Rowe to chase Oxford crown

Posted July 18, 2009, at 3 a.m.

Turner’s Ben Rowe has run a lot of races at Oxford Plains Speedway. It has been his home track.

Two probably stick out more than any others: The 2003 and 2004 TD Banknorth Oxford 250s in which he took the checkered flag and pocketed $34,700 and $29,700, respectively.

The 36th TD Banknorth 250 will feature Late Models for the third straight season after OPS owner Bill Ryan eliminated the expensive Super Late Model Class (Pro Stocks). Rowe would love to take another trip to Victory Lane Sunday.

But he said it certainly won’t be easy, especially since the Late Model cars are “so equal.

“You have 35-40 cars that could win it. These cars are so close to each other. People can afford them and anybody can drive them. And it’s tough to pass,” said the 34-year-old Rowe, who will run the Daniel Boone Classic Pro All Stars Series SLM South race at Newport Speedway (Tenn.) on Saturday night.

That means his father Mike, a three-time winner of the 250, will be responsible for running practice laps in his Chevy Impala on Saturday and Sunday and preparing it for him.

Mike Rowe hasn’t entered the race.

“Hopefully, he’ll get it dialed so I can just jump in it and go,” said Ben Rowe.

Ben Rowe has run the Chevy Impala a few times this season in the American-Canadian Tour and finished fifth at White Mountain Motorsports Park (N.H.) the last time he raced it (June 27).

He said there isn’t a big difference between Super Late Model and Late Model cars.

“They drive the same. It’s just that the Late Models have a little less horsepower,” said Rowe.

Rowe has been having a productive season.

The four-time PASS SLM North champion is leading the PASS South tour thanks to two wins and six top-five finishes in eight races. He is fourth in PASS North with two wins and two top-fives in eight races.

“I’m happy with the year. I could be doing a little better in the North [series] but, in the South [series], things have been going great for us,” said Rowe.

Albany Township’s Ricky Rolfe will be one of the contenders. He finished second to Rowe in 2004.

He agrees with Rowe’s assessment that there are a flock of cars that could win it.

“I think 60 percent can win it,” said Rolfe. “You’ve got the luck of the draw. You’ve got to make sure you get in the race. And once you’re win, you’ve got to decide whether to pit early or late and whether to change four tires or two tires.”

The luck of the draw involves numbers being drawn for the starting spots for the 20-lap heat races that set the field for the main event.

The heat races begin at 2:00 and the 250 starts between 6-7 p.m.

Rolfe has an interesting dilemma.

He is supplying the car that will be driven by veteran Sprint Cup and current Nationwide series driver Kenny Wallace.

He builds cars for Race Basics and will find himself racing against “25 or 30 of our customers.

“It’s hard. Sometimes you want to move a guy out of the way but if he’s your customer, you give him a break and leave him alone,” said Rolfe.

Steve Wallace, Kenny’s nephew and the son of 1989 Sprint Cup series champion Rusty Wallace, will also be in the race.

Steve Wallace is ninth in points in the Nationwide series and his uncle is 14th. They will both be racing in a Nationwide series race at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday night.

Rusty Wallace, now a TV NASCAR analyst for ESPN, will be the grand marshal for the 250. Steve Wallace drives for his father’s race team.

Rowe said he has always liked to run the bottom groove at OPS “but the last year or two, the [fastest] groove has moved way up. Some guys run the third or fourth groove.

“You want to go where your car wants to run and where nobody’s at,” said Rowe who will be driving a David Avery car.

Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson, N.H. joins Rowe among a long list of favorites. Former two-time Camping World East points champions Brad Leighton and Mike Olsen; current Camping World points contender Eddie MacDonald; OPS Late Model points leader Travis Adams and second place Shawn Martin would also be on that list along with the ACT points leaders Donald Theetge, Patrick Laperle and Karl Allard.

Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick, who became the first Cup driver to win the 250 since Ryan began recruiting Cup and Nationwide drivers beginning in 2004, won’t be back to defend last year’s victory.

lmahoney@bangordailynews.net

990-8231

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