Chassis Building, Best Races, and a Racer for the Racer – Benji Hicks

Chassis Building, Best Races, and a Racer for the Racer – Benji Hicks

On this weeks episode, Jimmy and Kate welcomed Benji Hicks. Benji is the mastermind behind BHR Fabrication and Double Nickle Race Cars. 

All About Benji Hicks

I’m Benji Hicks. 28 years old, been in racing my entire life, both my uncle’s race, my dad’s race. My dad got me started in racing, me and my brother both in 2005. And we actually started on asphalt running Bandoleros and legend cars at Charlotte, Concord and a few other asphalt tracks here and layer but I actually grew up getting to race against Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott and the Dillon Brothers. So I got to race against a lot of cool guys, but my passion was always dirt. It’s what I grew up watching dad race is what I always wanted to do. So in in 2012, Dad bought a 602 car and put me and my brother in it. And, and we split time. He got to race one week, I got the race to the next so forth. So on, we alternated, and I fell in love with the whole driving aspect. I always enjoyed working on dad’s car and being a part of and being hands on. But I really fell in love with being a driver. And it really benefited me because my brother fell in love with the whole setting the car up and, and making decisions rather than not so much ignoring what dad said. But it was more of it was more of a brother thing. I got to tell him what I was feeling. He’d make a change. And then the next week when he was driving, so forth and so on. So I really enjoyed doing that. And then I left to go to college to play football. I decided that wasn’t the route that I wanted to go I came back home and bought my first car myself and drove for myself for two or three years before before dad came up to me and he said if you’ll if you’ll just maintain the car, keep it up. We’ll pay the bills you just drive for us. I said okay, sounds like a win for me. But in the whole midst of that, I really didn’t really didn’t have an idea of – knew I wanted to be in the racing world, but I just didn’t know of what measures I needed to take. And my mom actually found a college Forsyth Tech through Richard Childress Racing. And I went and got a college degree. Done that whole deal. Well, I met well I’ve known him But Randy button are one of my college instructors. He got me hooked up with Dave Dunlap at Longhorns Chassis. And so I got my first job in the racing world working for the top chassis builder in the dirt world at the time. And so that was really cool. And that’s really what sparked the whole Double Nickle BHR Fabrication. The whole nine yards, is what really sparked it all was getting my foot in the door and getting to do that. And so I worked there for three little over three years, and ended up moving to South Carolina. And I got to work for a dirt late model Hall of Famer, Barry Wright in Cowpens. And I worked for him for a little over a year, still good as gold to me, I can pick up the phone right now and call Barry with any question that I had. Lance, same way, anytime I see him at the racetrack, we always talk. And so the relationships that I’ve built along the way, have really helped me and build my business. And I moved back home to Mount Airy, left South Carolina. And I went to dad one day and I said, Listen, I want to start my own chassis company, I want to, I want to build them from the ground up. I said, I think I’ve got enough backing, as far as knowledge that this is what I want to do. And he said it was either sink or swim and knock on wood, we’re going on three years, and we’re still swimming. So So I really, I love what I do. I’ve always been told that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. And so I probably work. I probably work myself to death most of the time. But I don’t work, I love what I do, I get to come in, I get to weld, and I get to build chassis and hang bodies. And I’ve been very fortunate with a lot of a lot of followers, a lot of good customers, a lot of good friends and the relationships that you build along the way, I wouldn’t take anything in the world for them.

We try and we try and help anybody you know, it’s not just like, I’ve always said this since day one. I am a racer for the racer. I’m not looking to make a killing, I’m looking to make a living. And then saying that, like I’m not, I’m not as high price as some of these other guys. And I’m not taking anything away from them. But I’m at that point and still ever since I started I’m at that point where not sure every Saturday night racer can go out and spend $60-$70,000 on a roller. Right? Not that not that every Saturday racer can say I wrecked. I need all these replacement parts. A lot of these guys are gonna be like, hey, is there anything on my car that I can salvage? Can I straighten this out? Can we make it last another couple races so for so on? So I try and be that person like I try and be that mindset, where and I’ll even have guys call me when they’re getting new cars. You know, I’ve I’ve got this rear end and these are my two blinks. I’ve got this rack, I’ve got this steering column, etc, etc. So forth so on, what can we use to get a brand new double nickel? And I’m not gonna be that person that says, oh, you can’t, you can’t transfer this over, I’m gonna be like, Okay, well, you need to change a right rear tube or you need to change the left rear, your drive shafts gonna be too long, see if you can sell it. And I’ve probably got to used one I can sell you pretty reasonable. And so like I’m trying to be a racer for the racer, because without your Saturday night racers, you’re not going to have the money or the sponsors to help your Lucas Oil guys. Lucas Oil is gonna go down you’re not going to have the World of Outlaws, the XR, the float. You’re not going to have those guys that we all enjoy watching on TV when we’re not at our local every night racing on Saturday nights. And so I try and be that middleman that helps the the regional guy keep going.

Double Nickle Race Cars #55

So when I first started Bandoleros, and even into my first years into late model racing, I was 21 or 121. It’s it was it was destined, because that was always dad’s number. And when I bought my first car my number was 55, and I had this question a lot, like, why did you change your dad was 21. And the real backing of the story started in between my freshman and sophomore year in high school. God rest his soul, Donald Price was our offensive line coach at the high school that I played at. And, and he sat me down in the locker one day during summer workouts. And I had always worn number 20 In football, and I was a tight end. But you wouldn’t know it now. But, but he sat me down in the locker one day. And he said, Do you want to win five or six games, score some touchdowns get recognition, get your name called out over the PA? Or do you want to win nine or 10 games and lead our team to a conference championship? And I said I want to lead our team to a conference championship. And, and he said, Okay, we’re gonna have to move you to the line. And so from that day forward, I was moved from tight end in to a guard. And, and my number changed to 55 right then and there. And that was in between the freshman and sophomore year of high school. And that was my number all throughout high school. And then I was a captain, my senior year on the on the football team. And that’s what dad would holler out every Friday night. Get. He’d say get them double nickel or you got to hit them double nickel. And so it always stuck. And and so when I changed the number to 55 on my race car, and then when I started the whole chassis deal, it was just that was the destiny. That was what it was supposed to be. And so, so it’s always been double nickel ever since then.

I’ve heard a lot of people and a lot of stories about how they get their numbers. And, and some of them you know, their first race car they ever got, this was the number that was on it. So we just stuck with it. Or like dad’s, His birthday is the 21st of October. He’s a huge blackjack player. And so you know, you got to you play to beat the dealer, but you obviously want to get 21. So that’s how he got his number. And it’s always been Blackjack Racing. His nickname has always been the gambler. Well with number being 55 Always, I’ve always been known as Double Nickel.

Racing the Top

They say you got to push the limit to find the limit. Well, I’m still pushing it, I ain’t found it. I mean, I’ve even exited the racetrack one time upside down. Because it’s kind of comical. Because dad his whole career. He made his whole career being a bottom feeder, he was always middle to bottom and and we was replacing those frames about every week where dad would scrub the inside wall or he’d get in there a little too hot and hit the inside wall and had been the nose frame down. Well with me I’m just the opposite. Like if we put a no stream on his because I’ve got into the wall with the right rear and it’s smack the front up against the outside wall. So I think in between 2017 and 2018 was the best two back to back years I’d had and and I think we ended up going through like 47 or 48 breakaway spoilers and T bars that year. And I mean, even last year, we’re running those new stack quarter panels. And they are they’re great because when you like take a hit, they’ll pop back out where sheet metal just holds its shape and it’ll get up against your tire. Well, last year, we ran those when we got back from East Bay, we put our first ones on, and I still went through like 16 of those last year.

What Makes Double Nickle Different

The two biggest things that I feel I can offer , is when you call Double Nickle, or you call BHR, you have setup questions or setup help. You don’t just talk to an employee, you talk to the guy that builds it, and drives it. So nine times out of 10, what you’re feeling? I have felt. Nine times out of 10? What do you think that you need to do- I’ve already done. And so like, I can lead you in the wrong direction, I can lead you in the right direction. I can say, hey, this is what I’ve done and solve that problem for me. Does it work for you? I don’t know. But this is what I’ve done. I have a very open notebook with my customers. I have one on one tech support. And, and like I said, I just I feel like that is the biggest thing is, is when you call when you call me and talk about setup stuff, or this is something that I’ve been wanting to try is this something that you’ve done. And I’m not saying that I know everything, or I’ve done everything, like a lot of the times, I actually learned from my customers also, you know, like I’ve got guys in Georgia that do different adjustments throughout the night for different track conditions down there, that up here is either too much or not enough, or it’s the complete opposite direction of what we need to go. So always, you know, jot that down this is this is what we need to do in this direction. If we’re racing on this kind of dirt, if we’re racing this area, or this tire rule, this is what we need to do. But But another thing I feel like is hugest is going back to it again, I’m not looking to make a killing I’m looking to make a living is I feel like my prices on my parts and my cars. Is is not out of reach for that that every night, Saturday night race or working, you know, working 40 hour full time job a week. I don’t feel like my prices for a brand new race car is out of question for him.

