MORRILL, Maine — Travis Benjamin of Morrill said it didn’t dawn on him until there were 30 laps to go in the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Model race at Oxford Plains Speedway Saturday that he was going to be a points champion for the first time in his career.
His previous best finish was a third in the PASS North SLM tour in 2008, and he said he had a couple of thirds when he raced at Unity Raceway.
Benjamin finished 10th on Saturday, but Farmington’s Cassius Clark, his primary challenger, had mechanical issues and wound up 16th.
Benjamin beat Clark by 19 points for the crown. He took an eight-point lead into Saturday’s finale.
Clark’s second-place finish was his best on the tour. He finished third in 2010 and 2005.
“I’m still waiting to wake up from this dream,” said Benjamin, a 1997 graduate of Belfast High School and a former Lions basketball point guard.
“Three weeks before the race, I never gave it much thought. But it hit me with 30 laps left in the race,” said the 33-year-old Benjamin. “I said to myself ‘This is going to happen.’”
With 30 laps to go, Clark was a lap down so Benjamin was just nursing his Ford Fusion around the track, trying to stay out of trouble.
“Then a caution came out with 20 laps to go and Cassius was back on the lead lap. I was 10th, 11th or 12th and I told myself I had to at least beat Cassius. But I guess he struggled all day,” said Benjamin.
Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault won the race.
Benjamin was a model of consistency.
He won just once but had 10 top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 15 races.
“That’s what it was: consistency. We didn’t have any problems. Usually, I can’t do anything right. This year, I couldn’t do anything wrong. We ran something like 2,500 laps and we finished all but two of them,” said Benjamin. “That was pretty impressive. We were right there every week.”
He credited his crew and helpers for the title: his father, Ron; uncle Bruce Benjamin; Kerry Merrifield; Nate Littlefield; Ryan Leadbetter; Jim Hayes and Brenda Meserve. His 5-year-old son, Kaiden, was also part of it and got to share it with his dad.
“My uncle Bruce is the heart and soul of the team. He lives and breathes racing,” said Benjamin.
Merrifield and Littlefield started with him when he first started racing at Unity.
“We’re all best friends, we really are. And we communicate [well] with each other. That’s the biggest key. We can have disagreements but nobody holds a grudge,” said Benjamin.
He has no plans to race again until he the PASS North SLM tour begins again next season. He wants to savor the title.
When he does get back into his car, he will be the defending champ.
“It sounds good, doesn’t it?” he said.