WACO, Texas — He competes at one of the toughest tracks in Texas when it comes to competition, and he wins races in two of the most competitive divisions they have on the weekly docket. He may be a bit long in the tooth, but those years of experience sure pay dividends every time he straps into a race car.
For 46-year-old oval veteran Benji Kirkpatrick, winning features at Waco's Heart O' Texas Speedway is a way of life. In 36 combined starts between Outlaw Street Stocks and IMCA Stock Cars this year, he earned 14 wins, 32 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes. The man simply defines speed and consistency.
“I drove the Outlaw Street Stock for Jerry Frydrych,” Kirkpatrick said. “The Stock Car is owned by Mr. Glen Wilson, of Wilson Chassis here in Waco. Our season was almost trouble-free. We were fortunate; we didn't have any engine failures or get caught up in any major wrecks.
“Accidents can happen, and you can easily get involved. But overall, it was a pretty smooth season.”
Kirkpatrick's exposure to the sport at an early age led to a stellar 26-year career full of great memories.
“My Grandfather was a car owner back in the day,” he explained. “He never drove race cars, but he had some good drivers in his cars. He got me into the sport when I was about 10 years old. I helped him out at his shop, and that's where I got hooked on racing.
“Grandpa let me drive my first car when I was 14 years old. He wasn't actually supposed to; and when I was 15 he signed a piece of paper saying the track wasn't responsible for me. Times were different than they are today; that was back almost 30 years ago. Today, they put kids in Sport Mods and Modifieds.”
With over two decades of driving on his resume, Kirkpatrick has paid his dues on the Texas ovals.
“The first race car I ever bought was a Mini Stock back in the 4-Cylinder Pinto days,” he explained. “I got my start there, then moved from that class straight into the IMCA Stock Car. It's been a fun ride.”
Kirkpatrick is a master at balancing family with his racing hobby, and says priorities change with age.
“I used to run two or three nights a week whenever I could,” he said. “I now have a nine-year-old daughter, and my son just graduated from college. So they have become a much bigger priority for me. You need to stay up with your kids, or they'll outrun you and leave you behind. I can't have that.”
When you compete in two divisions every week, you're going to be busy and face some tough rivals.
“The level of competition in both Outlaw Streets and IMCA Stock Cars is off the charts,” Kirkpatrick said. “You have to stay on your toes every week. It's very close racing, and nobody gives up a position without a fight. They won't use you up, but they sure won't pull over to let you go by, either. It's tough.”
When Kirkpatrick puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he straps into two very fine machines.
“The Stock Car I drive is a B&B Chassis, built up in Minnesota,” he explained. “It's an excellent car, and it suits my driving style very nicely. The Outlaw Street Stock is an Medieval Chassis, and it's also a very well-built car. I'm comfortable in it, and it has good speed. I'm fortunate to have these great rides.”
Along with his years of experience and two solid race cars, Kirkpatrick has a full list of supporters.
“I really need to thank Glen Wilson at Wilson Chassis in Waco,” he said. “He does a lot for me, and I'm very grateful. I'll also thank Joel DeShazo, Brian Price, BJ Dulock, my wife, Tammi Kirkpatrick; along with my children, Hayden and Sarah. Without support from my family, this all wouldn't be possible.
“I also want to thank Heart O' Texas Speedway, BetAll Racing, B.C. Electric, Truck Motive, Wilson Chassis, D-Fab Solutions, Big Moe Starter & Alternator, and Phil's Motorsports. I appreciate their faith in me and I'm proud to represent them at the speedway. It takes a lot of support to run two cars.”
With the 2023 season now in the books and preparations under way for 2024, Kirkpatrick has his plans.
“We'll be back at Heart O' Texas Speedway in both cars next year,” he concluded. “I'm proud to have earned the Street Stock title this year, and finished third in the Stock Car despite missing a few races. I'm truly blessed to have two solid rides. We enjoyed a strong 2023, now we'll get ready for a new year.
“I just love being at the track, running up front and making our sponsors proud. This is when it's fun.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass Photography