Bob, currently residing in Holly, MI, began his racing career in Albuquerque, NM in 1951 with a ‘34 Ford coupe, racing against the “local star”, Bobby Unser.
While in the Air Force during 1952-54, stationed in Rapid City, SD, Bob built and raced a ‘41 Ford coupe. He raced in the very first event at the Rapid City Fairgrounds track in ‘52. Upon his military discharge, Bob and his young family relocated to Sioux Falls, SD where Bob continued his racing exploits. He competed in the inaugural race at Huset’s Speedway on May 23, 1954.
Returning permanently to the Flint, Michigan area in 1955, Bob built and raced his own cars in ‘55 and ‘56. Involved with his first team in 1957, he continued to build and drive cars through 1959, racing at Detroit, Flint, Owosso, and other tracks. Benner and his teammates consistently finished in the top five in many events.
In 1959, Benner became involved in building and driving go-karts. During a two-year stint in ‘60-’61, he participated in 32 races and won the club championship both years. He was also on the club’s board of directors.
From 1962-1965, Bob’s interests turned to the dragstrip. He set-up and raced his own ‘62 Ford Fairlane 500 and ‘64 Falcon Sprint, running in the Stock category. He did very well locally, and won often.
In the late sixties, Bob’s attentions turned to snowmobile racing. From 1971-73, Benner made a name for himself on the sprint circuit by building and riding some of the fastest sleds of the time. Placing first in the sprints too many times to count, Bob soon grew weary of the short trips around the track, and changed interests to the Enduro Circuit.
In 1976, Benner Racing hired Dan Kirts as lead driver, and competing in the Triple Crown series, Benner Racing was the high points leader in the mid and late seventies. In 1985 & ‘86, they won the title.
As the best of the best, Benner’s team had great successes throughout the 80’s, setting fast-time qualifying records at nearly every track on the MIRA circuit. As the first team to break the 90 mph barrier at the Soo I-500, Benner’s team secured the pole position an unmatched 5 times in ‘82, ’83, ’84, ‘86, and ‘94. His team competed in the I-500 an unmatched 28 times, winning the event in 1986. With the support of Bombardier, Benner Racing has had 23 major enduro wins over the seasons. Bob Benner is also a Lifetime Charter of MIRA since it began in 1978.
The dynamic duo of Kirts and Benner has proved fruitful in yet another form of motorsports as well. On the Pro-Hydro Outboard circuit, they have captured the World Championship for their division a remarkable three times.
Formula Indy Cars are now Bob’s new passion, and in 1996 was contracted as Chief Mechanic for Karl Schwartz. Karl was high points champ and rookie of the year in ‘96. In 1997, Bob sponsored Scott Miller, and with Bob also as Chief Mechanic, Scott won 14 of 16 feature races that year. With this past record, many teams stepped up to have Bob build engines for their racing operations.
Mark Curtis also joined the Benner operation in 1997, and finished 2nd in points. In 1998, Gary Miller, using Bob’s expertise as Chief Mechanic, finished 5th in points and was awarded Rookie of the Year honors. The next season, Gary finished 4th with a Benner prepared car, while his daughter raced the previous year car to a 5th place points title, and her own Rookie of the year honors.
Working only for himself in 2001/2002, Benner’s driver put his cars in the top five both years. Bob Benner is currently on the NAMRA board, and contributing greatly to that organization. Bob passed away in April 2020.