OXFORD — Travis Benjamin’s win in the 40th TD Bank 250 Sunday night can be seen as a victory for the little guy.
Benjamin, a 34-year-old driver from Morrill, won $25,000 for the winning the 250 plus an estimated $8,400 in lap money out of a total prize purse of $129,000.
He did it by outdueling Joey Doiron, a 21-year-old driver from Berwick, over the final 100 laps of the race at Oxford Plains Speedway. Unofficially, he led 84 laps.
“This was pretty special,” said Benjamin, who became the first driver from Maine to win the 250 in seven years. “Their family is the same as ours.”
The Benjamins and the Doirons have been involved in auto racing for decades.
“We’re two teams that don’t have the big money,” Benjamin said. “We work all day and then work on the cars all night, and it’s pretty cool to see both of us run as good as we have this year and beat those big-money teams.”
For the first time since 2006, the 250 was open to the Super Late Models of the Pro All-Star Series, a regional racing series that runs primarily in Maine and New Hampshire.
In recent years, NASCAR drivers like Kurt and Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski have been brought in to attract fans, but the change from the more economical Late Models to the more powerful SLMs seems to sit well with racing fans as an estimated 10,000 people watched Sunday night’s race.
“I think the fans just like that it’s all of these regular, normal guys out there just competing to see who is the best,” said Tommy Mayberry, the president of PASS who became owner of the track last fall. “A race with that kind of tradition can create a lot of excitement.”
“This was more like the old days, and, to me, that is just better,” said Tim Brackett, a two-time track champion from Buckfield who finished sixth among the 41 cars in the race. “I respect (Mayberry) for changing the format and not hiring a top guy to come in and run against us.”
Although there were a number of drivers from North Carolina and Canada in the race, the vast majority of the drivers who attempted to qualify for the race were from Maine or New Hampshire.
“You look at the Maine drivers who finished in the top 10, and they can go anywhere in the country and race and be competitive,” Benjamin said. “People don’t realize how hard it is to win not just the TD Bank 250, but any PASS race.”
Last year, 12 different drivers picked up wins during the regional tour’s 14 races.
“To be honest with you, I think that was my fourth PASS win, and I’ve been running those races for 10 years,” said Benjamin, the reigning PASS champion.
Notes: After becoming the youngest driver to advance to the 250 through a qualifying heat, Spencer Davis, a 14-year-old driver from Dawsonville, Ga., finished 10th … Tate Fogleman, a 13-year driver from Durham, N.C., finished 25th after receiving a provisional spot on the starting grid …. Benjamin’s margin of victory over Doiron was 1.167 seconds … When the race ended, six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark, who finished 12th, was the last car on the lead lap … Final distribution of winnings will be posted later this week … A total of 23 cars were eliminated from the competition during the 10 qualifying heats.