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Back on first-place track

Benjamin drives to third win at storied Oxford 250

In season of ups and downs, Morrill resident back in winner's circle
By Mark Haskell | Aug 27, 2019
Courtesy of: Norm Marx Travis Benjamin, left, and his son, Kaiden.

Oxford — Travis Benjamin of Morrill has thought often about what it may feel like to do what only three others in Maine racing history have done.

Namely, be a three-time winner of the storied Oxford 250, which had its 46th running on Sunday, Aug. 25 at Maine’s racing pinnacle, Oxford Plains Speedway.

Now, after having that benchmark in his sights since 2014, the 40-year-old Benjamin is part of history as he took the checkered flag Sunday in the Northeast’s most historic annual race.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Benjamin, who also won the race in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014. “I honestly don’t even know what to say. There’s only been three other people to do it and that’s Mike Rowe, Dave Dion and Ralph Nason. And that race is just so hard to win once, I just can’t believe we got three of them.”

Nason, who lives in Unity, won the race three straight years from 1998-2000, while Rowe won in 1997, 2004 and 2005 and Dion in 1975, 1985 and 1992.

Benjamin said he grew up watching Nason race and sharing that distinction as a three-time winner with him “is pretty damn cool.”

“Ralph was the last one I really remember,” he said. “I don’t remember Dion and Mike Rowe winning theirs, but I do remember Ralph winning his three and being in awe of how dominant he was and you just don’t see that often. And now we’ve won three in the last seven years.”

In Sunday's race, Derek Griffith finished second, while D.J. Shaw, Johnny Clark and Mike Hopkins rounded out the top five.

Benjamin is in his fourth year driving for Petit Motorsports of Biddeford, and “wanted to win one for [owner] Peter [Petit] bad.”

“That guy for the last four years he just puts his heart and soul into it,” said Benjamin. “He loves racing and he just kind of lets me do whatever I want, so I wanted to win one bad for him and his family. They’re heavily involved down there.”

While the end result of Sunday’s race was the ultimate goal, Benjamin would be the first to say his season, as a whole, in the Pro All Star Series (PASS) North has not been as successful as he hoped. Prior to Sunday’s race, Benjamin had run 10 races with two top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes.

“We’ve struggled this whole year,” he said. “We’ve been horrible. If you told me a month and a half ago we’d even be in contention I wouldn’t have believed it. But the last month or so we’ve got things turned around.”

Benjamin got his first win of the season on Aug. 10 in a 50-lap race at Oxford in the Budweiser Championship series, which created positive momentum heading to Sunday.

Benjamin said despite the car “not feeling great” early Sunday, they managed to get a top-five finish in one of the day’s qualifying races and played their way into the 40-car field.

The Morrill native started the Oxford 250 in the 11th spot and after pitting “around lap 90” said “the car was horrible and I really thought we were in trouble.”

“But as we got going, it got better and better and we got back up to 11th or so. And then the caution [flag] came out around lap 178 and we pitted again, made some more adjustments, threw some more tires at it. And after that the car felt great.”

Benjamin battled through a few more caution flags and moved up to second behind Cassius Clark of Farmington at “about lap 190” and took the lead for good with about 40 laps to go.

“Once we made a little run there and was in 11th and got right to second, I knew at that point [we were in good shape.] Cassius got half-a-straightaway lead and I reeled him in pretty quickly. Once I passed him we started pulling away.”

Another caution with about 12 laps to go saw many of the lapped cars pit, which put the leaders near the front.

Benjamin added that “Once the green [flag] came out there, we pulled away pretty quickly.”

After one last caution flag with four laps to go, Benjamin “was able to hold them all off.”

Benjamin said, “I honestly haven’t won that many races throughout my career,” as he estimated that number is “10 to 20.”

“But the ones we do win seem to be the highlight ones,” he said.

Travis Benjamin, left, and his son, Kaiden. (Courtesy of: Norm Marx)
Travis Benjamin, left, and his son, Kaiden. (Courtesy of: Norm Marx)
Travis Benjamin, middle, and his son, Kaiden, front, along with D.J. Shaw, left, and Derek Griffith. (Courtesy of: Norm Marx)
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