It might be difficult, initially, for some race fans to pick out Ben Rowe driving around Oxford Plains Speedway this Oxford 250 weekend.

But after he admittedly lost sight of what mattered most in racing, Rowe will be there, racing in a car — a different one, but one that has special meaning to him.

The two-time winner of the Oxford 250 won’t be going for a third victory driving the familiar yellow No. 4 that fans have become accustomed to see him drive. Instead, he’ll be wheeling the red No. 24 that belongs to his father, Mike, a three-time winner of Maine’s crown jewel race.

Mike Rowe races around Oxford Plains Speedway during Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model action Saturday, Aug. 13. His son, Ben Rowe, will drive the No. 24 car at this weekend’s Oxford 250. Oriana Lovell photo

Earlier this summer, Ben Rowe mutually split with longtime race team Richard Moody Racing, leaving him without a ride for the biggest race of the year. He found a ride last week when the Rowes decided to put Ben in Mike’s car for 250 weekend, which begins Friday with the first practice sessions for the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model cars.

Two-time Oxford 250 winner Ben Rowe of Turner buckles into his race car for Oxford 250 practice at Oxford Plains Speedway in 2016. Travis Barrett/Kennebec Journal file photo

“It was all (my dad’s idea),” Ben, from Turner, said. “You know, I would have found something to do for the 250. I had a few, you know, good offers myself that I could have done, but I was just kind of sitting back and seeing what, if he was going to go or not, because he really wants his car there. And if he couldn’t do it, then who else, what better way to step into it then step into my dad’s car?”

Mike Rowe didn’t raced this season until competing in the most-recent PASS race, also at Oxford Plains Speedway, on Aug. 13. The elder Rowe’s trek through the field, from mid-pack to knocking on the door of the top five before a blown tire ended his quest for a win in the 150-lap race, proved two things: that the car has what it takes to be competitive; and that the 72-year-old, dealing with health issues, probably shouldn’t push himself for the entire Oxford 250 weekend weekend.


“He had his first race of the year, and did pretty well, but it just took a lot out of him for one day,” Ben said. “And the Oxford 250 is, you know, three, four days of day after day. It’s quite a grind.

“So he just didn’t know if he was feeling up to doing it for three days, and I was kind of just waiting to see what he was doing, and I figured I could just fill in and step into his car.”

Mike Rowe raced in the first Oxford 250 — then the Oxford 200 — in 1974, and has qualified more than 35 times since. But he won’t be competing in this year’s 49th edition of the race, which he admits is “kind of disappointing.”

Mike Rowe of Turner is introduced to the crowd before the start of the Oxford 250 in August 2021 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Brewster Burns photo

“I got a look at my health, first, and maybe I’ll come back next year,” Mike Rowe said.

“I’ve had health issues, so I had a chance to put (Ben) in it,” he added. “So it was a no-brainer for me, you know.”



Ben Rowe being available to take over his dad’s car happened a month ago, but the seed was planted in the spring.

“I just stepped away. I just come to the point where (racing) every weekend, you know, I had enough,” Rowe said of his split with Richard Moody Racing. “I just stepped away, and we kind of did other things, you know? There’s a lot of other things that you could be doing. I was tied down to the racing world for, jeez, 30-something years. So 35 years, every weekend.

“So just stepped back.”

Rowe had reached a fever pitch in the No. 4 this season.

“We had all the funding in the world, you know, three full-time guys. It’s just, it’s basically a second job. And you’re expected to do well. When you got that much funding and that much personnel, you’re expected to do well. And when you’re not doing well, it just weighs on everybody. And then it just trickles down the line,” Rowe said. “You know, I get along great with (new teammate) Joey (Polewarczyk), his dad. They’re great people.

“It’s not a lack of effort (that led to unsatisfactory results). It was just the wrong fit, basically, for me, is what it got down to. And my best interest is just to step away and regroup, and then go my own route.”


