The Train is Coming – All About Chassis with Benji Cole from Train Chassis

The Train is Coming – All About Chassis with Benji Cole from Train Chassis

This week on the Racing Insiders Podcast, Kate and Jimmy welcomed Benji Cole, from Train Chassis. With over 30 years of experience in the racing industry, Benji’s expertise shines through in every aspect of his work. What began as a family hobby has turned into a full-time career, with Benji now dedicated to providing his customers with the best quality racing equipment.

Family and the Racing Industry

(Jimmy) Oh, it’s, it’s certainly a choice. I mean, there’s no greater resource hog. When it read when I talk about a resource hog, I’m talking about not just money, people want to talk about money. It’s beyond money. It’s time, energy, effort, obsession, your thought processes. And if you want to compete on the highest level, you better be 100% in on every one of those things. And, you know, and that means that, you know, there’s no room, I mean, to do it great. There’s no room for, you know, a family, there’s no room for a marriage, there’s no room for a job, really. I mean, you know, I just I’m just saying the way it is, if you want to be really that dedicated, and that good for good at it, and, and it takes that and so I wasn’t willing to do that, and in my life, and it’s really cool to see people like Benji, and I look at like, Petey Ivy’s the same way, you know, Petey, you know, like Benji, when you stepped away, you’re still winning races, you know, and, and Petey when Petey stepped away, PD was, was was still good. You know, it wasn’t like he was running in the back or nothing, but they made the conscious decision, they said, you know, what, I’m gonna stop and help my kid. And, and that’s, that’s, you know, and that’s pretty cool to see when your family’s involved and all that stuff. Because you’re able to, you know, take two of your loves, and put them together at the same time, peanut butter and jelly.

(Benji) That’s kinda all how this started. Because when my kids started driving, I want to keep my kid and new equipment and new stuff. But it didn’t get to the point to where, you know, you’re, you’re spending 50 grand to do that every year. And I’m, I’m like, I can do this myself. Let’s just build one. So we built one second race out, we won with it. And then it just started from there. I had buddies that always hung around me like, would you build us one so I built the next one make some room did and then it just grown in the waters grow I never intended for to grow into what is grown into it kind of just started as a joke. And then two and a half years later, 60 something cars later, we were going wide open.

Racing His Own Way

I’m always been that person I want to do I want to do my own thing. You know, I ain’t got crazy with cars. I’m not gonna say that. But we still, you know, we, we were hooked in with shock people, but we’re kind of let’s build our shocks this way. And let’s do things this way. And sometimes it’s worked out sometimes it hasn’t. But I agree with that. I’m gonna I’m a different part. I don’t know what everybody else has got.

You have to understand going into it, which we do a lot of testing now so that but I mean, we are used last Thursday as an example we went and tested for half a day. Half of the stuff we did was a second slower. Half the stuff we did we was three quarters of a second faster. So you just have to you know you just have to keep digging and try. I mean like you said you hear well, this person does I had or that person does that. But There’s always a puzzle. It’s not just that one particular thing, that one particular finding might be hard at the moment, but there’s six more things to go with it.

Racing Mindset

It’s no different than being a racecar driver and racing on the road. You got to understand when you go on the road, probably for a while there’s gonna be more downs than there’s gonna be ups but you got to lay up through that if you want to do this you got to live through and I mean, it’s the same way with the chassis business. I mean, we’ve done stuff to what we’ve struggled for two or three months trying stuff and you thinking man, what am I doing and then you just have to keep digging through it and you know, it is a mindset playing and it’s a chassis building or Bayona side is a lot different than the car the car driving because you you you have a lot of different personalities so you have to learn how to deal with the different personalities you know, and what’s good for one person might not be good for this person, you have to understand that you can say what this car is when and and this man is doing me as well. He’s a different driver than this man. So you might have to go a totally different shot direction spraying direction to make this man comfortable. Over what this man is winning.

Benji Cole’s Nickname

I had a man here at our local track, he just started calling -because my last name is Cole. He started calling me Coal Train. Right. And it is stuck for as long as I can remember. It is just stuck with that. So and it actually worked good. Because when I was racing, it really made for some good tshirts.

Train Chassis Bodies

We seen the direction of where this you know, the laser cut and stuff is going and that kind of stuff. So now we’re into laser cutting our own bodies and decks and and it’s a it’s a lot neater work and it’s actually sped the process up that’s the good thing about it is we’re took you a week the hand cut a body and that kind of stuff now and basically a day and a half you can do a complete car body wise. It’s just amazing you know, big, big, big both ways. It’s sped it up and you know a lot neater looking work that kind of stuff. So we’ve I mean, we’re adding we’re you know, we’re just ordered a computerized bender and notcher so to try to make speed up the process again, to where you can just load low loader roll bar tubing and hit the button on what piece you want and that means it not be ready for welding so we just that’s been our next thing you know, we just we want to try to get faster that way. instead of it taking a month to do a car we can try to do a car in a week and a half – two weeks.

