the race track.
That is currently Benning’s career-defining race. But what if he makes the show for Friday’s race and competes well? We could be talking about another epic Norm Benning moment. And if Benning is within earshot of the lead in the closing laps on Friday night?
“They’re going to be calling me the Tasmanian Devil,” Benning quipped.
Watch out, folks. Benning is hungry. He knows he has a fast car. He simply just needs to make the race.