Ben Rowe Does it Again
by Bobby Walker

OXFORD - Ben Rowe of Turner, Maine again proved why his been one of the top Pro Stock division drivers in the northeast for the past three seasons.   The 31st annual running of the Banknorth Oxford 250 is now in the record books and Rowe accomplished a couple of things in the process.  He  has now joined his famous father Mike as a two time winner.  He also joined Geoffrey Bodine and Ralph Nason as back to back winners. 

But it was how Rowe won the Banknorth Oxford 250 Sunday night that was the news maker.  First of all it was the very first time that one of America's most famous short track races has played to a true eventual SRO crowd.  It was a race in which three distinct segments unfolded.  The first 132 laps were simply a fund raising effort by Johnny Clark.  Clark had won the first qualifying race.  A total six would accommodate the entry list of 87 on race weekend which was eventually pared down to 80 by virtue of some mechanical failures and a couple of withdrawals.  In fact heat winners included not only Clark, but Mike Rowe, Dale Shaw, Stan Meserve, Kevin Kimball, and Sam Sessions. 

Sessions perhaps set the stage for the strategy changes for the rest of the day by coming from 11th on the grid and he did it 100% on the outside where several felt would not be possible.  In heat one Clark led the parade for the four qualifying position with Henry Hudson second, Ricky Rolfe third, and Steve Knowlton fourth.  He did that from the ninth position.  In heat two Mike Rowe led the way with Tracy Gordon second, Bill Rodgers third, and Paul Bosse fourth.  Shaw moved from sixth to first to win heat three.  Jeff Taylor, Dave Gorvett, and Scott Chubbuck were the next three qualifiers.  In heat four Stan Meserve was best with Scott Mulkern, Tony Ricci and Travis Khiel the top four.  Nextel Cup regular Kurt Busch started fourth, but got bumped back to sixth literally.  Kevin Kimball led from wire to wire in heat five and Gary Drew, Bub Bilodeau and Brockie Gerry rounding out the qualifiers. The sixth and final heat saw the incredible run by Sessions provide the excitement.  Laperle, Al Hammond and Kirk Thibeau also moved into the Banknorth Oxford 250.  Then in the middle it was anybody race as those who had made pit stops in the middle portion were working their way back into contention.  The final third of the race appeared to be all about Alan Wilson, but as expected, the unexpected element played a pivotal part in the final outcome.
The first of three 20 lap consolation races was won by Rowe meaning the defending champion would start the race 25th.  Cassius Clark, Mike Maietta Sr. and Dan McKeage also transferred to the 250.  In race two it was former winner Larry Gelinas moving in.  Andy Saunders, Donnie Whitten and Kurt Busch also transferred.  In the third and final race Jay Sands led the entire way.  Alan Wilson, Mike Maietta Jr. and Glenn Josselyn were the three remaining lucky participants.  Reigning Nextel Cup Champion Matt Kenseth cut a tire in the early part of the race and would end up running the last chance qualifier at 50 laps.  His car owner and Sunday teammate Billy Whorff Jr. also would be in the "hooligan" race, along with 30 other.  That race is a 50 lap race for a fair payday in itself, but only the winner gets the 250 starting option.  Whorff, who was already a sure starter by virtue of an early season Oxford Plains Speedway win, needed the 50 lap run to make sure his car was right for the 250 so he ran the entire distance to get a double pass into one of America's premier short track races.  Kenseth too had a provisional, a NASCAR Champions ticket, but he elected to get track experience and he drove to fifth from the 30th starting spot.  That set the stage for the Banknorth 250.  Earlier in the day support races were won by Jimmy Childs, Rusty Gaghan, Joe Hutter, and Kenny Harrison.
At the drop of the green 41 hopefuls raced to turn one and Johnny Clark was by far the best car on the speedway.  Caution flags on lap 53, 60, 95, and 123 help or hindered the different game plans being formulated up and down pit road.  Clark stayed on the track, while most of the other contenders had pitted at least once at that point.  The next caution flag flew on lap 131 and that's when Clark pitted and Ben Rowe moved to the front for the first time.  He'd hold the top spot until lap 167 when the seventh and final yellow flag would fly.  Rowe pitted again for more tires and a splash of gas.  Dale Shaw was the new leader, but he and Scott Chubbuck got into a shoving match on lap 174 with Shaw spinning and Chubbuck getting a stop and go penalty for his assistance.  That penalty was served on lap 178 and Alan Wilson took over at that point.  Rowe, Mike Rowe, Kenseth and Ricky Rolfe were swapping positions at the point, but it appeared that Ben was the best of those four and nobody appeared to have much for Wilson who's previous Banknorth 250 best finish was a pair of fourths. 
As the opportunities were fading away Ben Rowe picked it up a notch and started the chase.  Wilson was on cruise control for more than 70 laps at that point and while Rowe was narrowing the gap everybody watching was saying the same thing, "not enough time to make up the difference".  And that appeared to be the case, but on lap 238 something seemed to be changing.  Wilson was slowing and sliding at the same time and Rowe wasn't that far back.  On lap 239 disaster struck as Wilson washed up the race track, scrapped the outside retaining wall and faded back to fifth in the blink of an eye.  With less than four miles to go Alan Wilson lost the biggest day of his racing career.  With Rowe now safely ahead of Ricky Rolfe and Matt Kenseth it was a simple 10 lap dash to a winners check of some $29,700 and two straight.  Without taking anything away from any of the other 40, the Kenseth drive was classic in the fact that he started 41st, used his background in his road to Nextel Cup, to analyze every developing incident and hardly put a scratch on the car in the process.  Mike Rowe again proved that OPS is his personal favorite with yet another top five.  Fourth this time out.  Wilson was fifth, but the heartache was evident as he stood and shook his head in disbelief.  "I guess it just wasn't meant to be" which is what a class race like Alan Wilson would say in a situation like that.  Rowe was asked after the race if the Kenseth and Busch fan fare had taked away some of his rightfully expected pre race hype.  Rowe proclaimed that it was just fine with him.  With all the media focusing their attention on the two Nextel Cup superstars that left Rowe and car owner Tom Estes the time to concentrate on their plan and actually took a lot of pressure off the team.





