• Mercury Racing Blog: Team Mercury – Part 3: Earl Bentz

    “My racing days hold many fond memories for me. Being part of the Mercury Racing Team made it possible for a young country boy from South Carolina to go places, do things, and meet people from all over the world that would have otherwise never happened.” wrote Earl Bentz, regarding his time driving for Team Mercury.

    Earl credits his uncle, D.F. Jenkins [Jenkin Outboard, Charleston, SC]. for getting him into racing. He ran his first race at age 16 on Lake Murray, South Carolina. “Blue Goose” was the name of the boat, a 100 h.p. Mercury-powered deep-vee.“My uncle bought me my first tunnel boat over the Winter of 1968-69. It was a Galaxie tunnel boat powered by a stock V-4 Johnson that qualified me for Sport J class. One of my all-time favorites was the ‘Wild Geechee’. It was a kneel-down tunnel with a “crash throttle. We probably won 80% of the races we entered. One year in particular, we won 20 consecutive races in classes from Sport J all the way to U and S class (unlimited single engine outboard),” said Earl.

    “I first met Reggie [Fountain] racing at local races. I could beat him with the single engine. I couldn’t touch his twin engine Glastron,” said Earl. Earl’s success with competitive power was getting noticed by Mercury. His racing career came to an abrupt stop in 1973 when he endured a near fatal crash at the Outboard Performance Craft Championships in Eufaula, Alabama.

    Photo from 1980 Popular Performance boat magazine feature on Earl.

    Earl explains, “It was a bad crash. I broke my back in three places. I was in the hospital for a month. I was supposed to meet with Mercury [Gary Garbrecht and Jim Mertin Sr.] while in Eufaula. Garbrecht called while I was recovering to ask if I was still going to race. He told me they were getting ready for Europe and wished I could come along.” Earl would would eventually meet with Garbrecht and Mertin and sign on with Team Mercury. “I was 22 when I moved to Oshkosh in November of ’73. I still had my back brace on,” said Earl.

    Reggie Fountain was Earl’s teammate and roommate when they raced in Europe. “Reggie has always been very kind to me. Earl came down with a wicked flu virus while staying in London one year. Reggie took care of me. He would run and get me orange juice – medicine – he nursed me back to health.”

    Some of Earl’s fondest memories are of testing on Lake Butte des Morts in Oshkosh. “Mercury went above and beyond to prepare for races. Dave Beier, Jim Schuenke, Jim Welton, Bob Hetzel, Les Cahoon. These guys put forth the effort to win. Even Jack Reichert, who was the CEO of Brunswick at the time, supported the team. Jack would say, ‘If you finish second, you lost. Don’t lose.” We tested all day long. If needed – the guys would work all night de-rigging a boat, replacing the running pads – doing whatever it took to win.” We got more seat time than anyone. The OMC [Outboard Marine Corporation] guys would come to the local park with binoculars to spy on us,” Earl said.

    Read the full blog post here >>
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