OXFORD – It couldn’t have worked out better if he had written his own script. With rain threatening and a former ACT champion on his bumper, Ben Rowe stepped up and got aggressive when it counted most.

The Turner native took the lead from Livermore’s Doug Coombs on lap 129 and held off a hard-charging Phil Scott to capture the ACT New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway Saturday.

In one of the cleanest, most competitive Late Model races seen in recent years, OPS regulars controlled the pace in the second appearance for the American-Canadian Tour in 2006.

Scott hung on for second, while Shelburne, Vermont’s Jamie Fisher finished third. Roger Brown, a regular on the ACT Tour from Lancaster, New Hampshire was fourth, while Shawn Martin rounded out the top five.

With a revised format due to approaching rains, the green flag waved for the ACT feature at 7:15 p.m. Rowe and Scott, the racing state senator from Vermont, led the field into Turn 1. Martin, of Turner, winner of the Maine-ly action Sports 100 on July 29, quickly moved into second with OPS regulars Dale Verrill and Doug Coombs in tow.

Scott stayed in command until lap 84, then Coombs took advantage of lapped traffic and took over the point one lap later. With the threat of inclement weather approaching, drivers held their lines like ACT President Tom Curley was hoping.

The race went the first 96 laps before the first caution waved for trouble in Turn 2.

Coombs appeared to have the fastest car during the mid-stages, and drove by Scott for the lead on the 84th circuit. From there, the Livermore driver built a sizeable lead as the pack worked through lapped traffic. The second caution of the evening came out on lap 127 for Dale Verrill’s wreck on the backstretch.

Rowe was running second behind Scott as the Vermont veteran started to encounted heavy lapped traffic. With a great heads-up move, the two-time TD Banknorth 250 champion powered past Scott and drove on to his fourth ACT victory of 2006.

“Doug (Coombs) was good all night,” said Rowe. “I was lucky to get by him, and did my best to hold off Phil there at the end. We had maybe a fourth or fifth place car, but just couldn’t get up to speed on the restarts. I saw them running two, three and four-wide most of the night, and if people up in the grandstand don’t like that kind of racing, I don’t know what they would like.”

Scott was pleased with his performance after a fast-paced 150 laps around the sometimes-tricky Oxford layout.

“It was a little tough out there tonight, some of the lapped cars were good to race with and some were not. I knew Ben was fast, and I’m just glad we’ve got our program turned around now. To come out of here with a top three is just what this team needed.”

Fisher was also pleased with his outing in the Pine Tree State, coming on late in the going to claim third.

“I had a really good car tonight, we just got a little behind there early and had some ground to make up,” said Fisher.

“My guys worked hard on this car the past week and it showed here tonight. Oxford can be difficult, these Late Models guys up here are tough. But we had a good run, and can go back home with our heads held high.”

Finishing sixth through 10th in the 150 were Steve Reny, Brent Dragon, Joey Polewarczyk, point leader and defending ACT champion Jean Paul Cyr of Milton, VT, and Scott Payea. Three cautions slowed the pace, and 12 cars finished on the lead lap.

Qualifying heat winners were Mark Lamberton, Jean Paul Cyr and New Gloucester native Ron Henry.

Jeff Taylor, Carey Martin, Jeff Moon and Larry Melcher were also feature winners on New England Dodge Dealers Night at the 3/8 mile western Maine oval.

Melcher held off a hard-charging Derek Barker to capture the 30-lap Mini Stock feature. The Jay driver took the lead from Barker on lap 15 and drove on to Victory Lane. Jim Childs came flying up the outside groove from 18th on the grid to finish third, while Chris Varney was fourth and 2004 champion Don Mooney was fifth. Only one caution slowed the pace, that for Butch Keene’s disabled machine sitting atop Turn 2.

Moon picked up a victory in the Strictly Stock feature to overcome a tough run of luck in recent weeks. The Gray driver took over the point from Joe Hutter on lap 15 and hung on for a convincing win.

Zach Emerson came from deep in the field to claim second, while Kurt Hewins finished third.

B.J. Chapman made a strong run up the outside to run fourth at the finish, while Auburn’s Mike Short rounded out the top five. Three cautions slowed the pace, none for serious incidents.

Martin wasted no time in asserting himself in one of the last Limited sportsman features for Oxford Plains Speedway. The Denmark driver took the lead from Freeport’s Neil Martin (no relation) on a lap-four restart and went on to record his 39th career victory at Oxford. Terry Merrill came from seventh on the grid to claim second, while David Tripp edged Tommy Ricker at the line for third. David Vaughn started third and hung on to complete the top five. Just one caution flag waved over the Limited Sportsman gang, as a scary-looking incident on the backstretch slowed proceedings. Neither of the two drivers involved were injured, and action resumed in short order.

Taylor recorded his 67th career victory at Oxford in a thrilling Oxford Networks Pro Stock feature. The eight-time champion from Norridgewock drove by Joey Porciello on the outside coming off Turn 2 on the 27th circuit and proceeded to drive away from the competition.

“The car was good tonight,” said Taylor. “Joey made me work for it on that last restart, but we had car enough to hold him off. This helps us in the points chase, it’s coming right down to it now and I just hope we can hang on.”

Porciello hung on to record his best finish at Oxford in second, while defending champion Timmy Brackett was third. Jeremie Whorff, the 22-year-old sensation that set the racing world on its ear last month when he won the TD Banknorth 250, drove to a solid fourth-place run. And once again, just as he did in the big dance last month, Whorff’s father Bill crossed the line right behind his son.

Four cautions slowed the proceedings, none for serious incidents. There are just two more Pro Stock races left to run at Oxford.


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