On the track

Like family before him, Colby Benjamin has racing in blood

Belfast Area High School junior loves sport of speed
By Mark Haskell | Mar 26, 2020
Courtesy of: Benjamin family Colby Benjamin.

Belmont — To put it quite plainly, racing is in Colby Benjamin’s blood.

His grandfather, Robert Ripley, raced at Unity Raceway for years. His mother, Bobbie Jo Benjamin (then Bobbie Jo Ripley), was a trophy girl as a youth at the same track. His uncle, Ron Benjamin, also was a seasoned racer and his cousin, Travis, is a three-time winner of the state’s most historic race, the Oxford 250.

So, it would stand to reason Colby, at the tender age of 2, would show interest in the family business.

“Colby at two [years old] learned to drive a dirt bike before a peddle bike,” said his father Joe Benjamin. “And has always wanted to drive anything. So when he got to four, we put him in a kid kart at Thundering Valley. The next year we got a little more serious and it was history from there.”

“Getting into racing was just natural,” said Colby, now a junior at Belfast Area High School. “A tradition even. What I enjoyed most about going to the track was getting to see my friends and getting to spend time with my parents and other family members. To me, racing is a family sport, and always will be.”

The 16-year-old Colby may be a youngster to some, but on the track, he is a 12-year veteran who continues to stockpile wins and is in the modified division of the Pro All-Star Series.

"Colby has done a great job in his early career," said Travis Benjamin. "Last year he started to race the PASS modifieds and that was a lot of fun because most of of his races last year were at the same track and some the same day as mine so I got a lot more of a chance to watch him."

Colby started in the Kids Kart Division at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans. After a season and a half, he made the jump to box stock — essentially a caged go-kart with a larger motor — for the second half of that year, where he got his first career win.

In 2011, he ran the full year in box stock at Thundering Valley and had numerous top-three finishes. He finished the final two races of the year moving up to Richmond Karting Speedway, where he got a win and a second-place finish in his only two races.

At Thundering Valley, the talent pool was much smaller, whereas at Richmond, there could be as many as 10 to 20 competitors per race.

In 2012, his racing “got more serious,” said his dad, Joe, as Colby began to race every week.

That year, he had wins at Thundering Valley, Oxford Plains Speedway and a feature win at Richmond before venturing to the Junior Sportsman Class at Richmond, where he scored two wins and four top-three finishes in four races.

In 2013, at age 10, he raced in 34 features and took the checkered flag nine times, while registering 27 top-three finishes. He won divisions in three different restrictor-plate classifications, the Junior Sportsman Division championship at Richmond and was named the Mainely’s Kart driver of the year.

Colby jumped to the ultra-competitive Sportsman Division in 2014 and had two wins with 11 podium finishes, while in 2015 he graduated to unrestricted plate racing. In 2016, he transitioned out of box stock to legends car racing, which are larger than box stock, but still a fraction of the size of full-full-sized cars, powered by a motorcycle engine.

In 2017, he raced 17 legends races in three states, led by a second-place finish at Speedway 95 in Bangor. That season, he sped to NELCAR rookie of the year.

He continued to compete in legends races and select open races in 2018, but after he was knocked unconscious following a wreck in a race at Wiscasset Speedway, they began to think more about Colby’s near-term future in the sport.

“The car got fixed in a couple weeks and [he] was able to race again,” said Joe. “But the cars are little and Colby is a big boy. They don’t have much room in them. They’re like quarter of the size of a real car. After that wreck we said, ‘These don’t have a lot of protection around them.’ ”

“I was ready to move on,” said Colby. “Also, I would be able to be on tour with my cousin, Travis, and more of my family.”

The other factor in his decision was, where his cousin Travis races in the Super Late Model Division of PASS North, most would flock to those races and not Colby's. But, to join the modified division of PASS North would put the full family unit at one track.

Benjamin was ready to make the next step, but his father was initially lukewarm on the idea.

“Last spring he wanted to do something different than the legend car as no one in the family could come and help or watch him,” said Joe. “He kept sending me pics of modifieds and I kept saying no. Finally he came to me and said he had $4,000 to put towards the one we [eventually] bought so I thought if he was that committed, lets do it.”

“I walked up to him, put four thousand dollars in his hand, showed him the mod we have now and said ‘Let’s go PASS mod racing,’ ” said Colby. “I think if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Colby admitted, “It was a pretty big adjustment.”

“I heard from multiple people that it would be like driving a Cadillac,” he said. “They were completely right.”

Last season, Colby, in his rookie year in the division, finished ninth among 40 drivers with 833 points.

“Last season we had 10 starts, seven top-10 finishes, two top-five finishes, one top-three finish, finished ninth in points standings and runner-up for rookie of the year,” Colby said. “In my eyes, I couldn’t have had a better modified debut season.”

“The mods have been way more fun for us as my whole family is there, as we follow the same schedule as Travis,” said Joe. “My middle brother, Bruce, spots for Travis and also spots for Colby. So it has been a fun family thing.”

And, of course, Colby has his sights on more success in the future.

“My goals this season are to win my first PASS modified feature, run consistent all season [and] have minimal wrecks/repairs,” he said. “And if everything goes right, I would like to completely fulfill my dream of my racing career and make my Super Late Model debut.”

Benjamin’s race sponsors are Zampell, Belfast Variety, Moores Septic, Belfast Variety Rt. 52, Coastal Lawn and Landscape and Morrill General Store.

Colby Benjamin. (Courtesy of: Benjamin family)
Colby Benjamin on the track. (Courtesy of: O.L. Photos)
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