It all came down to a four-lap sprint to the finish. After a full day of practice, three rounds of qualifying and one of the most competitive races in recent memory, a two-time winner with knowledge of how to win big races ended up in Victory Lane.
Travis Benjamin took the lead at lap 210, held off a hard-charging Derek Griffith and went on to win the 46th Annual Oxford 250 on Sunday evening. Benjamin started 11th on the 44-car grid and became the event’s seventh different leader when he took command.
Griffith, who has struggled at Oxford in the last two seasons, had his career best effort in Maine and crossed the stripe in second. Three-time Pro All Stars Series (PASS) champion DJ Shaw led on two occasions and finished third, while Johnny Clark and Mike Hopkins completed the top five.
“I’m still in shock,” Benjamin said. “We’ve struggled all year. I think we had like one top five all season before today. These guys have just kept working hard, and it paid off. We weren’t that good at the beginning of the race, we had our pit strategy and we stuck with it.
“We made some adjustments, and the thing was a rocket after that. I just can’t believe it. I need to thank Peter Petit and his team for this win.”
This was Benjamin’s third victory in the prestigious short track spectacle, which puts him on an elite list with Dave Dion, Mike Rowe and Ralph Nason as the only drivers to achieve three Oxford 250 victories. The native of Morrill, Maine also won the race in 2013 and 2014.
Griffith was elated with his performance after having so much trouble on the tricky 3/8-mile oval.
“We had nothing for Travis there at the end, he was hooked up and I gave it all I had,” Griffith said. “This really is a great run for us here, we haven’t been that good here but this team dug in and got us dialed in for the biggest race of the year. I have to thank my team and Fury race cars, this car was fast.”
Shaw has worked hard in 2019 to improve his performance at Oxford, and that hard work paid off.
“That was a fun race out there tonight,” Shaw said. “Everybody gave it everything they had, our car was about as good as it has been here this year. It feels good to finish third, Travis had us covered in the closing laps but we gave it our best shot. To contend for a 250 victory is a pretty good feeling.”
Finishing sixth through 10th in the 46th annual Oxford 250 Cole Butcher, Ben Ashline, Cassius Clark, Curtis Gerry and Alan Tardiff. Seven cautions slowed the pace, none for serious incidents. Eighteen of the 44 starters finished on the lead lap, while Benjamin’s margin of victory was .418 seconds.
Other notable finishers in this year’s 250 include prerace favorite Nick Sweet (11th); two-time winner Ben Rowe (14th); two-time Beech Ridge champion Reid Lanpher (20th); and former winner Glen Luce (28). The race took just under an hour to complete (1:52.46), despite the seven cautions.
|12||93C||Ray Christian III|
|14||23||Dave Farrington, Jr.|
-Story by: Phil Whipple, Speed51 Northeast SLM Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51 photo / Melissa Strahley