With four cars bearing versions of the numeral ‘7’ entered in the Oxford 250, and three belonging to former winners besides, picking the oft-lucky digit to win would have been a smart move. But after 250 green-flag laps, it was the red No. 7 of Travis Benjamin taking the victory lap around Oxford Plains Speedway.
Benjamin charged past Cassius Clark on the outside late in the event to take the lead in the 46th running of the race billed as the richest one-day event in short track racing.
The road ahead was hardly clear for the two-time Pro All Stars Series North champion, as a flat tire for Ashton Tucker with 10 laps to go and a multi-car melee with four circuits remaining kept his competition within reach. Benjamin asserted himself on each restart, getting out to a modest lead by the backstretch of the ⅜-mile oval.
The win was emotional for Benjamin, who has weathered a challenging PASS season.
“I’m in shock,” Benjamin said. “I was sitting in my car almost just about ready to cry. I just can’t believe we’ve won it three times. I haven’t won many races. I haven’t. But I’ve won some big ones, and that’s all the crew.
“It’s crazy. Words cannot even express what that means. I’m waiting to wake up and having this day start all over again.”
After punctuating last year’s runner-up finish in the championship standings with a win in the season finale at Seekonk Speedway, Benjamin had gone winless thus far in 2019. The racer and his Petit Motorsports team shifted gears in August, skipping a PASS race in favor of an extra weekly race at Oxford. Another weekly feature, and this time a win, gave the team momentum headed into the season’s biggest race.
Benjamin joined the Petit Motorsports team in 2016, after winning the 2012 PASS North title and the 2013 and 2014 Oxford 250s driving his own equipment. Benjamin and car owner Peter Petit celebrated with a championship in 2017, but Benjamin’s third Oxford 250 win was a first for Petit.
Benjamin joins Mike Rowe, Dave Dion and Ralph Nason as the only four drivers to win the storied race three times.
“We weren’t that good at the beginning of the race,” Benjamin said. “We tried the pit strategy, and we came in and made some adjustments and the thing was a rocket after that. This is just unbelievable.”
Derek Griffith finished second, his best career finish at a track that has not been his strongest.
“We definitely had a good car on those short runs. It definitely fired off,” Griffith said. “It just lost a little bit of speed after a couple laps. But it was really good on the bottom, and that’s where I was able to pass a lot of cars.
Points leader DJ Shaw was third, with six-time champion Johnny Clark and PASS National Championship points leader Mike Hopkins rounding out the top five.
“I think if it the race had gone the long run right to the finish, there was a 50 percent chance I caught Travis,” said Shaw after leading his first Oxford 250 laps of his career. “Short runs, I just didn’t have it. It just didn’t fall our way tonight.”
Canadian Cole Butcher was sixth, with Ben Ashline seventh. Cassius Clark faded to eighth in the closing laps, with 2017 winner Curtis Gerry ninth and mid-race leader Alan Tardiff tenth.
Defending Oxford 250 winner Bubba Pollard advanced to the feature through his heat, but never found the handle on his car in race conditions, losing a lap early on. Pollard retired not long after losing a second lap.
The race was notably clean, with two long green-flag runs setting the tone for the evening. A long green-flag stretch through the race’s halfway point caught many teams on the wrong side of strategy, leaving some to pit too late with less time to get to the front and trapping others a lap down on worn tires.
A total of 57 teams attempted to make the race, with 44 taking the green flag. Former NASCAR Busch North Series champion Kelly Moore, multi-time Oxford track champion and car builder Jeff Taylor, and NASCAR crewmember Ben Lynch were among those who loaded up early.
The next race for the Pro All Stars Series North teams is September 15, as the teams will make their sixth appearance of the season at the venerable Oxford Plains Speedway.
|12||93C||Ray Christian III|
|14||23||Dave Farrington, Jr.|
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