Like a category on the television game show “Jeopardy,” it’s the answer that leads you to the question.

Ben Ashline knows the answer even before he’s heard the question.


That was the year that Ashline, a native of Pittston who now lives in Fairfield, was the talk of Late Model racing circles in northern New England. He’d won his first career American-Canadian Tour race in early July at Oxford Plains Speedway — in a thoroughly dominating peformance — and his name was stamped at the top of a very short list of Oxford 250 favorites later that month.

But when race day rolled around, Ashline, now 26, was marching his way through his qualifying heat race at a torrid clip when disaster struck. He’d opted to take his No. 15 Chevrolet (which was already in a qualified position) three-wide when he ran out of real estate, cars tangling all around him, and sending him through the dirt and into a collision with the backstretch wall.

His car, which he affectionately refers to as “Sweet Marie,” was destroyed and hasn’t been back on a race track since.


That will change this Sunday, however, when Ashline enters the Coastal 200 at Wiscasset Speedway. Qualifying rounds begin at 2 p.m. for the main event, the highlight of the season schedule for the track’s Late Model division.

“I guess it’s a sentimental thing,” Ashline said of his decision to pull the car back out for another race. “About a month ago, we stripped it all down. We literally went through every single thing in the car. It wasn’t worth anything to anybody the way it was, sitting there in my garage.”

In 2014, Ashline competed full-time on the ACT Tour in a different car, but the unfinished business — and unfulfilled promise — of “Sweet Marie” kept drawing him back. Having a marquee race just a few minutes down the road from where he grew up offered an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“It’s just a big jumble of things that contributed to this,” Ashline said. “There’s a lot of positive things happening down there (at Wiscasset), which is nice to see. I grew up there. I was pretty much in diapers playing with my matchbox cars, tagging along with my father and my uncle. It’s cool to see how far the track has come.

“Racing’s not in a very good place right now, and to see and hear all the buzz going on down there is something that I wanted to be part of.”

Ashline, who works at Distance Racing for owner Jeff Taylor, has realistic expectations for the Coastal 200. Working for a company that produces winning race cars at both the touring and weekly levels in both the Super Late Model and Late Model ranks, Ashline knows what he’s up against this weekend.


In fact, he’s probably had a hand in building and setting up many of the cars he’ll be competing against.

“A lot of things have changed (since 2012),” he said. “My car is kind of getting outdated, honestly. I’ve done as much updating as I can, but it’s still not what I know it could be. I kind of have mixed emotions on it — if you know the best chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world, you don’t go changing a few ingredients.”

Ashline has made one previous Coastal 200 start, in 2009. Unfortunately, that turned into the Coastal Half-Lap for him, as he was collected in a multi-car pileup in turn two after the field took the green flag.

He is undeterred by his own history in the event, which has seen only one repeat winner — Scott Chubbuck — in its decades-long history.

“A race like this gives your weekly guys a big show, something to shoot for each season,” Ashline said. “It’s not a bunch of outsiders coming in (from a tour) making you feel like an outsider at your home track.”

Reigning track champion Chris Thorne of Sidney won his first Coastal 200 last season. Jeff Burgess of East Madison, whose pit strategy last year nearly won him the race, Pro All Stars Series race winner Mike Hopkins of Hermon, 2014 Coastal 200 winner Josh St. Clair of Liberty and weekly Late Model competitors Nick Hinkley of Wiscasset and Andrew McLaughlin of Harrington are all also entered on Sunday.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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