Kyle Benjamin will make his debut under the lights at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday, February 18th at the Second Annual Battle at the Beach. But it will not be in a full-bodied stock car like he is accustomed to, however. The 16-year-old will make his debut in a NASCAR Modified.
Benjamin, a multiple-time winner in Super Late Model competition at the nearby New Smyrna Speedway as well as in ARCA Racing Series and more short track events around the country, will make his debut in one of the most formidable Modifieds in recent memory.
The Easley, South Carolina pilot will drive the No. 7NY Chevrolet owned by Mike Curb and prepared by Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion at the UNOH Battle at the Beach on February 18.
“I always wanted to race a Modified car and with the help of my agent, we were able to get this deal together for the Battle at the Beach,” Benjamin said. “This will be a great opportunity and I'm really looking forward to racing it at Daytona.”
Benjamin is also excited to get behind the wheel of a car that has a list of who’s who of drivers in the past. That list includes NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece and NASCAR young star Kyle Larson. Newman and Preece have both won major Modified events in the No. 7NY in recent seasons and Larson ran up front before an accident at Daytona in the 2013 edition of the Battle at the Beach.
“They always have a really good car no matter where they race,” Benjamin said of his Manion-led team. "Many of the team’s past drivers have gone on to do great things in this sport and I am hoping that this will help with my career as well.”
He will get his first opportunity in the car during the practice sessions on race day. Benjamin was hoping to get some seat time before the event, but schedules didn’t work out.
“Bono and the team have been great to help me understand how the car will react compared to the Late Models and ARCA Racing Series cars I am used to driving,” Benjamin explained. “The horsepower is about the same, but it has less downforce and will be a tighter turn in the corners.
“The temporary track on the backstretch at Daytona will be a unique, flat track. We will be using a lot of brakes but will have more forward drive to get down the straights.”
His Modified debut will be part of his busy Speedweeks schedule as he will be racing his Super Late Model at the 48th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida February 14-22.
Last year, Benjamin raced in eight events during Speedweeks at New Smyrna, where he took home four wins, six top-five and six top-ten finishes.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to New Smryna, I am ready to go now,” Benjamin said. “It will be a fun couple of weeks."