By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Within the beautiful Lone Star State of Texas, there are dozens of racing families who've been synonymous with success in their respective regions. For many, it began in the 1960s or 1970s with a father or grandfather competing in pre-war Coupes when the sport was booming.
If you ask some longtime race fans in the oil country of south Texas, the name Mikulencak is sure to come up early in the conversation. You see, when Lawrence, Jim and now Ben unload at a track and get ready to qualify, folks know they mean business. They have more trophies than you can count.
For 19-year-old Ben Mikulencak, carrying on the family tradition of oval success is a source of great pride. This year, his program is producing results in the ultra-competitive Factory Stock class. In 10 starts thus far, he has three wins and four top-five finishes. He's on a roll, and there's more to come.
“It's been an interesting and fun season so far for us,” Mikulencak said. “Every race I've finished, I've been in the top five. The four DNF's we've suffered were due to one driver error and three part failures. If the driver gets it right and the parts hold up, we're usually close to the front. It's a nice feeling.
“We're trying to pick up where we left off last year, when we won eight of the last 12 features. I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish, but we're not entirely satisfied just yet. We're trying a lot of things looking for an advantage, so when the big races come up, we'll have a legitimate shot to win.”
You might think with his family so entrenched in racing, Mikulencak started very young. Not the case.
“My father, Jim Mikulencak, raced on and off his entire life,” Mikulencak explained. “So that's kind of how I got started, helping him in the shop and picking up all the information I could about the sport. It wasn't until I was about 16 years old that I first climbed into a race car. I started late, but I'm hooked.”
It may have been a short career thus far, yet two highlights stand out in this gifted young racer's mind.
“The crown jewel for me would have to be the $1,500-to-win show at South Texas Speedway when all the great Factory Stock drivers, like Dalton Faulkner and Donald Cain Jr., came in to run,” Mikulencak said. “Being able to run up front and win against those guys was absolutely unbelievable.
“The other highlight was my first career win at South Texas Speedway last year. We busted out of a little slump and went on to a stellar second half. It was more of a mental lift than anything, it was a big confidence booster. It made me realize I belong here and can win races. After that I never looked back.”
Earlier this season, we all witnessed the Factory Stock class booming in numbers around the state. For full-fendered racers, it is the division of choice in 2020 and as a result, the competition is pretty intense.
“This year we've definitely seen the competition get tougher,” Mikulencak added. “It's like this every year, the guys we run against are learning all the time and improving their programs. To compete, you need to stay one step ahead of them. It's a challenge, not just today, but down the road, as well.
“I don't want to be a flash-in-the-pan driver. I hope to not only continue winning, but I hope to stay competitive over the long term. I want to be one of those guys that stays around a while and enjoy it.”
That family tradition of success on the ovals in this family includes not only Ben's father but his uncle, Lawrence, as well. But wait, there's more. We can't forget about Marcus, Ben's cousin, who also races.
“Between the success my father and uncle have enjoyed, they have really put our last name on the map in south Texas,” Mikulencak explained. “I have some big shoes to fill, but there's no pressure other than what I put on myself. It is a source of great pride to carry on the family tradition of winning races.”
Along with his raw natural talent behind the wheel, the red-hot wheel-man from Corpus Christi has a handful of good people working behind the scenes to keep his program moving forward.
“I need to thank my parents Jim and Cammy, and my younger brother, Hudson,” Mikulencak said. “They are all critical to my success, and together we all make a great race team. I appreciate all they do for my racing program.”
Along with that dedicated crew contributing to his efforts, Mikulencak also has a fine group of marketing partners on board his No. 13M entry to make it more competitive.
“I am blessed to have a great group of companies on boards this season,” he said. “I want to thank Darpro Construction, C.C. Weighing Co., Armstrong Lumber, Majek Boatworks, KH Suspension, Dirt Defender, TTR, Ace Transmission, Dub's Garage, MAV Motorsports, James Trailer Repair, Temco Services, Ace Automotive Machine and Empire Racecars. We couldn't do this without their support.”
As the second half of this bizarre, abbreviated season unfolds, Mikulencak has a clear goal in mind.
“I hope to be able to tally more wins and consistent finishes this season,” he said. “We're also shooting for Top 5 finishes or better at the bigger races this fall. I just want to keep learning and gain more experience so that I can become an even better driver. I'm enjoying my role in this great racing family.”