As the son of a successful engine builder, Mark Benston Jr. was destined to someday make his own name in the sport. He grew up around the high-horsepower cars powered by engines out of his father’s engine shop, Mark Benston Racing Engines, and he added driving talents to his resume through Jr. Dragster racing and bracket racing. He’s since parlayed his driving skills and mechanical abilities into success in Outlaw 10.5 and Pro 275 competition.
Benston, 29, burst onto the Outlaw 10.5 scene as a driver in 2018 after car owner Buck Jarvis offered him the opportunity to drive his “Show Mod” ’69 Camaro. In 2019, Benston set an Outlaw 10.5 quarter-mile record with his 5.81 at 245 mph at the World Cup Finals at Maryland International Raceway. The following year, he added eighth-mile records with 3.76 and 3.74-second passes.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #172, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in November of 2021.]
After the Outlaw 10.5 class essentially disbanded over the 2020-2021 offseason, Benston switched over to Pro 275 and proceeded to win the spring Yellowbullet Nationals and a Strange Engineering Outlaw Street Car Shootout race at Cecil County Dragway. He also recorded the first 3.60 second-pass for a turbo car on 275 radials. The wins put Benston in championship contention, but the sale of the car to a new owner nearly took him right back out of contention.
“Winning the first two races gave us a nice points lead, but in the class that we’re running here with Steve Gorman and Mo Hall, they’re some of the best in the business, so you know you can’t give those guys a whole lot of breathing room,” says Benston, 29. “I had to show up at one race with [Charles Short’s] X275 car just so I could get points in July. I knew if I didn’t show up that it was going to give them an easy taking on me. We actually made it to the semis to keep up our points.”
Right after the “Show Mod” was sold, Dale Collins Jr. offered up his 2002 Camaro so Benston could finish out the season. The Benstons went to work converting the car over from a screw-blown Hemi combo to their preferred twin-turbocharged 481x setup, completing all wiring and fabrication work in-house. Two months later, Benston rolled into Cecil County for the fall Yellowbullet race in his third different car. He racked up more points, then, with a first-round win at the final OSCS race, Benston clinched the Cecil County Pro 275 championship.
“It’s rather breathtaking for me because I’ve been doing this racing thing since I was 8 years old,” Benston says of winning the title. “Once I finally got the chance to drive, which is not something I ever thought I’d have the chance to do, I figured I’d take my shot at it. It’s been a lot of hard work to get here at this level.
“All the people surrounding you are what makes you what you are. It makes things very rewarding for sure,” adds Benston, who thanks supporters like Haltech, ProTorque, Precision Turbo, Menscer Motorsports, FireCore50, Northstar Motorsports, and Mike Dent Complete Automotive. “Buck Jarvis is the one who gave me the opportunity to start driving that ’69 Camaro. Dale Collins allows me to drive the car I’m driving now. My dad pushes me and I push him back. It keeps things rolling. My wife, Erica, my mother, all my crew guys, between Tommy and Jimmy and Danny, Clark, the list goes on. Without any of them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”