July 31, 2005

Mike Rowe's amazing charge yields record-tying third 250 win, #150 at OPS

OXFORD , Maine Mike Rowe didn't need to put any more bold print on his resume to go down as the greatest driver, with a lap or two on the field, in the 56-year history of Oxford Plains Speedway.

His exorbitant number of feature victories is an untouchable record in the modern era. Winning a pair of TD Banknorth 250s on two vastly different playing fields was ample accomplishment to make him a future, first-ballot Maine Racing Hall of Famer.

But just in case you were wondering if the 54-year-old grandfather from Turner, Maine, still has the Midas touch at his home track, go ahead and ask Johnny Clark and Nick Nichols after Sunday night's 32nd annual short track masterpiece.

Rowe powered to the inside of long shot Nichols, then fellow pre-race favorite Clark, with under 10 laps remaining. When he held on by a car length to win the $26,000 first prize in the TD Banknorth 250, Rowe added more record-tying and shattering feats to his cache of checkered flags..

He joined Ralph Nason and Dave Dion as the only three-time winners of the TD Banknorth 250. Rowe also matched Dion by winning the title in three different decades. His previous victories came in 1984 and 1997. 

Rowe became the first driver to win the TD Banknorth 250 after winning the non-qualifiers race. His 37th starting position was the deepest ever for an eventual winner.

With the third crown jewel, Rowe also ended his son Ben's two-race winning streak in the summer classic.

"We've won three in a row," the elder Rowe proclaimed proudly after his younger son rushed to victory lane to embrace the champion.

Oh, and if you've been hiding in a cave or watching World Series of Poker re-runs on Saturday nights, the win was Rowe's far-and-away record 150th at OPS. 

Rowe began accumulating first-place trophies at the Plains in 1969.

"Of course it means a lot," Rowe said of the magic number, "but I think that's something you guys in the media started to try to put the pressure on me. So now I've done it and we can move on to bigger and better things."

Clark finished second after an intense duel with Nichols over the second half of the event. It almost fulfilled Clark's pre-race prophecy that he would "lead the second half of the race this year" after accumulating more than $13,000 in lap-leader bonus money in 2004 but crashing after a mid-race pit stop.

"One of the guys on my crew has always been harping on the fact that we needed to short-pit the TD Banknorth 250," Clark said. "So we came in on lap 80 tonight and it pretty much  worked out. I just didn't have enough left at the end. And of course when you see a guy like Mike Rowe coming in your mirror, you start overdriving. It's hard not to. I was sliding through the corners and hitting the curb a bunch of times."

The 25-year-old finalist for the Jack Roush NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ride "gong show" in North Carolina this fall inherited the lead when Quebec's Patrick Laperle made his fuel and tires stop on lap 123. Clark's advantage lasted only 10 laps before NASCAR Nextel Cup rookie phenom Kyle Busch charged to the front, quickly extending his advantage for a full straightaway.

When 2003 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Matt Kenseth was involved in multi-car spin with Chuck LaChance and Scott Moore on lap 191, Busch decided that he needed four fresh tires to win the race. When surrendered oodles of track position with the pit stop, Nichols shockingly inherited the lead.

It was the first Pro Stock start of the year for the U.S. Coast Guard veteran from New Sharon, Maine.

"I used to race full-time here at Oxford, but with work and building a house, it just hasn't been a priority for a few years," said Nichols, a 34-year-old, third-generation OPS competitor. "This is the biggest night of my life. To be up here means so much to me and my family, and this is for all the weekly racers out there who haul their car to the track on an open trailer.

Nichols was caught behind a car on the tail end of the lead lap on the ensuing restart, ultimately handing the lead to Clark. Clark outlasted three more restarts and held Nichols at bay by a car length or two on any extended green-flag runs.

But by the time Dave Gorveatt spun and Jeff Taylor absorbed heavy right-side damage in two separate race-slowing incidents on lap 196, The King of Oxford lurked on the fringes of the top five.

In the week leading up to the race, Rowe counseled his teammate Busch to exercise patience and go for the win after lap 200.

"That's what we did," said Rowe. "Kurt drove an incredible race, too. He easily could have won the race under different circumstances, and I'm going to try to talk him into coming back next year."

Rowe reeled in Clark and Nichols to wipe out most of a three-second advantage before Moore looped on the back chute to bring out the final caution on lap 224. He then stalked the leaders on the ensuing restart before Nichols and Clark left the doors open along the inside rail.

