David Oliver grew up watching stock car racing from the grandstands at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway before eventually kicking off his racing career at the Scarborough, Maine oval. Over the years, as the 42-year-old climbed the ladder from the Wildcat to Sportsman and eventually up to the Super Late Model ranks, he learned a lot about how to win races at the track. On Saturday night he re-visited his home track with the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North and all of that experience paid off in a big way.
Oliver took the lead for the final time on lap 42 of the Southern Maine Chrysler Dodge Jeep 150 and pulled away in the closing laps to claim his first career PASS North checkered flag.
“I want to win everywhere, but I’m not going to lie, winning at Beech Ridge just feels right,” Oliver told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “This is home. This is my home track. I grew up here. I grew up in those grandstands. It feels really, really good. I’m really pumped. It’s just an honor to win here.”
As a result of his qualifying heat race win, Oliver started from the pole position for the 150-lap feature and quickly jumped out to the race lead. He surrendered the lead to veteran driver Kelly Moore on lap 9 before reclaiming the top spot from Moore on lap 42. From there he was forced to hold off two-time Oxford 250 winner Travis Benjamin and a hard-charging Bryan Kruczek throughout the second half of the race.
“We weren’t really fast,” Oliver explained. “The car was just really, really consistent. I knew the 17 (Benjamin) was a little bit quicker and the 00 (Kruczek) was obviously really fast. I don’t know what happened with him, but I was just trying to kill them with consistency just running the same lap over and over and over and hopefully wear them down or tire them out.
“Beech Ridge Speedway is very much a momentum race track and one thing I’ve learned here over the years is to just wear ‘em down. You don’t have to be the fastest car, but you wear ‘em down.”
Benjamin, who would end up scoring a season-best finish of second, appeared to have a car capable of challenging Oliver throughout the race. But in the end, an intense late-race battle with Kruczek for the second spot would diminish his chances of making a bid for the win.
“This place is tough,” said Benjamin. “I could get up to him but when you try to get aggressive and get up on the wheel, you just can’t do that here. It’s all about momentum. Every time I could get to him, and I tried a couple times, but I was hoping for a caution. I think if we got a caution at the end we would have been all set. I think I could have got in front of him and he wouldn’t have been able to pass me either.”
Kruczek, who started the race from the 24th position, would charge to the front come to an end in the closing laps with an apparent engine problem. Despite being relegated to a 20th-place finish, his battle with Benjamin for the second position had the attention of the crowd throughout the later stages of the race. Tire marks and battle scars could be found on both cars at the end of the night.
“Man, he beat the hell out of me,” Benjamin said with a laugh. “Whatever, it is what it is. When he started coming that’s when I started going. When you start going hard at this place you start wearing your car out. I was trying to save it and he was coming. He (Kruczek) was probably the best car because he seemed like he could go better on the bottom than both David and I.”
Mike Rowe would make his way from the 17thon the grid to round out the podium after 150 laps and will unofficially take the PASS North points lead into the series’ next event at Airborne Park Speedway (NY). Local driver Bobby Timmons and Richie Dearborn rounded out the top-five.
But at the end of the night, all eyes were on Oliver as he celebrated his first career touring series win in victory lane at the track he grew up at. His feat is one that the 2002 Beech Ridge track champion will never forget.
“My resume is pretty fair in the Beech Ridge world but it pales in comparison to the guys I’m racing with on the PASS Tour,” Oliver said. “Mike Rowe is just Mike Rowe. Travis Benjamin is a two-time Oxford 250, PASS champion and raced Busch North back in the day. There are some extremely good drivers on this tour.
“Crews and crew chiefs have been at this game for a long, long time so if you can come out on top of any one of those guys, it’s a damn good day.”
A damn good day it was for Oliver and his SPD Racing Team on Saturday.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Southern Maine Chrysler Dodge Jeep 150 Unofficial Results
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) – July 11, 2015
|11||23||Dave Farrington, Jr.||149|
|24||97nh||Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.||50|