The old motorsports adage, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” doesn’t get any more applicable than in the case of Danny Bender.
In this scenario, Mr. Bender is the one doing the winning – in a Spec Miata, a Touring 4 Mazda MX-5, an MX-5 Cup car, and in 2016 – a Freedom Autosport MX-5 Continental ST car. When he completes his job at the race track, he goes back home to sell MX-5s – the fourth most in the country in 2015, in fact – and 3s, 6s, CX-3s, CX-5s and CX-9s – as a salesperson at Autobarn Mazda in Evanston, IL.
For 2016, Bender gets to venture into a new opportunity running his first full professional season in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge with the winning Freedom Autosport team. He is sharing the #27 MX-5 with fellow Chicago-native Brit Casey, Jr. – and is looking to continue to build on his on track success. A 13th place finish at Daytona and a 12th place finish at Sebring this season has him off to a solid start.
Bender’s path to this point has been a direct reflection of the Mazda ladder and how one can go from club racing to a full-time professional drive. Leading to Bender’s 2016 rookie professional season, he got his first professional win last year in the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires at Road America in a one-off race weekend; additionally, he was the Sports Car Club of America National Champion in Touring 4 after winning at the SCCA Runoffs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2014. His journey began in club racing with a Spec Miata.
“I really have to give so much credit to Mazda and the ladder they provide for racers,” says Bender. “A few years ago I never would have thought a full pro season was possible; however, I sold some Mazdas, won in a Mazda, and it all came together.” We commend him for his dedication not only to Mazda, but for execution – for working hard enough to get results.
But Bender not only brings on track success to the table, he offers something unique in his day job as a Mazda Salesman at Autobarn Mazda. “I’ve always loved Mazdas, because as a driver, I like a very particular feel in my cars. Numb doesn’t work,” Bender says. “When I got done with school, I was looking for the right profession that fit my desires and strengths. I love cars and I love Mazdas. The owner of Autobarn Mazda is Richard Fisher – a racer himself. I knew him through the racing community, and said to him one day, ‘Hey, I can work for you; go racing; everybody wins.’ Now it works perfectly because I get to sell what I race and I think that passion has really helped, especially with customers.
“When I bring up the racing, I get a lot of different reactions, but mostly people are very responsive. They know that the person working with them actually cares about the product and is passionate. Passion, knowledge and honesty are key aspects of customer experience, and customers appreciate and feed off it.” Clearly it has paid off for Bender as he sold the fourth most 2016 MX-5s in the country last year.
What does Bender owe his success to? Well, he is quick to share his appreciation for his partners: Trumpf, Bravo Trailers and Autobarn Mazda. “It’s not just that without them I could not live out my dream, but it is the character of these individuals in how they operate and treat others that inspires me and makes me forever grateful. I feed off them.” For Trumpf, Bravo Trailers, and Autobarn Mazda, Mazda is also quite impressed and grateful.
If both his racing and selling Mazdas is not Mazda enough for you, you can also see Danny driving around Chicago, top down, in his 2016 Soul Red MX-5 Club.
With his First Pro win, and a National Championship in hand Danny is hoping to make 2016 his best year yet. Look for him at his next race April 30 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; say hello; and talk Mazda all you want!
Follow Danny’s 2016 racing season on Instagram and Twitter @dbracer18 and on Facebook at Danny Bender Racing.