In addition to the open-trailer brigade, Nichols dedicated his podium performance to Scott Fraser, who was killed in a snowmobile crash in Canada two winters ago. Fraser built Nichols' car, which bears the Nova Scotia flash's traditional black and gold colors.

Meanwhile, Rowe dedicated his triumph to Leland Kangas, a friend and rival of the 1970s and 1980s. Sunday was the first anniversary of Kangas' death in a motorcycle accident.

"He's one of the best guys I ever raced against," Rowe said.

Richie Dearborn and Scott Robbins completed the top five in an event slowed by nine caution flags but completed in under two hours.

The top 14 drivers finished on the lead lap, including Busch, who led 70 laps before coming home sixth. Kenseth's late-race spin relegated the 2003 NASCAR champion to 16th, one lap down at the finish.

Rowe gave car owners Steve Perry and Scott Pullen their first TD Banknorth 250 triumph.

"You can't go wrong with a driver like Mike," said Perry, who picked up the talented veteran as a "free agent" late last season. SP2 Motorsports failed to qualify for last year's TD Banknorth 250 with another driver after eight straight appearances.

Rowe's long journey to the main event began when he bumped into leader Jeff White in his qualifying heat and wound up with a flat tire. Then he only charged to the first non-transfer spot in his consolation sprint.

That earned Rowe an outside front-row spot for the 50-lap last chance event, and he overowered Tim Brackett at the start for a wire-to-wire victory.

"When do you suppose is the last time Mike Rowe had to win two races in one day at Oxford?" was car owner Perry's rhetorical question.

Stan Meserve won the Maine National Guard Pole Award by capturing the first heat, and the 63-year-old employee of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., led the firs 76 laps. Brad Hammond, LaChance, White, Ricky Rolfe and Alan Tardiff also won heat races. Donnie Whitten, Dan McKeage and Taylor captured the consis.

Starting position was no obstacle in the main event, as the top seven finishers took the green 22nd or worse.

Among the dignitaries who failed to qualify: Bill and Jeremie Whorff; Sam Sessions; Al Hammond; Kelly Moore and 1996 champion Larry Gelinas. Ben Rowe needed his past champion's provisional to make the grid.

In accompanying feature action, Dennis Spencer Jr. breezed past Marty Emerson to win the 35-lap Limited Sportsman encounter. Emerson failed the post-race technical inspection, vaulting Jerry Harrison to second and Steve Bennett Sr. to third.

Danny Smart and Jason Gaboury each raced to their second win of the summer in Strictly Stock 20-lap action. 

Smart took the lead from Jeff Moon after only two laps of the 'A' feature and warded off Ben Tinker for the victory. When David Tripp was penalized for spinning a car at the finish, Sumner Sessions ascended to third.

Gaboury chased down early leader Randy Heath to grab the 'B' victory. Jerry Freve and Mark Theriault also led the event before obtaining stop-and-go penalties along the route.

Heath's potential career-best run ended with a spin a few feet shy of the finish line, opening the door for Rick Valentine and Tommy Tompkins to snag second and third. Tompkins was one of the Pro Stock hopefuls, failing to qualify for the TD Banknorth 250 in his primary ride.

Dennis Scribner proclaimed his 30-lap Mini Stock the first big win of his career. He earned it by racing from 14th starting position to overtake Chris Varney on a lap 19 restart. Jim Childs charged from the rear of the field to score second, with Varney third.

32ND ANNUAL TD BANKNORTH 250
Sunday, July 31
Official results
Fin. (Start) Driver, hometown, make of car, laps, money

