OXFORD — While track management was trying to hustle victory lane festivities along in an effort to keep Sunday night’s Oxford Plains Speedway program on schedule, Ben Rowe was in no rush to fulfill his photo and media obligations.

“I haven’t been here in three years,” Rowe said with a wide grin. “Take all the time you want.”

The second-generation driver from Turner wasn’t kidding. In his 12 starts at Oxford over the last three seasons heading into the Pro All Stars Series Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150, Rowe had one top five — a fourth in his first trip to the track in 2017 — and seven finishes of 14th or worse.

In addition, his only PASS win since 2016 came last season at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, New Hampshire. That’s what made Sunday’s pole-winning effort and second-place finish so satisfying for the four-time PASS North champion.

“This is like a win,” Rowe said.

Rowe’s miserable season and his recent history at Oxford can’t be oversold. He’s sixth in the PASS standings with only three top-10 finishes, fewest among any of the drivers who have started all eight races this year.

When he unloaded at Oxford mid-afternoon Sunday, things weren’t much better. In the third and final full practice session of the day, his No. 4 Chevrolet was 28th out of 28 cars on the time sheets. For a car that ran a strong second until a battery issue late in last summer’s Oxford 250, it had been a precipitous drop in performance.

The simple solution, it seemed, would be just to have the car set up exactly as it was last August. Rowe said his team tried that.

“We did,” said Rowe, 44. “We started there this spring, and it was horrible. We just couldn’t get it back. Maybe we were off on something else, I don’t know. “

The son of Maine Motorsports Hall of Famer Mike Rowe and 2003 and 2004 Oxford 250 champion hadn’t forgotten how to drive. But he had forgotten what it felt like to have fun in a race car.

So, absent of any other ideas on what to do to put himself back in the conversation, the Richard Moody Racing team started from scratch.

“We changed everything,” Rowe said. “We were so horrible here — we were here a couple of weeks ago, horrible, horrible. It got to the last practice and we didn’t know what else to do, so we said to hell with it. Put it right back to how the 250 was (last summer). We tried that, and it took off in the heat race.”

Rowe started on the pole, led the first 17 laps and still figured his bad luck would creep back in. It never did, and he kept pushing forward, getting around Nick Sweet for second with less than two laps remaining.

“We started the feature, and I said, ‘We’ll just see how long it lasts.’ That’s the best we’ve been in a long time,” Rowe said. “We got to the first caution, and we’d already gone further (up front) than we have in a long time. We were happy with that. Then we went back up and took the lead again (on lap 75), and it was like, ‘This isn’t supposed to happen with us.’”

But it is. And now Rowe, whose team took ownership of a new car last summer as a quasi-teammate to 2018 Oxford 250 winner Bubba Pollard, is already looking ahead — and doing so without a sense of dread.

Curtis Gerry may have won the Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150 for his sixth career PASS win at Oxford — a run which kicked off with his 2017 Oxford 250 win — but Rowe sees that there’s a chance he can contend again for the biggest win of the summer and add his name to a very short and prestigious list.

Only Dave Dion, Ralph Nason and Mike Rowe have ever won the Oxford 250 three times.

“Curtis is just in a league of his own, but I could see him,” Rowe said. “We have something I think to build on now. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

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