49th Oxford 250 qualifier sj

Super Late Modified cars compete in a qualifying heat for the 49th annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway last year. The 50th Oxford 250 is nearly three weeks away. Lee Horton/Sun Journal file photo

OXFORD — With less than 35 laps remaining Sunday evening at Oxford Plains Speedway, Ben Rowe thought his time at the front was just about up.

“I figured he’d get up there and just go on around me,” Rowe said of Max Cookson, the 2022 track champion.

But that’s not how Oxford Plains has raced, either on Sunday or this season as a whole. The notoriously flat, .375-mile circular oval has flummoxed competitors throughout 2023. A track that provided two-, three- and sometimes even four-wide racing in years past has narrowed down to a single groove around the very bottom of the speedway.

Rowe, of Turner, held off Cookson to win the Pro All Stars Series 150 on Sunday. It was Rowe’s first PASS win in nearly five years dating back to a triumph at White Mountain Motorsports Park in September 2018 — and it was an emotional victory, too. Rowe won less than 24 hours after his father, Mike Rowe, now 73 years old, won a weekly Super Late Model race for his record 153rd career victory at Oxford.

Two of Mike’s sisters, Ben’s aunts, passed away recently.

“Dad did two victory laps (Saturday) night, and they wanted me to do two, too,” Ben Rowe said. “I was in tears, and I’m never emotional. I lost two aunts in the last month. Crazy stuff has happened. This is for a lot of people that have been friends of mine.”


While the Rowes’ weekend sweep of racing at Oxford provided a feel-good moment of the summer, the 50th annual Oxford 250 is less than three weeks away. Virtually everybody not named Rowe left the track Sunday night scratching their heads.

Max Cookson runs practice laps in his No. 39 car last year at Oxford Plains Speedway. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

“(Sunday) was the best I’ve been on the outside in a long, long time, and it still wasn’t great,” said third-place finisher and multi-time PASS champion D.J. Shaw of Oxford’s penchant for single-file racing. “Some of the weekly guys can usually make it work, but (Sunday) nobody did — except Cookson for a few laps and Travis (Benjamin) kept trying it.

“I don’t know what’s up there.”

“Once I got the lead, I just held the bottom,” said Rowe, who took the lead from Curtis Gerry with 50 laps remaining. “I figured if they’re going to go around me, they can. I figured Max would go right on by. They told me (on the radio) he couldn’t clear me. Then you kind of get a little pep in your step counting down with under 20 (laps) to go.”

Earlier this summer, 2020 Oxford 250 winner Johnny Clark called Oxford “weird” because nobody really seemed to have a handle on how or why the track is producing so much single-file racing.

The results Sunday proved just how strange it’s been.


Clark was lapped prior to lap 50 and finished 23rd in the 30-car field. Former track champion Dave Farrington was also lapped before the midway point. Trevor Sanborn, a PASS winner this season, and Joey Doiron faded over the final half of the event despite strong runs early, and pole-sitter Tim Brackett also finished a lap down.

Even Windham’s Austin Teras, who won back-to-back PASS races at Oxford in a addition to a weekly race this summer, finished 12th Sunday — half a lap behind Rowe.

“The track hasn’t been taking rubber really well this year, so the bottom’s dominant,” Cookson said. “When everyone’s on four (new tires) at the start of the race, everyone’s so gripped up. There’s really not a ton of speed difference between the cars. Towards the end of a race, you’re able to see a difference and you can try and make things happen up there (on the outside).”

Cookson believes that if you’re going to use the outside groove at Oxford, whether it’s a weekly race or the Oxford 250 at the end of the month, there’s only one game plan that’s really going to work.

“Conserve, conserve, conserve (early in the race) so that at the end of the race we have enough tire left to try and make a charge on the top to try and win it,” Cookson said.

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