Ben said that after the split  he wanted to “take a deep breath, and step back, and look at the situation, look at all the situations, and just kind of take a break for a few minutes.”

Two-time Oxford 250 winner Ben Rowe of Turner buckles into his race car for Oxford 250 practice at Oxford Plains Speedway in 2016. Travis Barrett/Kennebec Journal file photo


But, instead, he immediately was met with offers to get into other cars to compete in the 250, which he won in 2003 and 2004.

“I talked to a bunch of good guys, a bunch of people that reached out, was mind-blowing to me. I thought it was pretty cool. You know, a lot of my competitors that I raced against was a lot of them,” he said. “So just to step back, you know. And then when I got back into it, I said, ‘I’m only gonna do it if I can go and have fun and bring the fun back into it.’ And I got a bunch of good guys around me, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Mike Rowe wanted to make his car is comfortable for Ben, which Ben said meant a lot.

“He’s like, ‘You want to put your name on it, your number on it?’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ This is his car, this is my dad’s car, I’m just filling in for him. That’s all I’m doing,” Ben said. “But it’s fun. It’s back to having fun. I kind of lost sight of that in the last year or so racing. It was every weekend grind, and I lost sight of the having-fun part. And this is kind of everybody chipping in and having a good time, and there’s, you know, there’s a lot of good people around us that want to do the same thing.”


Ben did add one thing of his to his dad’s car — his racing seat.

“We put my seat in it. I fit in his, but I really wasn’t comfortable, and I’m a fussy one when it comes to the seat, the safety and the stuff around me,” Ben said. “So I put my seat, everything around me, we’ve done that, so I’m comfortable in the car.”

Added Mike Rowe: “I had actually tried him in the seat Saturday (Aug. 13) before I run the (PASS) 150, and he weren’t comfortable, or I’d have put him in probably then.”


Ben hadn’t driven the car as of Monday. He had a possible test session planned for this week, but he said he isn’t worried if Friday is his first time wheeling the No. 24.

He’s been picking his dad’s brain about the car, as well as his nephew, Max Rowe, who drove the car to victory lane in Oxford Plains’ SLM division earlier this season.


“We work together every day, all of us, and then, you know, we race. And I was up there last weekend (for the PASS race), so I kind of know what was going on,” Ben said. “Listening to (my dad), and me and Max talk about it every week. You know, what he feels, what he wants, what we can do different. So I’ve been around it, I just haven’t driven that chassis yet. But, looking forward to it.”

Ben said he can lean on his experience at Oxford Plains to negate the novelty of driving an unfamiliar car.

“It’s just me getting comfortable, you know, and that’s kind of why we put my seat in. I think there’ll be no problem with it; I’ll adapt over,” he said. “Basically they’re just bent metal that’s around you, and the chassis is a chassis, and they do the same thing. You know, it’s just like riding a bike. Once you get rolling, you’ll be fine.”

And, when needed, Mike Rowe will be there for guidance.

“I’ll be giving my two cents when I can, and that’s about it,” he said. “And we’ll let Benji do the rest of it.”

It’s been 17 years since a Rowe drove to victory in the Oxford 250, when Mike won his record-tying third feature the year after Ben finished off back-to-back victories. Mike said he wouldn’t mind his son getting another one.


“I hope he does,” he said. “You know, I hope he can win the third one, too, and be on the same page that I’m on.”

“I just hope we can have a good finish,” Mike added, “and, like I say, you got to draw a good number, start up front. And if we can have a good finish, good day, even a top 10, That would be great.”

As for Ben’s future in racing beyond this weekend? Even he doesn’t know.

“Basically focus on this weekend. That’s about it. I put my head down and focus on this weekend, and hoping for a good run,” he said. “And like I said, going and having fun. You know, I have a lot of friends in the racing world up there, and I’m gonna go have fun.

“So beyond that, I don’t know. You might see me once, you might see me 10 times. I don’t know. If it’s the right situation, and I’m having fun, then I’ll go do it, basically is how that boils down to it.”

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