Anything going out the door is something that we can be proud of. Like, we don’t want somebody getting something and being like, Oh, this thing’s a hunk of junk. Or this thing looks terrible. When it rolls out of the shop and it leaves here. We want to be proud of it. And we want the new owners to be proud of it.

The Struggles of Being a Single Car Team Chassis Builder

The biggest frustration right now is is really my turnaround time. Because I am still that small guy. Like just for instance here a month or so ago. I had four cars going together at the same time. And the the parts deal and people they bring me deposits before I get started on it. But those deposits only cover up so far. And so my biggest thing is I’m not that guy and I’m not in that company yet. That can just have four fuel cells sitting here or four rear ends sitting here or four transmissions or radiators out the wazoo. I’m not that guy that can just have tons and tons of stuff just sitting on the shelf. So I have to I have to plan accordingly. And so the biggest frustration right now is the waiting on the parts to get here for one, which everybody’s battled at, at some point in time ever since the COVID. Deal, I’m sure. But being able to Yeah. Yeah, yeah. But being able to, to get the stuff. And to not spread myself too thin to where I’ve got stuff here to do four cars. But oh, wait a second, I’m backed up, I can’t get payroll done this week, or, or I’ve got bills coming up. But I’ve got all my money invested in parts on the shelf for these four cars that aren’t going to leave for another week. And that’s my biggest frustration. So. So right now, we’ve, we’ve got past three of the four that were sitting here. And, and so getting everything back on the shelf, not spread myself too thin. And I told Dad the other day, I said, If I ever before I get bigger, and I’m capable of doing it, I said, If I ever get to the point where I take on four jobs at one time, I said just smack me in the face. I said, I should never, I should never want to be able to do more than two cars. Like I don’t, I don’t mind building another chassis and having a chassis sitting on a powder coater. But I don’t want to have four brand new chassis sitting here going together at the same time, because I’m not at that level yet. And so I feel like we can do, I feel like we can have the parts accessories. And, and the capability of doing two brand new cars sitting here side by side at the same time. And be okay doing that. But, but that that’s probably the biggest frustration is, is getting getting backed up on getting the parts here. And and I’m not gonna say I don’t have the stuff sitting on the shelf, but it’s stuff that sitting on the shelf that has already been spoken for. And so I want to be able to still go there and grab it and put it on a new car and not have to worry about a guy call me 30 minutes later and being like, hey, I need this for this weekend, I may have to take it off of a brand new car to give it to him. I want to be comfortable enough to where I can have the stuff sitting on the shelf and, and still be assembling the cars at the same time and not have to not have to be worried about being spread too thin.

Does Benji Hicks Even Sleep?

Very rarely. Like we we were Screven this past weekend. And I think we ended up getting loaded up and done with everything. And shutting the trailer door about one o’clock Friday night, Saturday morning. And I go lay down. And 630 I’m up. I was up because I forgot to cut my alarm off. But I got up and went rode around on the four wheeler went to the top of the racetrack check things out. And then proceeded to go through our whole routine Saturday and, and get all that stuff done and situated. And then Saturday night when everything was over, we left and drove all the way home. 

But then we get home at 5:30 Sunday morning. By the time I get home,  to get the kids taken care of and get them in the bed. There you know is six o’clock and in six o’clock Sunday morning, I’m finally laying down and then still don’t know what happened but my little boy got sick and and wakes me up throwing up about an hour hour and a half after I lay down. And so I’m changing bedding and and then you go back to sleep for an hour or so. And then my little girl wakes up she’s hungry. So get her some food and then I’ll go back and try and lay down again and my little boy gets sick again. So Sunday’s are usually kind of my risk days, chillax, stay around the house. And, and really don’t do a whole lot. But this past Sunday didn’t get to do a whole lot of that. I tried to rest and catch up but you do it long enough your body, your body just gets used to it and you just keep on going. It’s funny now, but in the in the midst of it was kind of serious there for a while when I was working at Longhorn. It got it got to the point where like, I could feel my heart beating in my chest is crazy. And I was sleeping. You know, 14-16 hours a week. I was living off of grizzly and drinking two or three Red Bulls a day and I’d get off work at Longhorn, drive home. And we’d work on the race car here at the shop till 12:30-1 o’clock in the morning, you had to be back up at 4:30 Going back to work. And and sometimes it was just leave the shop and go straight on down there. And you just sleep in the car outside the gate. So you know they came in and unlocked it. Wow. I catch up on rest on Sundays. They don’t always work. But I try to.

