OXFORD — Travis Benjamin didn’t even try to suppress his disappointment at finishing second in the H.P. Hood Oxford 250, even though a runner-up finish in the richest single-day short-track race in New England would have marked a career day for 90 percent of the 42 drivers in the starting field at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday night.

Benjamin, of Morrill, came within six laps of becoming just the fourth driver in the 43-year history of the race to win it three times.

“I hate to say this, but I’m very disappointed,” said Benjmain, who won the 250 in 2013 and 2014. “It’s hard to be disappointed with second, but being the three-out-of-four champions sounds way better right now.”

Benjamin led a race-high 159 laps, taking over for the final time on lap 160 following a round of pit stops. From lap 160 through lap 244, the driver led all but one lap when eventual winner Wayne Helliwell Jr. nosed ahead by mere inches.

But on lap 244, Helliwell continued to apply pressure on the inside of the race track as the two leaders came up on the lapped machine of Garrett Evans. Evans, who was racing by himself with no other car within a straightaway of him in either direction, stayed in the second groove and forced Benjamin to lift off the throttle in the middle of the backstretch.

That was the break Helliwell needed to get ahead to stay.

“I should have been more aggressive,” Benjamin said. “I’m kind of kicking myself.”

Benjamin still made $23,400 for finishing second, including his lap leader bonuses.

CLASS ACT: In the summer of 2015, Helliwell was so discouraged by the performance of his Super Late Model, the three-time and defending American-Canadian Tour champion wasn’t even sure he wanted to run the car again.

But by August, Helliwell had found some speed in his Bruce Bernhardt-owned car, leading 145 laps en route to a seventh-place finish in the 2015 Oxford 250.

Fast-forward to this season, and the driver from Dover, New Hampshire, has been the dominant force on the Pro All Stars Series this summer. Helliwell now has three PASS wins at Oxford this season alone.

Helliwell, who has 11 career ACT wins and started out at Lee USA Speedway in Late Model Sportsman and Supermodified cars, still considers himself an outsider.

“It still hasn’t sunk in. It’s not right. I still don’t really consider myself one of these guys,” Helliwell said of former PASS champions Benjamin and D.J. Shaw, who finished third Sunday. “I still think of myself as just some punk kid from Lowell, Massachusetts.”

NEXT STEP: Shaw, of Center Conway, New Hampshire, has 13 PASS wins, four Granite State Pro Stock Series wins, two years in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the 2014 PASS North championship on his career resume, but he’s still looking for his first win in the Oxford 250.

He felt that Sunday night was a giant step in the right direction.

“I feel like I’m where Wayne was last year. There’s definitely better things coming,” said Shaw, whose father, Dale Shaw, finished a career-best second in the 1992 Oxford 250 and twice won the pole for the event.

D.J. Shaw’s best Oxford 250 finish prior to Sunday was 12th in three career starts.

“I finally have my footing in the race with a decent run,” Shaw said. “It’s nice to have some sort of result to put on my resume. I didn’t have much going for me here before.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.