Travis Benjamin wins third Oxford 250

Episode 278

August 26, 2019

Benjamin used pit strategy and good restarts to win 2019 Oxford 250

Watching Travis Benjamin from Morrill, win his 3rd Oxford 250 was interesting to say the least.  Benjamin did not race at the 2nd Annual Firecracker 200 at Spud Speedway choosing instead to concentrate on preparing one of his favorite cars for the Oxford 250. His best finish in 2019 was a fifth at Thunder Road Speedbowl earlier in the season.

He held off two charges for the front position by Derek Griffith, Hudson, New Hampshire, after a caution with 12 laps to go and another with only 4 laps left. The race was won by .418 seconds over Griffith and earned Benjamin around $29,000 with lap money.

Top Five:

  1. Travis Benjamin, Morrill, ME
  2. Derek Griffith, Hudson, NH
  3. DJ Shaw, Center Conway, NH
  4. Johnny Clark, Farmingdale, ME
  5. Mike Hopkins, Hermon, ME

My pick Nick Sweet finished 11th.

Comments from Gary Saucier, Fort Fairfield,  writer of Two Blokes at the Oxford 250 was at the race, and acted as my “remote eyes”. His comments, “The race was very competitive I thought, with few cautions. Pollard did not have the speed this year as he did last and was not a factor.”

“Alan Tardiff was very impressive and looked like a potential winner after leading about 80 laps or so mid-race but then had to pit. That gave the lead over to Travis Benjamin who withstood challenges from Cassius Clark, D.J. Shaw, and Derek Griffith.”

“I’d say short track racing looks good. I’d still like to see more cars try to attempt this race, especially the southern contingent, but there are so many high-paying SLM races now I’m sure they pick and choose where to go. I also think they should consider dropping at least one of the practice days or even go with a one-day show which might encourage smaller teams to show up.”

Short Track Racing is okay with me

The past month has been chock full of short track racing for me beginning with the Aroostook Savings and Loan Firecracker 200 at Spud Speedway on the 4th in Caribou.

Eighteen Pro All Stars Series  (PASS) Super Late Models take the green at Spud Speedway in Caribou for the 2nd Annual Firecracker 200 August 4, 2019. The race was won by DJ Shaw. (Black Dot Photography)

That race was followed on August 15 with a regular Thursday night show at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont. As detailed in last week’s episode that track has become one of my favorites especially with the fan friendly enhancements.

With its new lighting, sound system, turn three viewing area, hot top pits and pathways, walled track, great car counts in four classes, and 3000 fans on a regular Thursday night, Thunder Road Speedbowl is a must see on your “bucket list”. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I was unable to attend the Oxford 250 due to some weekend commitments, however, I did get a chance to view the race on pay-for-view at Troy Haney’s house. I appreciate him allowing me to view Maine’s biggest stock car racing event. The race was a great example of what I expect in a race; close action, lead changes, strategy, unexpected bursts of greatness, and moves which leave me scratching my head in wonder. (Why did leader Alan Tardiff  and second place Nick Sweet not come in for tires when everyone else did on lap 180?)

My thoughts…

In January I had the distinct honor of once again reporting on the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in Florida. I enjoy that race immensely and had several storylines as a result. What I did not have a great deal of success was finding a bond with my short track roots.

I am not saying the folks were not friendly, quite the opposite. I am saying that I wonder what would happen if a role reversal were to occur and the sports car drivers had a chance to race super late-model stock cars on a short track. Likewise what would happen if the short track folks got a chance to get seat time in a Daytona Prototype international (DPi)?

It certainly would make for some interesting conversations after a switch like that occurred. Race car drivers adapt quickly in many cases and I suspect both groups would be doing quite well after getting to race the strange car they were put into.

Something triggers in my brain when I see good short track competition. Maybe I can relate more directly with that type of racing since I had raced stock cars albeit back in the 1970’s. Maybe it is seeing the average working person getting into a car that most of the time they built. Maybe it is the smell of race gas burning as it wafts by my nostrils.

Regardless, this month has filled me with optimism about the return to short track racing at least in the northeast. Judging by the crowds at the three tracks I mentioned, interest seems to be making a comeback.

I would be remiss if I said all was “peachy-keen” and swell. Problems in short track racing do exist; costs, time, crew availability, relatively low purses on a weekly basis, and probably some others also. I am old enough to remember the 1980’s and 90’s when short track attendance may have struggled somewhat compared to other eras. At the same time attendance at the big tracks seemed to surge.

With the people at the top tiers of racing talking more and more about short track racing and its importance to the bigger tracks, has helped. One example is explained in the photo below.

Grassroots Racing Tour promotion from NBC Sports seeking to get photos from a select group of 500 tracks in 2019 for use during their live NASCAR coverage on TV. NBC Sports will showcase more than 500 tracks across America as part of #MyTrackMyRoots over the next four months, featuring photos, highlights and interviews throughout race coverage on NBC and NBCSN, on its daily studio show, NASCAR America, and on its NASCAR on NBC social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Fans can also watch the action at hundreds of local tracks across the country on FansChoice.tv, the online home of live grassroots racing.(Black Dot Photography)

The supporting classes are a good indicator of the health of a track or race series. In PASS the Mods numbers have swollen in the past couple years with some of the modified drivers eying a chance to move up to super late models while many remain happy to stay where they are.