1. (37) #24 Mike Rowe, Turner, Chevy, 315 laps, $26,000
2. (24) #54 Johnny Clark, Farmingdale, Chevy, 315, $17,800
3. (23) #5x Nick Nichols, New Sharon, Chevy, 315, $7,700
4. (30) #33 Richie Dearborn, Hollis, Chevy, 315, $6,000
5. (22) #E72 Scott Robbins, Dixfield, Ford, 315, $5,000
6. (28) #5 Kyle Busch, Las Vegas, Nev., Chevy, 315, $10,100
7. (29) #53 Alan Wilson, Hebron, Ford, 315, $3,500
8. (1) #2x Stan Meserve, Mooresville, N.C., Chevy, 315, $10,600
9. (26) #88T Jeff Taylor, Norridgewock, Chevy, 315, $2,500
10. (12) #66 Andy Shaw, Center Conway, N.H., Chevy, 315, $2,400
11. (8) #71 Gary Drew, Otisfield, Chevy, 315, $2,300
12. (15) #47 Corey Williams, Boothbay, Chevy, 315, $2,200
13. (40) #60 Tim Brackett, Buckfield, Chevy, 315, $2,100
14. (19) #29 Scott Chubbuck, Wiscasset, Ford, 315, $2,050
15. (14) #8 Cassius Clark, Farmington, Ford, 314, $2,100
16. (32) #17 Matt Kenseth, Cambridge, Wis., Chevy, 314, $1,850
17. (3) #38 Chuck LaChance, Cushing, Ford, 314, $1,750
18. (18) #03 Scott Moore, Anson, Chevy, 314, $1,700
19. (20) #91 Patrick Laperle, St. Denis, Que., 314, $5,850
20. (36) #77 Dave Gorveatt, Charlottetown, P.E.I., 314, $1,600
21. (4) #50 Jeff White, Winthrop, Chevy, 312, $1,550
22. (7) #1E Mike Edgbert, Hollis, Chevy, 311, $1,525
23. (21) #28 Kirk Thibeau, Fort Fairfield, Ford, 310, $1,500
24. (31) #29M Ricky Morse, St. Albans, Chevy, 308, $1,450
25. (17) #01 Wayne Helliwell Jr., Pelham, N.H., Chevy, 287, $1,425
26. (6) #8T Alan Tardiff, Lyman, Chevy, 275, $1,400
27. (35) #14 Tracy Gordon, Strong, Chevy, 275, $1,375
28. (38) #00x Ben Rowe, Turner, Chevy, 244, $1,350
29. (9) #68 Dale Shaw, Center Conway, N.H., Chevy, 243, $1,325
30. (10) #3 Mike Maietta Jr., South Portland, Chevy, 239, $1,300
31. (34) #94 Shawn Martin, Turner, Chevy, 227, $1,275
32. (2) #98 Brad Hammond, Turner, Chevy, 225, $1,250
33. (5) #51 Ricky Rolfe, Albany Township, Ford, 176, $1,225
34. (25) #83 Donnie Whitten, Wells, Chevy, 153, $1,200
35. (33) #77x Ralph Nason, Unity, Chevy, 144, $1,150
36. (13) #17T Travis Benjamin, Morrill, Chevy, 123, $1,125
37. (27) #40 Dan McKeage, Gorham, Chevy, 107, $1,125
38. (11) #84 Scott Mulkern, Falmouth, Dodge, 86, $1,125
39. (16) #97 T.J. Brackett, Buckfield, Chevy, 82, $1,125
40. (40) #03E Travis Adams, Canton, Chevy, 2, $1,125
Lap leaders: Meserve 1-76, Busch 77-80, C. Clark 81, Laperle 82-123, J. Clark 124-133, Busch 134-190, Nichols 191-192, J. Clark 193-240, M. Rowe 241-250.
Cautions: 8 (laps 41, 80, 123, 129, 191, 196, 196, 224)
Red flags: 1 (lap 109)
Time of race: 1 hour, 57 minutes, 9 seconds
Margin of victory: 1 car length

HEAT 1
1. Stan Meserve
2. Mike Edgbert
3. Travis Benjamin
4. Scott Chubbuck
5. Donnie Whitten
6. Shawn Martin
7. Ricky Morse
8. Curtis Gerry
9. Henry Hudson III
10.George Bessette
11. Tim Brackett
12. John Phippen

HEAT 2
1. Brad Hammond
2. Gary Drew
3. Cassius Clark
4. Patrick Laperle
5. Kyle Busch
6. Larry Gelinas
7. Travis Adams
8. Al Hammond
9. Bill Whorff Jr.
10. Rich Eaton
11. Scott Alexander
DQ: Chris Kennison

HEAT 3
1. Chuck LaChance
2. Dale Shaw
3. Corey Williams
4. Kirk Thibeau
5. Jeff Taylor
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Dave O'Blenis
8. Jeremie Whorff
9. Tracy Gordon
10. Joey Porciello
11. Gary Smith
12. Dave Wilcox