Train Chassis House Car

My nephew Blake Craft drives our  house card and we run 602 604 and been running limited. But this year we’ve teamed up with Blake Turbo and he’s actually going to drive the limited car for him which we We basically work on the car it’s really nothing different other than somebody else owns it and and helps us with it.

We’re gonna run the Blue Ridge Outlaws I think they have them a semi schedule made. I know they’re gonna run the first two or three Blue Ridge Outlaw races and then we’re gonna run a big limited race at Needmore. So we’re, I mean, we’re gonna try to, you know, we’re gonna try to move around and run the bigger bigger races.

Big Races for Train Chassis

We’ve signed up for the 100,000 to win and then we’ve signed up for the 50,000. We’ve really worked hard this winter on our 602 program, we got some new stuff that we tasted last Thursday with that I really liked and really slayed it. We we gained some speed there. So I’m really looking forward to getting that though.

What’s Missing from Weekly Racing

One key word that’s actually missing from a lot of this because we hear affordable a lot. But what we don’t hear is fun. And, and I think What is exciting about those new wedge cars, which by the way, Jason did announced that on this podcast, which was fairly exciting, I feel very honored by that. Um, but I just had an experience this last, not this last weekend, we can before and went to race logic chassis school, and it was the hobby stock guys in Nebraska. So they’re the the everything is, it’s a stock car, but you can’t make all these bazillion adjustments. And I’ll tell you, I’ve been to a lot of race logic chassis schools, because I go in, I filmed them. But I learned more I enjoyed it more than any of the super high tech stuff that I’ve seen. And it makes me wonder like, hey, when maybe one of these simpler cars, where we’re, we’re everybody can get on the same page about the fact that we’re here to have fun. Yes, you want to win. But are you on a trajectory where you want to go to the weekend? Like Saturday night racer, and you want to go have fun each Saturday night? Or do you want to be on the path where where you want your this career or this future and you want to end up potentially being you know, running with the outlaws or Lucas Oil guys. And maybe that’s something that we can ask racers, because unfortunately, you know, we get these classes and or you get a class of cars, and they keep getting more technical. And it’s like this arms race that always happens with these race cars. And then before we know it, what started off is, maybe we take the word affordable out of it by putting it in fun, is it making it more fun to have more expensive parts? I don’t know if it is great, but But I kind of think that some of the fun goes away when we when we just escalate the level of technical difficulty and cost but you guys are actual racers. I mean I sell the parts but I mean I’d love to hear your perspective on those both you guys.

I mean my daddy has made the perfect comment. And and I guess just watching me he’s he has told me several times son we just haven’t had the fun we’ve had when we had these hobby cars and honestly he’s right because I mean you know, it’s when you take the car to the racetrack as much as it costs now. I mean when something bad happens it’s just you know instead of 20 years ago when you blow the motor it was $5,000 Now when you blow a motors $55,000 You know it’s and honestly the racing part of it if you want to watch, The super cars and the sick you know all of them let’s play it down but all of them were so arrow dependent now. If you go to a race route now and watch a race the narrow tire street stock cars, modified cars four and five wide they put on so much of a better race. You know now with the Arrow stuff that’s going on. I mean, I’m not saying that you don’t still have good racing but you don’t see the four and five wide racing like you seen years ago.

New Train Chassis Coming

We’ve got a new chassis that we’re building right now. It’s, it’s basically coming out to jig nail, it’s got a lot of new features on it, gonna, you know, we’re going to take it and do some tests, there’ll be a lot of testing done with it, to make sure that everything we’ve done is what we think it’s going to do. And you know, before we offer, but we have, you know, we have, we have done a lot to banking this week, this winter, and we put it on the new chassis that is that is being welded up and getting ready to go to the powder coat now. So you know, these good things come in, we’re working really hard and close with HST and Penske Shocks. We got some new stuff coming with the shock program that I think is gonna be really good. But just how that was some of the stuff that we did with the 602 program, and really, really seen some big gains there with that. So just staying busy we’ve had a we’ve had a real good winter. You know, I was telling you before we come on the podcast that I really look forward to be a slow period. But so far everything is going good. And maybe this economy won’t tank and we can keep it going. 

