There probably are not many young boys in Maine who would not want to drive a race car when they grow up. In fact, that is probably a dream for youngsters across the United States. However, that dream can be a little more of a reality when one’s family has racing in its blood.

Travis Benjamin of Morrill lives that dream in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who both raced when they were young.

Recently, Benjamin and his father, Ron, took a 1,060-mile trip from Morrill to Hickory, N.C. to race April 23 at the Hickory Motor Speedway in Benjamin’s opening race of the season.

Even though the race did not turn out the way they wanted, Benjamin said it was a learning experience. There, the car, number 17, placed 25 among 43 in the time trial and had an accident in the qualifying race, putting it out of commission for the day.

“It was a good learning experience,” Benjamin said. “I thought if we could have got in the race we could have raced really well, but we didn’t get to.”

Benjamin, 32, has been racing stock cars around New England for 18 years.

Currently he races in the Pro All Star Series but he also raced in NASCAR for about nine years. However, Benjamin had humble beginnings. When he was a young boy he started watching races then moved to racing go-karts.

“It was always fun, I always went,” Benjamin said. “I’ve gone to the race track since I was probably seven or eight. I have just always been around it so it is what I grew up with.”

Then when he was 15, he got a chance to drive a car on a race track.

“The first time I remember being in a car we were up in Unity [Raceway] practicing and I was trying to go as fast as I can, which is the name of the game, and I end up spinning off the track and this guy came around and hit me,” Benjamin said. “So the first time I was in the car, I crashed.”

Obviously, that did not stop Benjamin.

”I just enjoyed it,” he said. “It is what my family has always done and we have just always enjoyed doing these kind of things and I think the next week we got out there and we ran pretty good.”

When he says his family has always raced, Benjamin means it. His father was a stock car racer at Unity and toured, his grandfather raced dirt tracks, his nephew races go-karts now, he has two cousins that work as mechanics in North Carolina, and it seems everyone is a fan.

Even Benjamin’s son Kaiden, 4, is interested.

“If he wants to race, I hope he does and I’m going to do everything I can to push him up through but if he doesn’t want to he doesn’t have to either,” Benjamin said.

In fact, it was Benjamin’s father who was his biggest influence. “He was the one who pushed me, the one I always looked up to,” Benjamin said.

Aside from his family’s influence Benjamin was drawn to racing because he is a competitor and it drives him.

“I played basketball and I’ve been pretty good but there is nothing that compares to how competitive racing is,” he said. “Basketball most likely you are going to have some wins, in racing you might go years without winning. So, it’s hard. It is the most difficult thing I have ever done as a competitor is to win in races.”

Benjamin said the most wins he has had in one year is two. The competition is intense.

“[In basketball] you are playing against one other team,” he said. “Well, in racing, it’s usually 30-40 people you are racing against and 25 of them are capable of winning.”

Benjamin said that there are a couple of key things to being successful at racing. He stressed the importance of communication with the crew and staying in control.

If you do not have those two things your car is going to get out of shape and you are out of the race.

“The biggest thing about racing is not to lose your composure,” he said. “It’s so tight. With the tracks we race on, it’s not like NASCAR where you get on these mile or two mile tracks. We are on quarter mile, third-mile tracks so you are always around people and you are always rubbing, you are always hitting.”

He said that keeping in touch with the crew is important. That way they know what the car is doing and can help you keep it in shape. Keeping both the driver and the car in shape during the race is a trick.

“A lot of times if you don’t have the best car in the beginning of the race you might by the end of the race so you have to stay patient,” he said.

For example, drivers cannot worry if they get passed, “because hopefully they are using their stuff up and so you will get back by them later in the race,” Benjamin said.

“It’s hard because you have got to get to the front but you don’t want to get to the front and use your [stuff] up,” he said. “So it’s hard. Like I said, it’s the most competitive thing I’ve ever had to do.”

The tricks have worked for Benjamin, who has had measurable success over his career. He said his biggest race was a first-place finish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he beat 28 cars in a 250-lap race for around $9,000.

Years ago, Benjamin was sponsored by Irving Oil, who was able to send him to NASCAR. So, from 2001-2010 he was in the national circuit with posters in Irving stores and 10th to 15th-place finishes on the track.

However, when Irving sold out to Circle K, they downsized and Benjamin’s NASCAR sponsorship was through. Now, Benjamin said he is thankfully back to his local sponsors and his roots.

“I have had a taste of [NASCAR],” he said. “I liked it a lot but it was just a whole different atmosphere. I’m glad about what I’m doing, I like what I’m doing.”

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at fritz@villagesoup.com.