HEAT 4
1. Jeff White
2. Mike Maietta Jr.
3. T.J. Brackett
4. Scott Robbins
5. Alan Wilson
6. Mike Rowe
7. Tommy Tompkins
8. Glenn Josselyn
9. Kelly Moore
10. Kevin Kimball
11. Steve Reno
12. Scott King

HEAT 5
1. Ricky Rolfe
2. Scott Mulkern
3. Wayne Helliwell Jr.
4. Nick Nichols
5. Dan McKeage
6. Ralph Nason
7. Shawn Tucker
8. Jim Weymouth
9. Bill Rodgers
10. Steve Knowlton
11. Dave Gorveatt
12. Ben Rowe

HEAT 6
1. Alan Tardiff
2. Andy Shaw
3. Scott Moore
4. Johnny Clark
5. Ryan Deane
6. Richie Dearborn
7. John Flemming
8. Gary Bellefleur
9. Sam Sessions
10. Corey Morgan
DQ: Tony Ricci

CONSI 1
1. Donnie Whitten
2. Kyle Busch
3. Ricky Morse
4. Shawn Martin
5. Tim Brackett
6. Chris Kennison
7. Bill Whorff Jr.
8. Larry Gelinas
9. Scott Alexander
10. Curtis Gerry
11. Rich Eaton
12. Al Hammond
13. John Phippen Jr.
14. Travis Adams

CONSI 2
1. Jeff Taylor
2. Alan Wilson
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Tracy Gordon
5. Mike Rowe
6. Joey Porciello
7. Dave Wilcox
8. Dave O'Blenis
9. Gary Smith
10. Glenn Josselyn
11. Kelly Moore
12. Jeremie Whorff
13. Tommy Tompkins

CONSI 3
1. Dan McKeage
2. Richie Dearborn
3. Ralph Nason
4. Dave Gorveatt
5. Ben Rowe
6. Sam Sessions
7. Steve Knowlton
8. Tony Ricci
9. Gary Bellefleur
10. Bill Rodgers
11. Corey Morgan
12. Shawn Tucker
DQ: Ryan Deane; John Flemming

LAST CHANCE RACE
1. Mike Rowe
2. Sam Sessions
3. Bill Whorff Jr.
4. Steve Knowlton
5. Larry Gelinas
6. Tony Ricci
7. John Flemming
8. Al Hammond
9. Jeremie Whorff
10. Gary Smith
11. Gary Bellefleur
12. Tommy Tompkins
13. John Phippen
14. Rich Eaton
15. Joey Porciello
16. Corey Morgan
17. Tim Brackett (OPS provisional)
18. Travis Adams (LMS provisional)
19. Chris Kennison
20. Dave Wilcox
21. Ben Rowe (past champion's provisional)


LIMITED SPORTSMAN (35 laps)
Fin. (Start) Driver, hometown, laps completed
1. (11) #8 Dennis Spencer Jr., Turner, 35
2. (5) #48 Jerry Harrison, Freeport, 35
3. (8) #31 Steve Bennett Sr., Buckfield, 35
4. (13) #85 Kenny Harrison, Pownal, 35
5. (4) #63 Matt Williams, Brownfield, 35
6. (12) #18 Carey Martin, Denmark, 35
7. (7) #6 Troy Morse, Bridgton, 35
8. (6) #27 Archie Watt Jr., Auburn, 35
9. (15) #5 Gary Groves, Westbrook, 35
10. (3) #44 Neil Martin, Freeport, 35
11. (1) #38 Casey Mack, West Paris, 34
12. (16) #21 Tom Young, Durham, 34
13. (9) #1 Tommy Ricker, Poland, 33
14. (14) #26 Shawn Knight, Oxford, 30
15. (10) #0 Shane Green, South Paris, 29
DQ (2) #01 Marty Emerson, Durham
Lap leaders: Mack 1-2, Watt 3-11, Spencer 12-35
Cautions: 1 (lap 11)
Margin of victory: 0.821 seconds
Time of race: 15 minutes, 44.184 seconds
Fast lap: Troy Morse, 17.362 seconds

