Crawford Benham

May 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Hall of Famer

Crawford Benham, Jr. was born June 18, 1941 in Olney, Illinois. Crawford started his racing career at Rodd Field in Corpus Christi, Texas in the 1950’s with a 1953 Chevy. He then raced a 1955 Chevy for several years in B/Modified before retiring it for a 1968 Camaro. He began Bracket racing this car at Eastex and Houston International Dragway with moderate success. He received runner-up honors at the very first Bracket Race held by Division 4 at La Place Dragway.
Crawford then teamed up with Jack Lastor and Jack’s USA Speed Center of Houston. They raced the Camaro in C/Super Modified with little success. In 1977 they started to campaign a 1969 AMX in H/Gas. They were nearly unbeatable with the combination of Crawford’s lightning-quick reaction times and the consistency of the AMX they were a tough team to beat at the local modified races every weekend. They were quick to learn that G/Modified was the class they needed to run in order to be a National Contender. Crawford dusted-off the Camaro and immediately realized that they had a winning combination after winning eight weeks in a row and eighteen out of twenty-one times that he raced at Eastex Dragway in 1980.
Crawford’s greatest success came on Labor Day weekend in 1980. He stunned everyone by winning the biggest Drag Race of all, the 26th Annual U.S. Nationals. He qualified number four out of forty-eight cars. He defeated the likes of Dave Hutchins, Joe Winblad, Alan Marsh and Ron Anderson in route to the Winners Circle. The defeat of Dave Hutchins by Crawford in the fourth round was voted as the “upset of the year” in sportman categories by National Dragster.
The next highlight of Crawford’s career came in 1981 at the Cajun Nationals. He single-handedly put away some of the toughest Modified racers in the country, including Coleman Roddy, Mike Edwards, Dick Maris and Jeff Scrimgeour, before winning the second National event of his career.
In 1982 Crawford moved up to Competition Eliminator after the Modified Class was cancelled by NHRA. Crawford tried finding the same winning performance as he had in Modified, They had limited success but never found the dominating combination like they had in Modified. The team of Crawford and Jack split up at the end of the ’84 season after some seven years of racing together. In 1985 Crawford called the same Camaro that took him to two National Event wins and numerous National records back into service for some bracket racing. He soon started back to his winning ways as he earned the spot to the Bracket Finals at Green Valley Raceway to represent his home track, Eastex Dragway. In 1986 Crawford sold the Camaro and replaced it with a 1959 Corvette he had formerly campaigned in Competition Eliminator to run Super Stock B/ Modified. In 1989 Crawford along with his oldest son Scott almost pulled of a rare feat where father and son won 2 classes at the same event but had to settle for runner up at the Division Four Points Meet in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 1990 Crawford was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Just ten days after surgery, he was back at the track watching his son, Scott take the controls of the high-winding Corvette. The Nickens Brothers engine that was built prior to his illness set the National record in SS/BM on its very first pass, with his son Scott at the wheel. In 1991 Crawford was inducted into the NHRA Division Four Hall of Fame. It was one of the proudest moments in his life. He was truly amazed at all of the friends he had in Drag Racing.
Crawford died after a battle with cancer on November 28, 1991. Crawford Benham, Jr. was not only a great racer, mechanic, friend, and husband, but most of all a great father. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and truly miss him.
Jeff Benham

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