Many in the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) circuit are calling Kurt Bensmiller the new era of racing. Coming off his consecutive Calgary Stampede win, it’s safe to say there’s a new face of the chucks and that belongs to Kurt.
I spoke with Kurt the day after his second Calgary Stampede win on July 13th, 2015. One thing I’ve always noticed about the driver is his cool demeanor and quick-on-the-draw wit. When asked if he was still shaking from the win, Bensmiller gave me a resounding, “No.” The champion said he was ready for home, “it’s time to pack-up and get home for the first time since June.”
Home for Kurt and his wife Ashly, along with their three daughters, Harlee, Hayze, and Vahn, is Dewberry, Alberta. Kurt is a third generation chuckwagon driver; it’s really a family business. His father is retired driver Buddy Bensmiller, affectionately known in the circuit as “The Dewberry Rocket”. Buddy retired in 2013 after a career that saw him as a 2-time World Champion Chuckwagon Driver, a 3-time Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Champion driver and a 3-time Calgary Stampede Aggregate winner. Kurt’s grandfather’s Allen Smith and Alan Bensmiller were both multi–time finalists, as well.
Then there’s his brothers, both older brother David and younger brother Chance are drivers. Dave has been outriding as of late and actually was one of the outriders Kurt’s brother in-law, Vern Nolin’s, outfit this year at the Stampede. Incidentally, Vern ended up in the final four Dash-for-Cash against Kurt, which Kurt says there were no hard feelings, “Vern congratulated me after, which was nice.”
As for that Dash-for-Cash, many including myself may boost they knew Kurt had it from the clean figure eight around the barrels or even that first turn, Kurt says he was a little more reluctant to call the win. “Just because of the weather I had a good feeling coming from the bottom,” Kurt explains it was when he saw his outrider later down the track it dawned on him he had the race, “going around the third and fourth turn when I saw where the outriders were and the outfit still had a lot of gas left, I knew for sure-for sure that it didn’t matter what the track was like them guys weren’t going to be able to catch me.”
WPCA insiders call Kurt the new era of racing, even with 15 years’ experience in the WPCA under his hat. Kurt grew up on the circuit and has had plenty of experience before his rookie year in 2000. Including witnessing the classic Bensmiller-Sutherland rivalry between his father Buddy and patriotic of the Sutherland family, Kelly. Kurt says even “King Kelly” didn’t deter his spirits going into the race, “it didn’t really bother me that it was Kelly, I would’ve treated it like anyone else.”
The WPCA will be enjoying a much-needed break July 13-23rd, and then they are set to hit the track in Bonnyville, Alberta. Kurt says he’s most looking forward to getting home, “it’s been a busy 16 or 17 days, so it will be nice to get back home and relax a little bit.” Kurt may have to do some renovations when he gets home, he jokes about saving the big novelty $100 000 cheque he was presented with at The Calgary Stampede. Although he doesn’t have a trophy room yet, “It’s looking like I may need one,” says Kurt with a chuckle.
Kurt says he’s hoping for a win in Bonnyville, “I didn’t miss it by much last year and it would be pretty cool to win that one for George.” Referring to George Normand, a decorated driver who died tragically in 1994, the races in Bonnyville serve as a memorial for the “Bonnyville Bullet.” The WPCA will be in Bonnyville from July 23rd-26th, with races Thursday through Saturday at 6:30pm and Sunday at 2:00pm.