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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 23, 2002 - Issue 57


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Shiprock Native Wants to Race in NASCAR

by Jim Snyder Staff Writer-The Farmington Daily Times
Racing CarsSHIPROCK, NM - He's a visionary who wants to change his stars.

Standford Benally, 30, hopes to shatter cultural stereotypes Native Americans face by being the first full-blooded Navajo to become a NASCAR driver.

"I want to drive the vehicle for my Navajo people," he said.

But the dream doesn't stop there. He wants to return and use his racing earnings to open a business - a restaurant - in his native Shiprock.

"I did restaurant management for six years. I like dealing with the public and in customer service. Our family history is all business people," Benally said. A restaurant would be ideal he added, because it could be a place where people "can sit down and communicate with each other."

"I'd like to have my kids running the store. I teach them you can't make money working for someone else by the hour."

Mostly he wants to better himself and bring a sense of accomplishment and pride to the Navajo Nation. He also wants to see his children have more business opportunities than exist today on the reservation. Obtaining the funding is completing only half the race, he said.

"There's so much red tape opening a business with the Navajo tribe and the federal government. I posted them (all the paperwork) on my wall. Each time I wake up I see these papers. It gives me more motivation to succeed."

But before the restaurant must come the earnings.

Benally doesn't appear to be a man one would call a traditional Navajo. "When I was younger I thought of driving fast, making a lot of money and becoming a celebrity. I'd like to be a professional race car driver, to take it to a new millennium, to make history. The Navajo people have never experienced NASCAR driving."

Benally recently finished a Marlboro race-car driving class in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he drove an array of very fast cars - including an IROC stock car at 220 mph.

"It's not aggressive driving," he said, compared to some of the drivers on U.S. 64. "Instead of driving forcefully, you hurdle it with care, safely handling your vehicle."

Benally hopes to gain some corporate sponsors so he can race throughout the country. He said he would also like to get involved with educating school children and adults about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"I would like to get involved with MADD, Mother's Against Drunk Driving, or fathers against drunk driving."

Since last month's Bureau of Indian Affairs fatality on I-40 that killed two Nebraska couples, Benally said the spotlight is once again on a negative image of the Navajo Nation.

"We are not all drunk drivers doing alcohol and drugs. I felt so bad it hurt me, it hurt the Dine people with Anglo society," he said.

Benally is an energetic man with a lot on his plate.

His reach hasn't exceeded his grasp though, because Benally has two other careers going right now. He is a certified boiler-pipe welder and also owns a regional firewood business. Both operations require a lot of travel and time away from home, wife and children.

You can't succeed without taking risks, Benally said, something he doesn't hesitate on.

"It depends on the individual person if they want to get out there and make money. You've got to leave the family, the reservation, and travel," he added.

His firewood-hauling business takes him throughout the reservation and the Four Corners. But being a boilermaker and welder lands him contracts on construction projects all over the United States - trips he makes by getting in the car and driving across half a dozen states. The biggest contract he would like to get would be working "to help rebuild the Twin Towers (complex)," he said, or whatever construction takes place there.

Between contracts he keeps his firewood business going. "There's a lot of elders out there whose families forget about them and they're home alone."

Benally would like to expand the enterprise. "I would like to supply the Navajo Nation with firewood, coal, hay and corn."

While he's not welding, hauling firewood or racing cars, Benally works on finishing his business degree at Din College in Shiprock.

Despite all of his careers and business ventures, there is still more to learn, Benally said.

Shiprock, NM Map

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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