Bennett enjoys a legendary season at the Speedbowlwaterford
WATERFORD — It wasn’t how Peter Bennett opened the 2018 New London-Waterford Speedbowl Saturday Legends season, but how he closed it that counted.
On opening day, he almost didn’t start the race because of a failed ignition switch. Although he had to start the 25-lap feature at the rear of the field, he rallied to finish fourth, an indication of the skill he had of weaving his way through traffic.
It was a skill he used quite often during the remainder of the 2018 season.
After the sluggish start, Bennett rallied to win six races and the Saturday Legends title by 52 points over runner-up Scott Limkemann. Bennett also racked up the Wednesday title, making him the sixth Speedbowl driver to win both the Wednesday and Saturday crown in the same season. Considering it was only his second year behind the wheel in a Legends car, his achievement even was more amazing.
“I certainly exceeded expectations,” Bennett said. “I won the last race in 2017 and that gave me a lot of confidence heading into 2018. Our goal was to win both championships, a pretty ambitious goal. And I can’t believe that we actually did it.”
Bennett, however, knows how he did it — with a consistent car every week.
“My goal in every race was to be as consistent as possible,” Bennett said. “You have to get the finish that your car is capable of, and not overdrive it. We’re a low budget team and we couldn’t afford to wreck too often. So my mentality was to take the car my crew gave me, do a good job and hopefully finish in the Top 5. And we finished in the Top 5 every week.”
And most of the time he was better than that.
Bennett dominated the second race of the season, overtaking Kyle Rogers with 11 laps to go, to chalk up his first win of the year.
His biggest win of the season took place on June 29 when he captured the Summer Showdown and the $2,020 purse that went with it. Bennett only led for one lap and finished second on the track, but was declared the winner when Alex McCollum was disqualified after post-race inspection.
“I’ve watched this race many times and to actually win it blows my mind,” Bennett said. “After I won it, I was really shocked how far I came in the Legends division. After that disappointment in the opener, we started rattling off some wins. I was bringing my A game.”
He brought his A game again on July 28 when he blistered past Limkemann with five laps to go for his third straight win.”
After losing one of the closest races in Legends history — by 0.003 seconds to Mike Blaskey, Bennett got hot again at the end of the season.
Bennett won double features on Sept. 29 and then wrapped up the season finale on Oct. 21 — and also wrapped up the championship.
It wasn’t a bad accomplishment for a driver who started his career in the Nutmeg Kart Club in 2010. During his last 4 years of Karts, he raced for Dave Tracy, but when Tracy retired as parts vendor in 2016, Bennett decided to re-invent himself as a driver.
“I always had my eye on the Legends division,” Bennett said. “It was a big leap of faith for me because I had no connections with the Legends or at the Bowl and I had to learn everything myself. But we built a championship caliber race program. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do what I can do. I never stopped believing in myself.”
Bennett’s sponsorship includes Portofino’s Restaurant in Kensington, Wayne’s Town-Line Service, Johnny Olson’s Quality Used Cars, realtor Tom Perra, Kingsley Plumbing and Heating, S and M landscaping and Greg and Ava.
His crew includes his dad Peter, Ray and Dennis.
Bennett says he’s 95 percent certain he will be returning to the Speedbowl on Wednesday nights to defend his title.
Because the Legends division no longer races Saturdays, Bennett says he will be able to do some traveling on weekends.
He also will be savoring the memories of 2018 when he joined Jags Palmer, Jason Palmer, Anthony Flannery, Dana DiMatteo and Mike Christopher Jr.
“That’s pretty cool, considering I know all these guys,” Bennett said. “And I watched all those guys race.. To be on that same short list with them means a lot.”
He was better than consistent in 2018 — he was dominating.
Press release from the New London-Waterford Speedbowl
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