Double Nickle Race Cars and the CARS Racing Show

Obviously, we hand out a lot of price sheets, get our name out there the best we can. So for so long, but believe it or not my biggest seller at the trade shows every year since the first year has been the chassis dollies, dollies, like something so simple, like blows up there. And I I mean, I understand that because they are very, very, very convenient. I think I’ve got six or seven sets here, stay in that shop. But but that’s the biggest thing is is not necessarily just the chassis side of it. But a lot of these people you know, they see that we can build the nose frames or or we build the T bars or the rear bumpers so forth so on and we build the chassis dollies and and we offer tech support for any kind of car. I mean, I’m not saying that I know everything about all of them but at the end of the day, they’re all still just to been welded together. And and so when people find out that we do all of that also not alone with just building just the chassis is just the double nickel racecars then that’s what kind of I feel like draws them into the door to start paying more attention to what all we offer. I mean just just for instance, like Crate Insider with the name everybody thinks that you you know deal with strictly just crate stuff for then you get them in the door of looking for stuff and then all they’re like oh you carry body panels you carry no skins you carry rockers and UK grease and bands for anything you know, it’s not just you don’t just go to Crate Insider just to buy crate motor. You know, there’s there’s multiple things that that are involved in inside of Crate Insider just like that, when Nick racecars draws them into the whole BHR side of it. And you know, we do lots of custom stuff. You know, the very first year that I’ve done the show that the remote control car was a huge hit with sold a ton of 5050 tickets for it ended up giving it away. Then the second year I’d done it again. And it was a huge hit and I Sold probably 10 or 12 of those of people that bought a 5050 ticket, they didn’t win it at the show that still wanted one. And so they reached out to the BHR page and message him, Hey, how much can I get one of these for my kid, so for so on, those things are awesome. And, and so it’s not just the not just the chassis side of it, but it’s also the the other opportunities that we offer. And once we get them in the door, then then the chassis deal kind of takes care of itself, whether they won’t want an otter, or they won’t, to bring it to me to get set up or so for so long. It’s more of just getting my foot in the door or my name and their mind. And they start looking and paying attention is what I feel like is the biggest thing for me.

I do have some news. That I hope everybody stayed on the podcast to listen to. We have put a 21 race schedule together this year with Ryan Newman, the former Daytona 500, winner of the Brick Yard 400, looking forward to teaming up with him and getting him in a dirt car. And his first race is actually supposed to be at ultimate Motorsports Park February 24. That’s our Super Series is going to be his debut. So if there’s anybody on here listening and watching that, that wants to be a part of that and be a sponsor for Ryan Newman. We would we would greatly appreciate talking to you and and even you know for the right the right situation. We can do a one on one meeting or two on one me and Ryan will meet with you or, or however we want to do it or y’all will want to do it there. But I feel like that’s a big opportunity and can be a game changer for BHR and Double Nickel is to get somebody with his name and his reputation and and getting him running good and up front and I feel like that’ll draw a lot of attention also.

Benji’s 2024 Racing Schedule

I’m mostly super stuff. I do plan on running the entire Schaefers deal during the summer. The think it’s toile races in 16 days or something like that. I try not to run for points I’ve done that one year and ended about Khilji not it’s not so much the traveling it’s more of like I want to go and win races. I don’t want to care about the points and we went to some races where there might have been a hole that was questionable Do you feel it? Do you not do you do you pull the slider Do you drive it on in there but or do you finished third or fourth and take a good point tonight and go on to the next one. And and then also not only do you have to have that mindset as a driver but at the same time you know we pass two or 310 $1,000 to win races to go run a $5,000 win race six hours from home and the only reason we have to go is for the points and so I try not to point to race but but I am is Lord willing and everything goes right I do plan on running the whole Shavers deal and and trying to win that championship with summer but we’re gonna run that and then we got a few hot the front races on schedule XR races with burying them obviously some Lucas worry about all races were well off comes right here in my backyard to the ultimate in May. So looking forward to that and seeing where we stack up this close to home against the some of the best competition there is out there and and then we’re still gonna run several credit races. Obviously we’re signed up for that 100,000 At the end of the year ago now. Then we just signed up for the 602 race the 50,000 the length 650 race out there ultimate Motorsports Park and we’re gonna run a few of the American All Star Series with Joseph rush and then guys, we’re gonna run some of them races this year. But we’re probably going to focus more on our super stuff as we have in the last two or three years but I’m not going to just cancel the the crazy stuff all together. So So we’re we’re spread out steel, and just run when we want to run and go have fun to win it.

You can find Benji and Double Nickle Race Cars on Facebook and their website.