OXFORD — Wayne Helliwell took advantage of traffic on lap 244, slipped underneath race leader Travis Benjamin coming off Turn 4 and pulled away to win the 43rd annual HP Hood Oxford 250 Sunday evening at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Helliwell pitted for new tires on lap 159, while Benjamin had changed tires at lap 122. That difference in tire wear made all the difference, as Benjamin’s car faded slightly in the closing laps. Former PASS North champion DJ Shaw (2014) was solid all night and finished third, his best-ever run in the 250.

“This feels fantastic to be standing here after 250 hard laps,” Helliwell said. “I had to battle hard with Travis for what seemed like forever, but we had the car to do it. This team worked overtime to prepare the car for this weekend, and it was hooked up the whole way. No tie this time; we pulled off a win in the biggest race of them all. I couldn’t be more proud of Bruce Bernhardt and this entire group.”

Benjamin led on three occasions for a total of 159 laps, and looked to be heading for his third victory in Maine’s biggest short track racing spectacle.

“The car faded a little bit there towards the end,” Benjamin said. “I lost some forward drive off the corners. I think the biggest difference was that he (Wayne) came in 50 laps later for tires. Pit stops are a big part of this race. This race seemed to have more cautions than normal. If Wayne would have pitted at the same time as we did, he wouldn’t have beat us. His strategy won, but we gave it our best shot.”

Shaw was frustrated with the finish, but still managed a smile when it was all over. Finishing third in the 250 is pretty respectable, especially given the tight competition here in 2016.

“We had a pretty good car,” Shaw said. “Wayne had the winning strategy to pit that late. Polewarczyk pitted when Wayne did, and he passed us three-wide at one point. It’s hard to tell if we should have waited and pitted when they did.

“All in all, it was a good finish. I wished we could have run a little better on the top, but it was tough. I could only hang on up there until I could get back to the bottom. Once I got down there, the car was a rocket. When half the cars are running on the bottom and you have to wait for a mistake, it’s tough.”

Two-time 250 winner Ben Rowe of Turner kept his car in contention for much of the race, staying within sight of the leaders in the second half. Rowe settled for fourth, while former race winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr. completed the top five.

The race featured eight lead changes among four drivers, while 12 cautions slowed the paced. Twenty-two of the 42 starters finished on the lead lap, with three-time winner Mike Rowe having the distinction of finishing twenty-second.

Finishing sixth through tenth in Sunday night’s Oxford 250 were Cassius Clark, Garrett Hall, Johnny Clark, Ben Lynch and defending race winner Glen Luce. Joey Doiron led the first seven laps before Luce took command. Benjamin asserted himself on lap 47 and proceeded to check out on the field.

Other notable finishers include Tracy Gordon (14th); Florida sensation Dalton Sargeant (15th); Reid Lanpher (16th); nine-time Oxford track champion Jeff Taylor (30th); and Fort Kent native Austin Theriault (35th).

This was a tough race for some of the local favorites, with TJ Brackett and his father Tim looking on from the sidelines after only a few laps. Other Oxford regulars who found the 250 unkind in 2016 included Scott Robbins (37th); Auburn’s Travis Stearns (38th) and Kyle Treadwell (39th). A home-track advantage can be good at Oxford, yet the 250 doesn’t always favor the locals.

Oxford’s weekly Championship Series program wraps up on Saturday, September 10, alongside its Wednesday night Acceleration Series teams in a giant season finale.

The 2016 season has delivered new faces to victory lane and surprises in every class, and the 250 was no exception.

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