Last year, Travis Benjamin became the fourth different driver in the 46-year history of the Oxford 250 to collect his third winner’s trophy. This weekend, he looks to become the first driver to take home a fourth in the Maine major.
For the 2019 running, Benjamin came into the week with less attention than usual, slogging through a season on the Pro All Stars Series that wasn’t up to expectation. Once race day came, the two-time PASS North champion showed that he and the No. 7 team had hit on something, starting with a solid heat race to start the day, and raising the $25,000 winner’s check once darkness had fallen.
In this 2020 season, abbreviated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Benjamin has also yet to win, but has more consistency this time around, including confident showing in three races at Oxford Plains Speedway. In 2019, Benjamin felt he entered the 250 under the radar of competitors, fans, and media. Even with the question his fourth win looming, he feels the situation is much the same.
“I think we’re still under the radar, just a little bit, and I’m just fine with that. I think we’ve had a pretty good racecar every time we’ve been there, we got two thirds, the last race we were tenth but led a bunch of laps, and just fell off at the end there. But we’re okay, we need improve, but we’re not far off,” Benjamin told Speed51.
As the defending winner of the Oxford 250 victor, Benjamin is guaranteed a place in the field. But, that does not take any of the turmoil out of the always critical heat races and the draw for starting positions that precedes it.
“That’s the big question of that race, is where you’re going to start, or if you’re going to get in. We got 60 cars there going for 42 spots. That’s the most stressful part, the race is still stressful trying to win. But, we’re lucky this year, we got a provisional to fall back on. But, I don’t want to start 30th or 40th. In 2015, we took a provisional, still had a car that could win, but we got wrecked. But Joey Doiron started back there too and he got to the lead. So you can do it, but it’s a lot harder.”
As for the question of how he would feel getting that fourth 250 win, Benjamin’s response reflected his usual humble personality.
“I get asked that a lot, but I just feel fortunate to have three now, being one of those guys. It’s something I never really dreamed of, it’s a race I grew up watching and just wanted to be a part of, let alone winning it. If I win it a fourth time it would be unbelievable, but it’s not something I’m going to lose much sleep over,” Benjamin chuckled.
“All three, each one of them has been special in their own way. But yeah, this one would be special. If I don’t get it, it’s not going to kill me.”
Win or lose Sunday, Benjamin knows this 250 will be different no matter what. While grateful to have the chance to race in the traditional Oxford 250 format, along with a full purse, it will be without the majority of so many loyal race fans. With the State of Maine capping the daily capacity to 200 race fans, the wall of race fans will be absent for 2020.
“We weren’t sure if Tom Mayberry was going to take the chance, this is a big weekend, and it will stink without all those fans. That’s something special about the race, when you pull on the track and the grandstands are full, still are after the race. Going to miss hearing the roar of the crowd, it’s good you guys are helping them watch it, but it’s going to be different. Still feel fortunate to be able to race, can’t thank him enough for doing that.”
As of this week, available main grandstand seating is sold out for Sunday, August 30; with a limited number of tickets left for Friday and Saturday. We at Speed51 are set to provide the fans from Maine to all over the world one of the best seats in the house.
The 47th Oxford 250 will also have the honor of being the first marquee short track race to be featured on the all-new Speed51.TV, the new easy to use site for all of Speed51’s live broadcasts, on-demand highlights, race recaps, and all the video features you have come to enjoy these past five years.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51