Ben Ashline celebrates in victory lane after winning the Super Late Model 100 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Saturday night. Kennebec Journal photo by Travis Barrett

 

OXFORD — What looked like nothing more than a Sunday drive for Ben Ashline Saturday evening at Oxford Plains Speedway will allow the Pittston native to enjoy just that next weekend. His win guaranteed him a Sunday drive next week.

Ashline led all but the first lap in cruising to victory in the Super Late Model 100 at Oxford. The win came with a trophy and a winner’s share of the purse, of course, but more than that it guaranteed Ashline a spot on the starting grid for the 47th annual Oxford 250 on Aug. 30.

“I really can’t stress how hungry I am to win the Oxford 250, especially this year,” Ashline said. “There will still be some sleepless nights this week, and there will be plenty of work put in to make it better than it was today.”

Derek Griffith of Hudson, New Hampshire, finished second. Ellsworth’s Wyatt Alexander, who earned his first career Super Late Model win last weekend in a Granite State Pro Stock Series race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, settled for third after chasing Ashline for most of the race.

While only Ashline earned the automatic starting spot in the Oxford 250, all three drivers to finish on the podium Saturday felt better about their respective programs heading into next weekend than they did prior to this tune-up start.

“I feel a lot better,” said Alexander, 20. “The last time I raced here was the 2018 Oxford 250. People race here all year long to try and get a baseline, so it feels good to come here and be close. Everybody knows how ‘250’ weekend could go, though — you could be lapping the field one week and struggling the next. But the biggest thing is to know we’re in the ballpark.”

The race was halted only one time by the caution flag, on the very first lap, after which Ashline got a great jump in the outside lane on the restart to take the lead he would not relinquish. Alexander followed him around pole-sitter Tim Brackett of Buckfield to snare second.

From there, Ashline built a half-straightaway lead that he nursed all the way to the checkered flag.

Ashline lapped all but seven other cars in the 28-car field by the time the dust had settled. Where Griffith was able to hit high gear and start picking off spots on his march toward the front — finally getting Alexander on lap 97 — there was no time to take a stab at Ashline.

“It didn’t do us any good to try and limp it around or try to save anything,” Ashline said. “Whatever issues we’ve had, we seem to be straightening them out. We wanted to maybe glorify some of them to try and make it better for next weekend.”

“During that long run I felt my tires heat up and I decided it was time to lay back for a little bit,” Griffith said. “By the time I turned it back on, (Ashline) was gone.”

A late restart might have helped all parties involved, including Ashline.

“I kind of wish there were some more little bit racy situations,” Ashline said. “I wouldn’t have minded a restart. It’s easy to say that now, but it’s the truth. It doesn’t do you any good to live in denial if the car was to fade or have issues that wouldn’t have been known if you hadn’t had those situations presented to you.”

“You just had to go,” Griffith said. “It was one of those nights where he got enough out front where no one had a chance for him unless there was a restart. You can’t bet on a restart all the time.”

Alan Tardiff of Lyman finished fourth with Windham’s Brandon Barker rounding out the top five. Alan Wilson, Brackett and Kyle DeSouza were the only other cars to finish on the lead lap.

Ashline was happy to make it look as easy as it did, and he said he’d planned on driving his No. 99 as hard as he could from the drop of the green flag in the final trial-by-fire test before the Oxford 250.


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