Fin Start # Qual Driver City State Laps Payout Bonus Total
1 25 OO C1-1 Rowe, Ben Turner ME 298 $25,000 $4,700 $29,700
2 13 51 H1-3 Rolfe, Ricky Albany Township ME - $12,000 0 $12,000
3 41 17 prov-4 Kenseth, Matt Mooresville NC - $7,500 0 $7,500
4 2 24 H2-1 Rowe, Mike Turner ME - $6,000 0 $6,000
5 30 53 C3-2 Wilson, Alan Hebron ME - $5,000 $6,300 $11,300
6 15 77x H3-3 Gorveatt, Dave Charlottetown PEI - $4,000 0 $4,000
7 21 29x H3-4 Chubbuck, Scott Wiscasset ME - $3,500 $300 $3,800
8 3 68 H3-1 Shaw, Dale Cntr Conway NH -1 $3,000 $600 $3,600
9 12 91 H6-2 Laperle, Patrick St.Denis QUE -1 $2,500 0 $2,500
10 17 9 H5-3 Bilodeau, Bub Standish ME -2 $2,400 0 $2,400
11 38 72 prov-1 Robbins, Scott Dixfield ME -2 $2,300 0 $2,300
12 18 1 H6-3 Hammond, Al So. Paris ME -3 $2,200 0 $2,200
13 35 97 C2-4 Busch, Kurt Concord NC -3 $2,100 0 $2,100
14 23 44 H5-4 Gerry, Brockie Fryeburg ME -4 $2,050 0 $2,050
15 9 77 H3-2 Taylor, Jeff Mercer ME -4 $2,000 0 $2,000
16 37 O LCQ-1 Whorff, Bill Jr. Topsham ME -4 $1,850 0 $1,850
17 4 2 H4-1 Meserve, Stan Mooresville NC -6 $1,750 0 $1,750
18 5 O7 H5-1 Kimball, Kevin South Portland ME -6 $1,700 0 $1,700
19 40 29M prov-3 Morse, Ricky St. Albans ME -6 $1,650 0 $1,650
20 22 24k H4-4 Khiel, Travis Denmark ME -6 $1,600 0 $1,600
21 27 36 C3-1 Sands, Jay Seabrook NH -6 $1,550 0 $1,550
22 32 83 C2-3 Whitten, Donnie Biddeford ME -7 $1,525 0 $1,525
23 20 52 H2-4 Bosse, Paul Gray ME -11 $1,500 0 $1,500
24 1 54 H1-1 Clark, Johnny Hallowell ME -18 $1,450 $12,800 $14,250
25 34 40 C1-4 McKeage, Dan Gorham ME -56 $1,425 0 $1,425
26 7 5 H1-2 Hudson, Henry III Harrison ME -121 $1,400 0 $1,400
27 19 88x H1-4 Knowlton, Steve Ipswich MA -124 $1,375 0 $1,375
28 10 84 H4-2 Mulkern, Scott Falmouth ME -124 $1,350 $300 $1,650
29 29 O1 C2-2 Saunders, Andy Ellsworth ME -131 $1,325 0 $1,325
30 24 28 H6-4 Thibeau, Kirk Fort Fairfield ME -135 $1,300 0 $1,300
31 28 8 C1-2 Clark, Cassius Farmington ME -137 $1,275 0 $1,275
32 6 Ox H6-1 Sessions, Sam South Paris ME -138 $1,250 0 $1,250
33 36 25 C3-4 Josselyn, Glenn Farmington ME -141 $1,225 0 $1,225
34 14 53x H2-3 Rodgers, Bill Old Orchard Beach ME -141 $1,200 0 $1,200
35 31 13 C1-3 Maietta, Mike Sr. South Portland ME -192 $1,150 0 $1,150
36 39 60 prov-2 Brackett, Tim Buckfield ME -196 $1,125 0 $1,125
37 8 14 H2-2 Gordon, Tracy Strong ME -208 $1,125 0 $1,125
38 16 4 H4-3 Ricci, Tony Westbrook ME -208 $1,125 0 $1,125
39 26 37 C2-1 Gelinas, Larry Scarborough ME -229 $1,125 0 $1,125
40 11 71 H5-2 Drew, Gary Otisfield ME -229 $1,125 0 $1,125
41 33 3 C3-3 Maietta, Mike Jr. South Portland ME -254 $1,125 0 $1,125

