OXFORD — Anyone thinking Travis Benjamin is going to waltz his way to another Oxford 250 title might want to pump their brakes.

It is not that last year’s champ does not have a shot — in fact, a number of his peers think he has a good one given his success at Oxford Plains so far this season.

Rather, in the previous 40 editions of the event, only four drivers have ever won the marquee race in consecutive seasons.

If anyone knows a thing or two about the that though, it is Unity’s Ralph Nason.

From 1998 to 2000 Nason ruled the half-mile track and in his final win at 60-years old he became the oldest ever to take the checkered flag at the Oxford 250. Nason credited his age as helping him to win three in a row as the years of practice allowed him to hone his craft.

“That stuff became second nature,” Nason said. “I tie my shoes the same way (every time) and I drive my race car the same way.”

Nason’s streak only grows more impressive the longer it lasts. Geoff Bodine claimed two straight from 1980-81 before Mike Barry ended his run, and in 2005 Mike Rowe — who along with Nason and Dave Dion are the only ones to win the event three times — ended his son Ben’s bid for a third straight Oxford 250.

Eddie MacDonald was the most recent to give the three-peat a shot after winning from 2009-10, but he — like the rest of the field — could only sit back and watch as NASCAR’s Kyle Busch put on a show en route to the win.

The biggest reason why repeating Nason’s feat is so difficult is the very nature of the sport itself.

“Anything can happen,” Mike Rowe said. “You can blow up or get into somebody else’s wreck, but you’ve really got to be looking ahead on the track.”

“That’s what you have to love and you have to hate about racing. You can be leading in the last lap and have a flat tire and finish 15th,” added Benjamin. “That’s happened to us a couple times this year.”

In a race like the Oxford 250 there are just as many — if not more — opportunities for something to go wrong than there are right with one to potentially three qualifying races before the main event begins. Even when the big race starts, a driver could have their car set up perfectly and get knocked out of contention by no fault of their own.

Sometimes, it is just as much a matter of luck as it is skill.

Farmingdale’s Johnny Clark knows all about how fickle auto racing can be at times. From 2008-11 Clark dominated the Pro All Star Series North and won series titles in each year — a feat, like Nason’s, that may not be equaled any time soon.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to do that in PASS or it’s going to be a long time until someone does,” Clark said. “We’ve had a new champion in 2012 and 2013.

“…You win two in a row…people are getting sick of seeing the same guy win. At that point your competitors aren’t cheering for you. It gets kind of tiring to see the same guy win over and over again.”

It was Benjamin that knocked Clark off in the 2012 season and since then each PASS North champion has had a tough time of holding onto their title. Last season Benjamin finished in a distant fourth as Farmington’s Cassius Clay (2,578 points) narrowly held off Joey Doiron (2,574) and D.J. Shaw (2,573) for the title.

Now, Cassius Clark is experiencing what the previous two PASS North champions went through.

“It’s nothing but really our own doing really. Just real bad luck. We crashed out of a decent finish and had motor troubles,” Cassius Clark said. “(They) aren’t really any indication of any preparation. It’s just kind of bad luck.

“It’s been unfortunate but it’s a good thing going in (to the Oxford 250) we won’t have to worry about points. It’s pretty much win or die. We’ll hopefully be able to capitalize.”

In eight starts this season Cassius Clark has one top five and three other finishes in the top 10. He is eighth in the points standings with 1,615, trailing leader Johnny Clark by 124 points.

If you are counting Cassius Clark or any of the veterans out of the running, though, think again. Given the depth of the field and nature of racing, anything from a lesser-known competitor to Benjamin repeating is certainly in the realm of possibility.

“It’s going to be a real good race,” Cassius Clark said. “Our biggest thing is hopefully to have some good luck and see where it falls.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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