STRICTLY STOCK A (20 laps)
Fin. (Start) Driver, hometown, laps completed
1. (5) #91 Danny Smart, West Buxton, 20
2. (8) #19 Ben Tinker, Gray, 20
3. (7) #0 Sumner Sessions, Norway, 20
4 (14) #56 Mike Short, Auburn, 20
5. (16) #61 Roy Weymouth, Winthrop, 20
6. (10) #2 Joe Hutter, Oxford, 20
7. (9) #00 Jeff Merrill, Roxbury, 20
8. (17) #23 Zach Emerson, Durham, 20
9. (15) #63 David Vaughn, Naples, 20
10. (19) #84 Chris Coolidge, Norway, 20
11. (18) #54 Bob Crocker, Freeport, 20
12. (20) #24 Larry Emerson, Durham, 20
13. (2) #57 Ben Alden, Lewiston, 20
14. (22) #07 Rick Thompson, Naples, 20
15. (13) #P38 Mark Bowie, Mechanic Falls, 20
16. (3) #67 Rusty Gaghan, Winthrop, 20
17. (4) #35 Phil Mitchell III, Poland, 20
18. (10) #08 David Tripp, Oxford, 20
19. (6) #17 Jim Davis Jr., Sabattus, 14
20. (1) #97 Jeff Moon, Gray, 12
21. (11) #48 Skip Tripp, Sabattus, 12
Lap leaders: Moon 1-2, Smart 3-20
Cautions: 1 (lap 2)
Margin of victory: 0.295 seconds
Time of race: 9 minutes, 48.636 seconds
Fast lap: Sumner Sessions, 18.626 seconds

STRICTLY STOCK B (20 laps)
Fin. (Start) Driver, hometown, laps completed
1. (9) #5 Jason Gaboury, Readfield, 20
2. (14) #40 Rick Valentine, Greene, 20
3. (17) #113 Tommy Tompkins, Dixfield, 20
4. (11) #93 Randy Snow, Buxton, 20
5. (16) #76 Don Harvey, Pownal, 20
6. (18) #777 Mike St. Germain, Auburn, 20
7. (13) #43 Bob DiPompo, Jay, 20
8. (3) #27 Skip Turner, Carthage, 20
9. (19) #16 Tim Read, Minot, 20
10. (5) #39 Jerry Freve, Buckfield, 20
11. (20) #80 Rick Stone, New Gloucester, 20
12. (21) #53 Dick Damon, Livermore, 20
13. (7) #90 Dale Brackett, Oxford, 20
14. (12) #25 Gene Hatch, Winthrop, 20
15. (2) #64 Randy Heath, Casco, 20
16. (15) #18 Josh May, Harrison, 19
17. (6) #03 Mark Theriault, Rumford, 19
18. (4) #4 Bill Dunphy, New Gloucester, 19
19. (1) #6 Geoff Low, South Paris, 19
20. (8) #37 Rodney Williams Jr., Benton, 11
21. (10) #81 B.J. Chapman, Naples, 2
Lap leaders: Freve 1, Theriauilt 2-4, Heath 5-7, Gaboury 8-20
Cautions: 1 (lap 2)
Margin of victory: 1.604 seconds
Time of race: 17 minutes, 43.613 seconds
Fast lap: Mark Theriault, 18.673 seconds

MINI STOCK (30 laps)
Fin. (Start) Driver, hometown, laps completed
1. (14) #05 Dennis Scribner, Otisfield, 30
2. (16) #10 Jim Childs, Leeds, 30
3. (4) #92 Chris Varney, Scarborough, 30
4. (18) #01 Bill Childs Sr., Leeds, 30
5. (11) #80 Don Mooney, New Gloucester, 30
6. (15) #41 Larry Melcher, Jay, 30
7. (20) #44 Jim Robbins, Dixfield, 30
8. (12) #1 Rich Sirois, Leeds, 30
9. (17) #18 Dan Sirois, Litchfield, 30
10. (19) #33 Dan Morris, Auburn, 30
11. (10) #8 Randy Barker, Jay, 30
12. (13) #52 Ted Audet, Greene, 30
13. (8) #19 Dave Mooney, Wales, 30
14. (6) #14 Jeff Prindall, Lisbon Falls, 30
15. (1) #25 Wayne Parkin, Wales, 30
16. (3) #9 Craig Moore, Oxford, 30
17. (9) #57 Bill Thibeault, Oxford, 29
18. (7) #48 Rob Baitler, Wales, 19
Lap leaders: Parkin 1-11, Varney 12-19, Scribner 20-30
Cautions: 2 (laps 3, 19)
Margin of victory: 0.080 seconds
Time of race: 18 minutes, 17.243 seconds
Fast lap: Rich Sirois, 18.214 seconds