Lap Leaders
J. Clark, 1-119
Mulkern, 120-122
J. Clark, 123-131
B. Rowe, 132-167
Shaw, 168-173
Chubbuck, 174-176
Wilson, 177-239
B. Rowe, 240-250

Cautions: 7 (53, 60, 95, 123, 131, 138, 167)

Time of race: 1 hour, 42 minutes, 04 seconds

1 - Most recent Banknorth 250 champion - Scott Robbins
2 - High-point Oxford Pro Stock regular - Tim Brackett
3 - July 17 ACT Dodge Tour 100 - Ricky Morse
4 - Defending Nextel Cup Champion - Matt Kenseth

Qualifying Key
H1-1, Heat One - First Place
C1-1, Consi One - First Place
LCQ - Last Chance Qualifier
prov - Provisional

Bonus Money: $100 per lap led

Total Purse: $142,150



# Driver City State
17 Alexander, Scott Orrington ME
6 Bessey, Joe Rangeley ME
O1 Brockman, George Freeport ME
24c Christopher, Ted Plainville CT
87 Colby, Charlie New Castle ME
8 Darveau, Poncho Chelsea ME
33 Dearborn, Richie Hollis ME
14 Eaton, Rich Seabrook NH
12 Emerson, Jim Windham ME
97 Flemming, John Halifax NS
7 Gerry, Curtis Waterboro ME
54 Gravel, Ge Ge Groton MA
29 Green, Mickey West Paris ME
98 Hammond, Brad Turner ME
O3 Howard, Steve Scarborough ME
21 Jarvis, Duane Hartland VT
10 Kennison, Chris Oxford ME
11 King, Scott Livermore Falls ME
38 LaChance, Chuck Cushing ME
55 McArthur, Bobby Beverly MA
74 Moore, Ryan Scarborough ME
O3 Moore, Scott Anson ME
41 Oakes, Peter Boothbay Harbor ME
59 Phippen, John Bar Harbor ME
9 Robie, Jarod Candia NH
24x Rowe, Tom Turner ME
92 Sanborn, Dale E. Parsonsfield ME
O9 Sanborn, Trevor E. Parsonsfield ME
66 Shaw, Andy Cntr Conway NH
51 Shores, Doug Falmouth ME
23 Sommerville, Lonnie Saint John NB
81 Tardiff, Alan Lyman ME
24 Trahan, Bill Waldoboro ME
52 Tucker, Shawn Frederiction NB
37 Watts, Scott Seabrook NH
6 Weymouth, Jim Gardiner ME
50 White, Jeff Winthrop ME
OO Whorff, Jeremie Topsham ME
78 Wiggins, Brent Fredericton NB
47 Williams, Corey Boothbay Harbor ME