In 1990, Jeff met Carl Benton, owner of Polymer Dynamics, Inc., in Houston, while Jeff was working for PetroMoly USA, Inc. of Sugarland.  Both companies were marketing their products at race tracks, sponsoring cars, drivers and teams, so Jeff's and Carl's paths crossed once in a while.  Carl's main product at that time was coating engines and mechanical parts with polymer resin coatings, while Jeff's was a fully formulated engine oil.

Jeff went to work for a trade association in Dallas in 1994, and Carl's company is a sponsor and vendor in that association.  At the very first seminar Jeff put on (in of all places - Charlotte, NC), he met Frank Kane who Carl had recently hired to become the "sales face" of Polymer Dynamics' oil additive product, TX-7.  The friendship was instant.

Frank Kane,   Ross Benton,   Mark Bonner,   Carl Benton

Not long after that, another friend from collaborative days at Pennzoil, Mark Bonner, came along to work for PolyDyn, and to this day, we try to catch up whenever we can - especially at a race track.  You see Carl's son Ross in that pic just above, and Ross is quite a hot shoe in his own right.

This shot is from the first time that Frank & Jeff drove the Team Texas High Performance Driving School.  Frank got this blitz idea that if his top sales people in the field, from around the country, could sell a certain amount of the TX-7 product, he'd pay for them to come to Texas Motor Speedway and take the half-day driving school run by Mike Starr (his son David regularly competes in the NASCAR truck series) in a NASCAR stock car.

Of course, one has to check out the driving school, to assure its high standards, and to determine whether this is an appropriate prize to offer to the sales staff.  You don't want to be offering something that has no perceived value.  So, someone had to do the checking out, and Frank and I were the ones who HAD to do it JJJ    After classroom instruction and 10 thrilling laps, when they peeled us out of the cars, and we finally made it back over to a restaurant to have some lunch, we sat across the table from each other, dazed, and every now and then simply uttered, "Wow."  Our waitress thought we were a couple of stoners on a mind trip.  She had no idea that we were a couple of gear heads who definitely don't do drugs or alcohol, but just had the rush of our lives.

Don't ever let someone tell you those drivers are wimps either,  That is really hard work.  After doing it in person, I have a renewed respect for what they do.  I have no idea how they can do it at 200+ mph sometimes, with 33 other cars on the track at the same time, in anger, for 500 miles.  What a grueling challenge.  We were 10 cars on the track, in polite fashion, and it was all I could do to hold on to the car at 150 mph.

  Here you see Frank, the marketing genius,  with the PolyDyn TX-7 car, which is a constant sponsored-feature at the Team Texas Driving School.

Now this is a classroom

I wish I was able to attend one like this regularly, when I was in school.  Notice the entire class is obediently up front to the left, no stragglers like in public school or church - that's how you hold the attention of a bunch of gear heads!

  And then we have Chief Instructor Mike Starr demonstrating the proper technique to get into the driver's seat, through the driver's window, for when your driving suit is on, without falling on the ground in full embarrassment, utilizing the school's unique 13-passenger Kevin Harvick limousine, you can see the normal racing version of the same car, right next to and in front of the limo.

                         

Jeff & Joanne participating in their favorite activity at Texas Motor Speedway.  Joanne's Dad retired after working a career for Ma Bell in NYC, so it was special for Joanne to get to drive the BellSouth sponsored car, thinking of Dad grinning at her, because he loved car racing too, taking her to races when she was a little girl.

 

One year, I got to drive the "#24 Jeff Gordon" car, in the night class, which Mike Starr can't afford to do anymore, unless a sponsor foots the cost for the lights.  What a blast.  The sensation of speed is heightened even further by the stadium lights at night.  If you ever have a chance to experience this thrill, do it.

 

Anna got to go for her 21st Birthday...

... and Dad got to drive in the same group with her.

You'll notice the date on the picture says December, it WAS cold, and that smile IS frozen on her face.

She will tell you that Daddy never passed her, but there's more to the story J

Unfortunately, this did not qualify for a driving school insurance discount, and in Anna's case, may have had the opposite effect.  She thinks she drives like me, but all her friends call her "Lead Foot," while I'm just an Ol' Fart to them.  Hmmm.

You know the class is thrilled when they are willing to brave 100F  frying pavement temperatures, after being flogged inside the car all morning, and they still want to pose with the sponsors, exhausted with delight, in front of the car for a team pic.  Adrenaline and hormones have been used up once again JJJ

 

 

Here's Mark Bonner the last time he drove.  His Dad's a Dale Earnhardt fanatic, Mark's always picking up paraphernalia of the sort when we visit tracks all over the country, and this was a thrill for Mark to drive this sponsored car in the school.

 

 

 

Here's Jeff in the new #57 Polymer Dynamics car, the last time he drove.

The car was freshly built that day, and after I proved my experience and driving abilities to the instructor (having driven the class for about 9 or 10 classes by this time), he was so kind as to gently push me beyond the normal mandated 150 mph rev limiter.

They won't loudly tell people that this is a possibility because the thrill is so great, that most first-timers don't even handle 150 mph very well, so the rev limiter is normally and variably cranked down, for everyone's safety (and I doubt that any of the drivers ever notice that fact either).

When an instructor knows he has someone who is driving responsibly, they go the distance and coach you to do better every time.  He said I was driving very well, kindly coaching me with the critical turn-in points, hitting the marks properly, staying relaxed and minimally tense, at around 165 to 170 on the front "Banana" straight.

When they take people for rides (as opposed to being drivers in a class) they can usually get up to the 180 mph range, and when you are there on-site, you can definitely hear the speed differentials.

It's a wonderful mix of emotions to have equal amounts of joy and trepidation coursing through the veins, and you HAVE to repeatedly TELL yourself to breathe AND relax.

I went through many cycles when entering a turn, I'd sense being as tense as a solid granite rock with the "grip of death" on the steering wheel, and then I'd tell myself I am driving a real full blown Nextel Cup NASCAR Stock Car at full speed, and I'd relax with laughter.  I love the sound when the car sings like that, and I know the other guys do too.  To feel the balance is a beauty to behold when 700+ horsepower is riding like it's on rails.

In case you're wondering what the track looks like from those condominium suites over in Turn 2, here's a panoramic view from inside Suite 612.

If you look to the left there in the above picture, you see the Speedway Club, and it is a "must-see" when you're visiting.  Great food, and view.  If you ever have a chance to visit Eddie Gossage's office on the 4th floor do it, it is a sight to behold the track from that vantage point.

 

"Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things."

Denis Diderot, 1773

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