Many times the give back portion of stock car racers goes unnoticed. One example is Spencer Morse giving his third place trophy from the Oxford PASS Mods race to four-year old AJ Slazenik, Hudson, New Hampshire. This special gift will not be soon forgotten by AJ (or Morse). Another example is the donation of $200 from the PASS Mods at the Spud Speedway race for the “Feed the County” charity that benefited from the race. ( Hannah Leigh Pierce photo)

One aspect I think that has elevated the stock car appeal is the often bright wraps that adorn modern stock cars. Compared to the hand painted schemes of old, the new vinyl adds a touch of class to even the lower division cars. The Wyatt Alexander Racing (WAR) stock car on display at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show located in Indianapolis, Indiana was a great example of such a “paint scheme”. (WAR photo)

My message is this plain and simple ‘If you can get out to a local or area short track race, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you witness’.

Loring the focus of many this week

The closing of Loring Air Force base in Limestone was 25 years ago. The memory of that decision was noted in activities at the former SAC base all weekend. Sunday afternoon a B52 from the Minot Air force Base in North Dakota made three low-level passes over the runway. Many noted how they missed that sight. (Greg Cornwell photo)

Jason White, Northwood, New Hampshire, will be at the LTA Harvest Event this week with his 2006 Corvette. White currently holds the automobile speed record at Loring at 267.4 mph. His goal is to be the fastest Corvette in the world with a 280 mph speed. More information about the Harvest Event can be found at lta.lsr.com (HTF Motorsports photo)

Notes from the Loring Timing Association about the races this week:

Upcoming schedule. Keep in mind all times are approximate and will vary based on number of workers and racers.

Wed: 1:00-5:00 registration and tech

Thurs: 8:00-5:00 registration and tech. Rookies at noon, racing after that until 5:00

Fri and Sat: 8:00-5:00 registration, tech and racing

Sunday: tbd based off number of racers left at that time.

If the weather stays good we will not be running late at night.

Online seminar loaded with timely advice and ideas

Disclaimer, I was able to attend this seminar Ross Bentley and Brian Bonner’s Sponsorship 101 online at no charge to me due to my connection with media.

I have yet to review the seminar notes once again after hearing them presented on August 20, 2019. Some of the information I had heard about or read about in other publications, however Bonner utilizes real world examples of ‘How to do’ what he presents, many times mentioning situations he has encountered.  This seminar included:

  1. What is sponsorship?
  2. Getting ready for markets
  3. Prospects
  4. Outreach
  5. Proposals
  6. And much more….

These seminars are offered at Bentley’s “Speed Secrets” website https://speedsecrets.com/ and are available for purchase. I have previously been a part of “Free Stuff and How to Make Your Car Faster” with Bentley and Jeff Braun of CORE Autosports.

CORE Autosports pulls the plug on Nissan DPi entry

CORE Autosports owner/driver Jon Bennett makes his way to the pits at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for beginning the 24 hour race behind the wheel of his Nissan DPi. (HTF Motorsports photo)

In January I had a chance to watch my new acquaintance, Jon Bennett race the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with his Nissan DPi. The day went like the season, flashes of brilliance and race ending parts failures.

Jon Bennett at speed entering turn 3 during the early portion of the 2019 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. (HTF Motorsports)

I am glad I made the trip this season since CORE Autosports owner Jon Bennett decided to close the DPi portion of his team while maintaining the GTLM Porsche Motorsports portion at CORE race race shops in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The Porsches are currently leading the GTLM class with two more races on the 2019 schedule. The leaders, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor lead the Corvette team by 21 points.

In his address to fellow IMSA competitors, team members, and fans, Bennett said:

“To my friends, partners, and fans of CORE autosport:

The 2019 Petit Le Mans will be my last race in a DPi. In fact, I have no racing plans of any kind in the near future. But, for those who know the power of being passionate, I will leave the door slightly ajar.

The obvious question is why? The time has simply come for me. I have lived the dream of so many who are passionate about motorsport and it’s time to reflect and enjoy racing, once again, from outside the race car. 

I would like to thank IMSA for their graciousness and providing a world-class stage upon which to perform. Thank you Jim France, Ed Bennett, Scott Atherton and the entire IMSA organization for your amazing, unwavering dedication to our sport.

Thank you, Colin Braun. You are an amazing talent and it has been an honor to share a race car with you. Thank you for your patience with me, thank you for your mentoring, thank you for your loyalty, and most of all, thank you for your friendship and I look forward to the great times that lie ahead.

Thank you, Morgan Brady. Thank for your instinctive leadership at CORE autosport, your unbreakable spirit and your guidance through a complex world.  

Thank you to my teammates at CORE, past and present, for the endless hours meticulously preparing our race cars and the time spent away from home in support of our mission.  Thank you is just not enough.

To all the fans of racing and CORE autosport, thank you.  It has been a wild ride and your passion makes it special for all who participate in our sport.  

I look forward to completing the 2019 season and returning next year as CORE autosport’s team owner in pursuit of another IMSA GTLM Championship for our incredible partner, Porsche Motorsports.”

What to look for next episode:

  1. Holler Customs update
  2. Kody Swanson to race at Daytona
  3. Touring Vermont Sports Cars

See you at Loring!

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine