No Mercy Nitro Funny Car Owner/Driver

I am the owner/driver of the No Mercy Nitro Funny Car which is my lifelong goal and ambition.  We compete in the NHRA Mello Yello professional race series which hosts 24 events across the United States with an avid fan base of 18.8 million.  While I certainly endeavor for drag racing to be my full-time profession it is a work in progress and the No Mercy team competes on a part-time schedule.  I have raced in a myriad of classes throughout my life and this recent endeavor represents the pinnacle of my racing career.

We are a self-funded independent racing team which means we have no major sponsorship and compete on a limited or part-time schedule.  Our goal is to acquire the necessary funding in order to become a championship caliber race team that competes full-time.

U.S. Air Force – Enlisted / Officer (Retired)

I devoted 20 years of my life to military service and retired in 2015 with honors as a U.S. Air Force pilot.  My Air Force career began at the very bottom as my family could not afford to send me to a 4-year college.  I enlisted in 1995 as an Aircraft Electrical / Environmental (E&E) specialist on A-10 and KC-135 aircraft and achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-5).  While stationed at RAF Mildenhall in the UK I attended night/weekend college classes and obtained my Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  I applied, and was subsequently accepted, to attend Officer Training School followed by USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training.  I eventually found myself flying C-17’s in combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan.

An avid interest in future technology, coupled with over 300 days a year on the road travelling, led me to volunteer to become an Unmanned Aircraft Pilot for the USAF.  I retired in 2015 with the rank of Major (0-4).  My last assignment was as the Chief Test Pilot in an unmanned top-secret stealth technology aircraft.

Upon retirement I briefly flew for the airlines but quickly realized that the lifestyle would not afford me the opportunity to pursue my true passion of drag racing.  I have an Airline Transport Pilot license with qualifications in several airframes.  I currently work for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems as a Flight Test Engineer and have also been an Instructor Pilot / UAS Subject Matter Expert for them as well.

Family

My wife Sarah and I have three children; Alicia (20), Brianna (10) and Jayden (5).  We currently reside in San Diego, California and our oldest is attending college at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada.  My family tree is very complicated and has lots of different branches as I’ll explain in my various blogs.  My grandfather (through marriage) is Leon Fitzgerald who is the original owner/driver of the Pure Heaven Fuel Altered that he raced throughout the United States in the 60s and 70s.  My father is Jeff Bennett who has campaigned a variety of cars throughout my entire life.  We have always raced together and have built a bond over racing machines.  Jeff is a legend in his own right and is the originator of the “No Mercy” moniker of racing machines.  He is the three-time AHRA Nitro Funny Car World Finals Champion.  I am proud to have been able to carry on the heritage of both my grandfather and dad with the various cars I have raced and it is extremely special that the three of us continue to race together to this day.  I hope that one day my own children carry on the family tradition when they are ready.

Racing Experience

As a 3rd generation drag racer, I have always owned, built and driven my own cars.  I built my first front engine dragster while I was stationed overseas in the UK.  I used my re-enlistment bonus to purchase the roller (car minus engine) and spent the next several months building the car.  I raced it several times until I found a more asethetically pleasing car that I never had an opportunity to race due to 9/11.

I built my first alcohol funny car while attending Air Force pilot training in Mississippi.  All of my initial builds were given the name, “Cheeky Monkey” because of a nickname that was given to me at a very young age; Monkey Boy.  I campaigned the Cheeky Monkey funny car in the CIFCA class for a year and finished #7.  At the end of the season my dad and I decided to combine our race operations in order to build a car for the emerging Nostalgia Funny Car class.

Together, we built, owned and co-drove the Pure Heaven Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car / Fuel Altered nationwide at numerous NHRA and IHRA events from 2007 – 2013.  The Pure Heaven V Fuel Altered is the IHRA Fuel Altered record holder with a 6.03 @ 230 MPH.  We sold that car when we purchased our current “big show” funny car, No Mercy, but continue to campaign the Pure Heaven III Nostalgia Fuel Altered owned by Grandpa Leon Fitzgerald.Photo by: Pam Conrad
Pure Heaven III owned by Leon Fitzgerald

Pure Heaven IV

Pure Heaven V

I’ve driven for numerous other Nitro Funny Car teams including Mike McCain’s “Bomb Squad”, Gary Turner’s “Pedaler”, Michael Harrigan’s “Fool’s Gold”, and Robert Schwab’s big show funny car.  I took a year off from drag racing and tried my driving acumen at road racing.  I won the 2015 Corvette Challenge Championship in my rookie year with a 2002 Corvette Z06.

I enjoy spending my off time sharing my life story through writing and giving presentations about goals, dreams, and perseverance.  My hope is that through my stories of adversity, perseverance, persistence and NO MERCY I can encourage others to not quit their passions.  I also motivate students to study STEM degrees by discussing my experience in the emerging technology of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Drag racing is my true passion I and feel that my life story can help others relate to accomplishing something no matter how difficult it might be.  I have a heart for veterans and encouraging youth, and I  serve as an ambassador for my sponsors.  My ambition is to acquire the funding necessary to campaign a full-time top 10 NHRA Nitro Funny Car on the NHRA Mello Yello race series.