WISCASSET — Even after taking photo after photo surrounded by family, friends and crew members in Wiscasset Speedway’s Victory Lane, Ben Ashline still couldn’t believe it.

The Pittston native, who practically grew up in the track’s grandstands while watching his father and uncle compete in the 1990s, dominated the second half of Sunday’s Coastal 200 – powering off to his second consecutive victory in the seacoast oval’s signature event.

Ashline became just the second driver to win the race in back-to-back years, and the first to win it more than once in its current Late Model incarnation.

“It’s neat to be a part of the history here,” Ashline, 28, said. “To be able to etch my name on a short list of drivers that have done it, it’s pretty special.”

Scott Chubbuck was the last driver to win consecutive Coastal 200s, winning in 2001-02 when it was a 150-lap Pro Stock race.

Ashline won $5,000 for the victory. He led 102 laps, after leading 198 of 200 laps in 2018.

Though he stretched his lead over reigning track champion Andrew McLaughlin of Harrington to more than a second and a half following a round of pit stops 56 laps from the finish in which he both entered and emerged from pit lane with the lead, it wasn’t until a restart with 20 laps remaining that Ashline began to believe the race was his to win.

He claimed victory by 1.710 seconds over McLaughlin. Steuben’s J.R. Robinson finished third, with last year’s Late Model rookie of the year, Logan Melcher of Fayette, and current rookie Jake Hendsbee of Whitefield completing the top five.

“Andrew’s been really good here, and there’s a handful of guys that are really good,” Ashline said. “I knew Andrew was smart enough to save. I took off from the original start after the pits, and I thought (the car) was pretty sporty, but I wasn’t sure where (McLaughlin) stood.

“Before I knew it, there was a pretty decent gap (back to second).”

Ashline and McLaughlin traded the lead several times around the midpoint of the race, with Ashline benefitting from lapped traffic racing side by side to finally get around McLaughlin for the first time.

McLaughlin noted how Ashline’s car was handling while trailing in its tire tracks, and he also noted how differently things were going in the second half of the race.

“The last 50 (laps) or so, I didn’t see Ben wiggle at all,” said McLaughlin. “Before that, I was watching him drive sideways all the way down the straightaways. I knew at that point the tide had changed a little bit.

“I was expecting it. I knew he wasn’t going to lay all his cards down until at least 100 to go.”

Ashline has made just three starts with his own car over the last three years, all in the Coastal 200. He’s finished second, first and first.

“There’s a lot of guys here that run weekly and struggle here and there, and we scratch our heads on how to get better,” McLaughlin said. “But being who he is, he works on race cars for a living. Most of us who are racing, we’re Saturday night guys who’ve got our jobs and work on our cars. He might have a little bit more knowledge than we do.”

Chris Thorne of Sidney started on the pole in the 24-car field and led the first 55 laps before handling issues dropped him back as far as fifth by the midway point. After the pit stops on Lap 144 – in which every car on the track except one pitted for right side tires, Thorne’s car came back to life.

He tried to mount a challenge toward Ashline and McLaughlin, but spins in two separate incidents over the final 31 laps ended the four-time track champion’s hopes. He finished sixth, the final car on the lead lap.

Just 15 cars were still on the track when the checkered flag flew.

Robinson’s day started poorly in the heat race, but a slew of early cautions in the main event allowed to him to pit several times for adjustments.

He’d worked himself into contention at the end, but he didn’t have enough to threaten Ashline or McLaughlin.

“It was more of a long-run car,” Robinson said. “Pitting all those times and trying to get back up through, it just uses up so much of your stuff. By the time you get up to the top three, you’re just lucky to hold on at that point.”

Ryan St. Clair, Dave Farrington, Daren Ripley and Bryan Kruczek finished seventh through 10th.

The race started several hours later than expected. Heavy rains delayed the program for nearly two hours following qualifying, and water seeping onto the track in Turn 2 caused lengthy delays as track workers tried to contain the moisture and keep it out of the racing groove.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.