OXFORD — They had everything ready to go.

Go home, that is.

Ben Ashline finished third in the second last-chance race Sunday afternoon, and his small-budget late-model team was about ready to pack it in and start arranging the trailer for the ride home to Pittston.

“We thought we were out of here,” Ashline said.

He finished a distant third in his last-chance qualifier, and he’s 10th in the current OPS late model driver standings. The only way he would get in would be to have nine other OPS regulars qualify on their own merits.

Ashline’s name crackled across the speakers, and his pit crew rejoiced. One person slammed a tool chest in joy, another slapped the wall of the trailer. Ashline beamed.

“I thought I was about the sixth guy in line,” Ashline, of Pittston, said. “I had no idea. These guys worked their butts off all day to get the handling right. We were just a little off, it was one of those deals.”

Ashline got lucky. Travis Adams, Shawn Martin, Tim Brackett, Don Wentworth, Shawn Knight, Corey Morgan, Jeff Stearns and Jeff White all earned their slot in the race the old fashioned way, and Scott Robbins earned a provisional as the most recent non-qualified former champion.

Other drivers weren’t so lucky. For all of the time they spent preparing, drivers like Paris’ Gerald Parlin came up short. In Parlin’s case, one slot short.

“That’s how this race goes, sometimes,” Parlin said. “We got spun in our heat race and we didn’t recover from that.”

Robbins, who won the race in 2002, knew going into his final consolation heat that he’d get the nod, given that Ben Rowe had already worked his way into the field.

“It allowed us to take that last one as more of a practice run,” Robbins said. “Honestly, it’s great that this track recognizes its former champions like this. We obviously don’t like to take that for granted at all, and we’d rather race our way in.”

For some, that just isn’t an option. Take Dale Verrill, two years ago a runner-up. Or Ashline, before his good fortune. Or Parlin.

“There’s always next year, though,” Parlin said, speaking for the nearly 30 drivers who didn’t make it through qualifying. “That’s the good part about this race. We’ll be back.”


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