Chassis Business Challenges

I guess you want to, you want to be able to talk to everyone that calls and help everybody at that moment. And it’s just hard. You, you answer the phones, you do the best you can, I had to get used to not everybody is going to win with them every time they go to the race and as me as a competitor, I’m wanting to see all of them run good. And you know, you’re gonna have cars the win and have cars that run in the middle and you’re gonna have to get out of cars that run in the back and you just keep keep focusing on the ones that need help and try to get them faster. And and that’s that’s been the biggest challenge because I want to and I know it gets harder as you get bigger. But one of my big pet peeves that I’ve had in the past is if people spend this kind of money, we got to be able to talk to them. I mean, you know, it’s a hard deal. It’s kind of like going to the dealership, buying a new truck, you got to buy a new truck and call up and tell them my engines lights on and they won’t call you back. They don’t give you a good feeling. So that’s basically been my time Here’s how to manage the you got to set that time to talk to be able to talk and try to help. But then you got to set that time to focus on building and getting cars out the door. So that’s been that’s been the biggest challenge is as it’s grow both of them as become more work as you try and get more cars out the door and the more cars you get lower, you got more people you need to talk to.

The Future of Train Chassis

I mean, honestly, I don’t know, this shouldn’t be what I should do, but I really haven’t set a goal. I just, I mean, like I said, this just started as fun. I want to see. I want to see some of the cars run on a big level. And and we’re we’re slowly getting we’ve Kenny Harris and Adam Smith as the driver. He’s, they’ve run in a new late model motor in their car. And in Kenny Collins has purchased a car that he’s gonna run and supers and I would just like eventually, I would just like to I would like to see if the cars can compete on that level.

Train Chassis Nationwide

Mostly it started out  in our area. And then we have a couple of cars and you know, up in Tennessee, North Georgia, Atlanta that way, couple in North Carolina, South Carolina right in that area. Kenny Collins aggravated me the other day, because the car that we fix for him, he raffled it off and it’s in New Mexico. So he said, now you got your car in New Mexico. But like I said, it started locally here a lot of the drivers locally have gotten them and then we’ve slowly started started getting them in the bottom part of Tennessee and North Carolina and Carolina and, and that’s what we’re trying to we’re trying to do some stuff right now to get expanded on out a little bit, you know, and a run at different tracks, we we really want to work on our slick track program. So the the house stuff this year, we’re going to try to get off some of the red clay stuff and start getting to the slicker side of things and, and keep working on that real hard.

Most Memorable Win

I probably would say the first big light mile race I won was a Southern All Star race at Hartwell. And I’d say that’s probably my biggest just because it was my first it you know, made it all. your family was are all the people that told you you couldn’t do it? They was there so that made it even better. And and that’s kind of when it all started. That was a 2003 year finished it up. And then the next year we bought the Swartz and got on a good shock program and had some good help. And that’s kind of you know, for three or four years, we had a pretty good run with the late model stuff.

Train Chassis and the CARS Racing Show

I mean, actually my first year that we did the show, I sold three cars from the show that the people that didn’t even know who Train Chassis was until they walk through the show and looked and that kind of stuff.  I think putting it in the the CARS Show it because to me, the CARS Show is more of like dirt. I may not know these other stuff better, but it’s more of a dirt show. And I know and like I said you just meet new people and, and stuff that maybe would never see your website or never taught you but you see them at the show. So I think it’s a real good time.

It lets you meet a lot of people. And even me personally, I’m meeting vendors and stuff that I would probably never talk to if I didn’t go to the CARS Show. So it also helps our brand get helped. You know, I’ve took away I’ve gotten a lot of help from drive shaft people and brake people and stuff that’s come from the show. So it’s worked good both ways. I mean, it’s helped me as far as getting the brand out there as much as getting over help from vendors.

Good to see a lot of people meet a lot of people that, you know, that you have never met before. And, you know, I always think that one of the best things about it is being able to talk to people in an environment. I mean, at least for me, like right now, I mean, I’m gonna, I came in here from working and I’m gonna do this podcast for now and I’m gonna go back out and I’m gonna work till probably, you know, one or two o’clock in the morning or something, you know, so that’s just the way it is this time of year. But you know, at the show, I dedicate you know, two or three days of doing nothing but the show so I can talk to people and all the that saves me a lot of phone conversations. 

Another reason I like it too is because just like we’re  at Train Chassis there’s a lot of people behind the scenes that you might not never hear their name and they’re getting to come watch the product and see the people talking about and that might you know, like that Steve Morris is the chassis builder that does the fabricate and then the Weldon and so he comes to the show so then people that walk in looking at the car and say, Man, this looks good as well. It’s it’s basically a tribute to what he’s doing. You know, so it’s it’s more than just like I said, train and big the big gets majority of the credit but you have I couldn’t do this without the people in the background. And there’s a lot of people that are on this. That is get help get me started in it. That has helped me grow. And I mean, I’m forever thankful for all of you.

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