In his free time during summer weekends, you may find Brown County Sheriff's Deputy Ron Bentz drag racing his 1974 Chevrolet Nova down an eighth-mile drag strip at Grove Creek Raceway near Grove City.
You better watch closely if you see Bentz and his orange, high-performance car. It doesn't take him much longer than six seconds to go the distance, reaching a top speed of 110-115 miles an hour.
Bentz bought the car originally with a 396 cubic inch V-8 engine but later replaced it with a 454 cubic inch motor modified to 496 cubic inches. The engine runs on 110-octane racing fuel. Other vehicle modifications include a nine-inch Ford rear end.
Ron Bentz doesn’t take his prized 1974 Chevrolet Nova out of its trailer unless the weather is favorable.
Bentz says drag racing can sometimes feel like flying an airplane down the road.
Ron Bentz has a 454 cubic inch V8 engine modified to 496 cubic inches under the hood of his 1974 Chevrolet Nova dragster. Horsepower was measured at 692 on a dynometer.
The interior of Bentz’ dragster has been stripped to include only the most necessary items.
Bentz has drag raced at Grove Creek Raceway near Grove City and at Brainerd International Raceway.
He usually races for trophies rather than for money.
The ride down the drag strip could be compared to flying a high-powered airplane in some ways.
"The front wheels come off the ground...you're pinned to your seat," Bentz said. "The back ones stay on the ground and wrinkle up."
He wears a fire suit and helmet, plus other safety equipment in the vehicle.
For those wishing to share the experience with him, Bentz offered rides down the drag strip at the Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School Benefit Auction earlier this year.
He isn't the only law enforcement officer that drag races.
"There are a few others doing it, including a few State Troopers," Bentz added.
He's quick to mention that drag racing is meant to be done only on sanctioned race tracks and talked about Fast Cop Inc., an educational program that teaches students the harsh reality of drug and alcohol use, aggressive driving behavior, and the illegal, often deadly sport of street racing.
Despite the glorification of street racing sometimes featured in movies, Fast Cop's teaching points include the fact that hundreds of drivers between ages 16 and 26 die each year in illegal street drag racing.
Fast Cop Inc. has offered prizes for safe, controlled drag racing for 16-19-year-olds at Brainerd International Raceway. For more information, visit www.fastcop.com.
Text and photos by Fritz Busch