The Rowe name has been a fixture since the beginning, but there was a stretch in the 2000s during which the Turner family owned the Oxford 250.

Mike Rowe drove in the first race — then the Oxford 200 — in 1974, and has qualified more than 30 times since.

He became the first Maine driver to win the race in 1984, when he outdueled Geoff Bodine, Robbie Crouch, Morgan Shepherd and Dick McCabe in a race that featured 17 lead changes.

He won again in 1997 after starting in the 26th position. The 13-year gap between victories is still the longest in the history of the race.

A year earlier, in 1996, Rowe’s son Ben qualified for his first Oxford 250.

In 2003, Ben Rowe started in the pole position and held on to win his first 250, beating a field that included NASCAR stars Matt Kenseth (third place) and Kurt Busch (13th).


“For me, it was more than just a big race,” Ben said. “I can remember growing up at the track . . . and seeing what it meant to my dad and the crew to win it.

“Finally getting my win was cool. To get the weight lifted off the shoulders and win an Oxford 250, that’s the biggest thing.”

Ben then became the Oxford 250’s third repeat champion by moving up from the 25th spot to win the 2004 race.

That win tied Ben with his dad for the family lead in number of 250 titles.

It lasted a year.

In 2005, Mike won again, completing the Rowe trifecta.


Besides retaking the family lead, the 2005 win was historic in various aspects: he became the third three-time champion (no driver has won more than three), his 37th starting position is the lowest of any champion, and he became the first — and still the only — driver in the race’s history to win both the last-chance qualifier and the grand finale.

“We had to run every race there was: the heat, the qualifier and non-qualifier,” Mike said. “Stayed out of trouble. Ended up winning the show.”

Both Rowes have found success working their way up from the back of the pack to win the race. Mike’s win after starting 26th in 1997 is tied for the fourth-worst starting spot to win. Ben’s win from No. 25 ranks fifth-worst. Of their combined five Oxford 250 victories, only one has come after starting in single digits: Ben won from the pole in 2003.

Starting near the front is nice, not to mention easier on the car, but it isn’t crucial for a drivers. They have 200 laps to get themselves into prime position, which Ben said is in the top 10 or better, to have a shot at victory.

“I’d like to be up there at 50 (laps) to go,” he said. “Just have to keep everything intact, and the last 50 go all out.”

Being in that position — the top 10 for the final 50 laps — takes a good car, a strong crew and good fortune.


“You’ve got to have everything go well for you,” Mike said. “You’ve got to have a good car, but you also have to have a lot of good luck.”

The three-year family win streak was the pinnacle of an impressive nine-year stretch during which either Mike or Ben finished in the top three in every Oxford 250 but one.

After winning in 1997, Mike placed third in 1998. In 1999 and 2000. Ben was the runner-up while Ralph Nason was winning his second and third consecutive titles. Two years later, in 2002, Mike took second. Then came Ben’s victories in 2003-04 and Mike’s in 2005.

It has been 11 years since the last Rowe win in the Oxford 250. They’ll try to end that today, and both think they have the cars to do it. Ben won on opening day at Oxford Plains Speedway in April, which he said was his first win at the track in “a long time.”

While trying to win themselves, the Rowes say they also keep tabs on and root for each other.

“I kind of watch out for him, see how he’s doing. If I can’t win it, I definitely want him to win it,” Mike said.


Same goes for Ben: “For me, if I can’t win, I want him to win.”

This year, they might even be rooting even harder for each other, if that’s even possible. For the first time, they are part of the same team, Richard Moody Racing. Ben said he and his dad have always helped each other out in the past, but they also had to do what was best for their respective teams. Now they can work even closer.

“It’s great,” Mike said. “We share information, try to get the cars going good. It really helps.”

So a win by either in Sunday’s race is a win for the team. A win by either also would be an Oxford 250 milestone. Ben would join his dad, Nason and Dave Dion as the winningest drivers with three titles. A win by Mike makes him the all-time winner with four. It also would give him wins in four different decades.

“Winning this one would put the frosting on the cake. I’d be the only four-time winner,” Mike said.

Ben recognizes the significance of both scenarios.

“It would be cool to get three,” he said. “On the other hand, I’d like to see him get four. Nobody’s done that.”

Comments are no longer available on this story