Michael Bennett Returning To Late Model Division At Stafford With Car Owner Rob Russell

Michael Bennett

It seemed a match destined to come together in the Late Model division at Stafford Speedway. 

There was former Late Model division champion Michael Bennett looking for a situation where he could still be involved in competition without supporting his own team. And there was former Late Model division championship winning car owner Rob Russell looking for a driver to replace Glen Reen. 

Voila. Match made. 

Bennett, the 2015 Late Model champion at Stafford Speedway, will return to the division full-time in 2019 driving for Russell. 

After fielding his own team for numerous years, Bennett walked away from the division after a crash in the first event of the 2018 season and not long after sold his car. 

Bennett said when he found out that Russell and Reen were parting ways he reached out to Russell as soon as possible. 

“With my situation … I’ve been as asked questions all year long,” Bennett said. “’Why did I walk away?’ Some people just thought I quit. But in the same sense, I wish I would have handled it differently. But it was stuff that was building up over time. The routine, the other things I want to do with my family … it just wore on me and I just had enough. So this opportunity here for me that we were able to make work, gives me the opportunity to just show up on Friday nights as a driver and try to do my best to win races and hopefully a championship for those guys.”

Said Russell: “Everybody is really pumped up to work with Michael this year. He’s a very successful driver. … He’s a pretty sharp kid. I think with him and our race car and the guys in the shop and that work with us at the track, it’s going to be a really good combination. 

Reen ran three seasons for Russell, winning the 2017 Late Model championship at Stafford. He had seven wins over three seasons with team, including two last year. Reen has also competed full-time over the past three seasons in the SK Modified division at Stafford. Russell said Reen – a former regular on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour – wants to focus more on Modified competition. 

“I think Glen wanted to focus more on the Modified side of it,” Russell said. “I really think his heart is to broaden his horizons on the Modified side of it. … We had some huge success with Glen, but I really think is heart is going in the Modified direction further and it’s kind of hard to do that with the Late Model too. He had told me after Christmas that there was just no way that he could do it, he would be spreading himself too thin. We were a little sad. Everybody loves Glen, but it is what it is. … We talked to a lot of other drivers, but Michael seemed to be like our key focus.” 

Bennett, who started racing at Stafford in 2002 in the former DARE Stock division, has 39 career victories at the track, ranking him eighth all-time overall. His 20 career feature victories in the Late Model division is tied for eighth all-time. All 14 of his victories in the Limited Late Model division came in 2005 when he won the division’s championship. He also had four DARE Stock wins and one victory in a Late Model 16 event.

“I never lost the want or the drive to drive a race car and contribute to the sport that way,” Bennett said of his decision to walk away last year. “I just couldn’t maintain the race car the way we were doing it and give it the time that had to be dedicated to be a top running team. I just couldn’t mentally do that part of it anymore. I was very comfortable with my decision so it didn’t bother me going to the race track. Of course, I always had my helmet in my truck.” 

Russell said his primary sponsors, Alpine Tree and LifeCare Family Chiropractic, were supportive of the move to bring Bennett in. Bennett also brings support from Bob “Bingo” Navratil, Herb & Laura Bennett, Ben Dodge from Start Finish Motorsports, Bob Hitchcock from Independent Wheel, S&B Carpentry, G&M General Contracting, NAPA of Tolland, B.A. Muzio Plumbing & Heating, 100 Percent Printing and Randy’s Trucking. Russell said the team also gets support from K&N Filters, Mechanix Wear and Whelen Engineering. 

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  1. Racedayct nation can check me on this but I have Bennett, Glen Griswold in the SK Lights and Savary in tour modifieds saying they’d be retiring or thinking very seriously about it. Each has seemed to signal that is not the case from what I see here and the Stafford team and Open registration listings.
    Racing is an addiction in any case. The weekly rhythm you get in over the summer makes you feel incomplete when you’re not actively racing.
    I’ve trashed the LM’s as much as anyone. The LLM’s still are a disaster but the Late Models this year have a real shot at being an actual division with racing worth watching instead of a refreshment break.
    Reen is fun to watch but Bennett is a Late Model guy. He knows things. This team may just return to championship form instead of the erratic feast or famine results they turned in last year.

  2. Doug,
    Glen Griswold has been “retiring” for about five years now. Michael Bennett never talked about “retiring”. He made it pretty clear when he walked away that it had to do with balancing team operation and family life. He made it clear his decision to walk away wasn’t about quitting racing, but more about searching out a situation that was a better fit for his family life, which he has found. And Richard Savary, yeah, I’m not sure about that one, I know he did say a lot last year that was he done. That said, yes, phantom “retirement” stories have definitely been a part of short track racing since the start of laps being turned.

  3. I’ll confess Mr. Courchesne I didn’t get your definition of satire and don’t understand what walking away means either.
    I re read the story of May 2, 2018 about Bennett. Thought it was just a terrific piece that in many ways illustrated the turmoil that all drivers with families experience and their commitment to an all consuming sport. One that dominates all aspects of family life and often not in a good way but that’s a topic for another day.
    We all know of the challenges Bennett has gone through with his son. My takeaway from the article was that he made a fundamental decision to re prioritize his life. Not for less then a year, not to search for a better opportunity but clearly for the foreseeable future.
    So what point am I trying to make. Not that three guys that made comments about retiring got wobbly knees and don’t know what they want. Not to poke holes in the narrative that has been documented on Bennett via the stories written cause Lord knows things change and this is not contract law. It’s all about the place racing carves out in a persons core after they’re in it for some time that really never goes away. I know a lot of the older racers know exactly what I’m talking about. Not just the successful ones but literally most that ground it out every week at some point in their past.
    I don’t get the walking way vs retiring differentiation at all. I can say that if you’ve raced, if it’s in your blood there is no such thing as retiring or walking away in the absolute sense. There’s saying you’re walking away or retiring when it really means all options are still on the table.
    Stepping away for an indefinite time is about as accurate as it gets with racing folk. Is that satire?
    Whereas you Mr. Courchesne have known Bennett for years and perhaps you can call him a friend all I know is what I read or hear at the races. What I’m seeing is that things change and as a selfish fan I couldn’t be happier with all three of these race drivers back in the hunt this year if that is the case. I also consider it an honor when you take the time to cross the T’s, dot the I’s or blow me out of the water on comments that are made regardless of whether I understand the true meaning of some of the words and expressions.

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