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New England Notebook: In a quiet week, Ashline punches his 250 ticket

On a quiet weekend for racing, Ben Ashline made headlines with his win in Saturday evening's Oxford Open 100. A win in the non-points race earned Ashline a provisional berth, should he need it, for this Sunday's Oxford 250. (Jeff Brown archive photo)

Each week, Short Track Scene looks back at results and news from northern New England’s Late Model and Super Late Model competition, from the region’s premier tours — the American-Canadian Tour, the Granite State Pro Stock Series, and the Pro All Stars Series — to the tracks and drivers that support them. Thanks to the local journalists and fans who report in from the track each week to keep their fellow fans informed.

PASS NORTH: ASHLINE EARNS OXFORD 250 BERTH WITH OPEN 100 WIN

When Ben Ashline hooked up with friend Ajay Picard to field a Super Late Model through the second half of last year, the pairing turned heads with a seventh-place run in the Oxford 250, a Pro All Stars Series National Championship win at Lanier Raceplex, and a win in the Boss Hogg 150 at Wiscasset Speedway. But in 2020, the duo had yet to live up to their own expectations.

But Ashline found last year’s magic at just the right time, dominating last Saturday’s Oxford Open 100 qualifier for the Oxford 250.

RECAP: Ashline secures Oxford 250 berth with Open 100 victory

Ashline, seventh of nine full-timers in the PASS North points standings, now owns a provisional starting berth that all but guarantees his path to the 47th running of the richest single-day Super Late Model event in New England.

Derek Griffith raced his way to second, with recent Granite State Pro Stock Series winner Wyatt Alexander crossing the line third. Alan Tardiff was fourth with Brandon Barker fifth.

This year’s pandemic-scrambled PASS schedule has left a lack of opportunities to earn Oxford 250 provisionals, a bonus that has been offered at selected races in the last couple seasons. The 100-lap Open was introduced in 2016 as a “non-winners” race eligible only to drivers without a PASS-sanctioned win in five years. The field has been opened up since then, with provisionals for both winners and non-winners on the line.

This year’s Open was a last-minute addition to the schedule, and fell on what was traditionally an off week for the PASS and Oxford Super Late Model racers. A strong field was bolstered by a few more after a rainout at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough; racer Rusty Poland reportedly phoned the track to appeal for some time for a few Beech Ridge regulars to head to Oxford. In all, 28 cars took the green flag.

Along with Ashline, Kate Re and Ben Rowe were the only other full-time PASS racers to attempt the 100, both finishing deep in the field. Eddie MacDonald was ninth, with Trevor Sanborn tenth. Veteran Mike Rowe was 14th. ACT winner Bryan Kruczek was 16th after converting one of his cars to meet PASS rules. Jeremy Davis, who won an Oxford consolation race to advance to the 250 several years ago, was 23rd.

Initially it appeared the provisionals up for grabs, two each for PASS and Oxford regulars, were slated for full-time competitors only. That requirement may not be in play, leaving it in doubt who besides Ashline has been locked into the 250. No other Oxford 250 provisionals have been advertised through the season.

The final step on the road to the 250 is this Sunday, with a busy day ahead for racers from sunup well past sundown. Live streaming will be provided by Speed51 with only a handful of fans permitted in the grandstands.

WEEKLY RACING: BEECH RIDGE RAINED OUT, CAHOON WINS AT WMMP, DRAGON ENTERS T-ROAD TITLE TALKS

With Oxford 250 festivities looming, and scheduled off-weeks in play for some area tracks, last weekend had a feeling of calm before the 250’s storm.

While the Open 100 was going on at Oxford in lieu of the usual weekly feature, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway had hoped to get one of their seven open-comp Pro Series races going. Unfortunately, rain swept through Scarborough in the afternoon, soaking the track and keeping the cars from getting out to race. Rusty Poland, Corey Bubar, Joe Pastore, Jr. and JT Thurlow packed up hastily and rushed to Oxford, with Poland finishing best in class with a 13th-place result.

Matthew Morrill crossed the line first in White Mountain Motorsports Park’s weekly Late Model feature, but a post-race infraction handed the win to Stacy Cahoon, who pulled away from defending track champion Quinny Welch in the title battle. Cahoon’s win was the first of the year for the 62-year-old veteran. At Riverside Speedway, Shawn Swallow was the victor again, taking his fourth feature of the season.

Twenty-two cars took the green flag Thursday night at Thunder Road International Speedbowl with the season winding down. Scott Dragon took his third feature win of the year, but runner-up Jason Corliss might have had the better evening, with most of his title rivals experiencing trouble before the checkered flag flew. PASS points leader Nick Sweet made a rare weekly start for car owner Eric Chase, finishing 11th after a mid-race spin. Christopher Pelkey and Reilly Lanphear were other touring drivers competing in the weekly feature.

UPCOMING EVENTS

This weekend, all eyes are on Oxford Plains Speedway, with rain likely to hamper whatever Saturday racing hasn’t already been scheduled around the biggest race of the season.

The American-Canadian Tour tilt at Oxford has already been postponed due to the forecast. The ACT Late Models will fire up Sunday morning, with their 150-lap prelude to the Oxford 250 taking the green sometime before noon.

After a quick reset, the Super Late Models will take to the track later in the day, setting the field and the stage for the evening’s 47th running of the Oxford 250.

In lieu of fan attendance, Speed51 will be live-streaming the event, with an all-day pass available for $50.

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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