He’s made 103 starts in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, but you’d seemingly never notice. He’s probably had just a handful of finishes on the lead-lap and when the faster trucks approach, he respectfully stays out of their way. I doubt he’s flagged-down for autographs on his way to pit road for qualifying and it’s unlikely that he’s had many dinners interrupted while on the road. But 61-year-old Norm Benning is somewhat iconic as a never-give-up , see-ya-next-week competitor. If there’s a truck race to be run, he’ll be there.
It always struck me as odd, that guys like Norm Benning even show up. It’s like, you know you’re not going to win; you’ll be lucky to finish on the lead lap and you’re using earning from one race to get to the next. What’s the point? Well, I kind of figured it out last night.
Not everyone can drive like Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart. Not everyone is going to be planted with an organization that virtually has unlimited resources. And not everyone is going to be someone who sponsors are clamoring for to hawk their products. Not everyone can be that guy. Someone has to be the “rest of the field.” I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that some of us are here for the raw love of the sport; the race-to-race traveling and the fellowship we look forward to. There are some that are just happy to be here. Norm Benning is that guy.
So here I am, Chinese take-out on my lap watching the heat races. As I lifted a fork-full of Lo Mein to my face, I see Norm Benning and Clay Greenfield battling door-to-door for a transfer position into the main event. Let me repeat that: Norm Benning and Clay Greenfield battling door-to-door for a transfer position into the main event. HUH?
I thought it would be a quick camera shot of two back-markers bouncing off each other and then back to the leaders. Instead, it became an epic battle of two guys who rarely even get a mention. The next thing I know, I’m on my feet. Chinese food flying across the room (to the delight of the dogs) and I’m rooting for Norm Benning to get into the race. Again, I’m going to repeat that because I can’t believe I just wrote it: I’m on my feet. Chinese food flying across the room and I’m rooting for Norm Benning to get into the race.
I was a fist-pumping moment. And it was awesome.
The crowning glory for me, as you may expect, was the heartfelt moment when Norm flipped off his nemesis. He may not have a lot of speed, but he sure has the passion.
So, on an evening when NASCAR made history and a definitive statement to the fans, Norm Benning shines brightly in a manner which he’s never likely to shine again.
Good for him.