The top driver in Oxford 250 history drove this car to victory in 1998. Press Herald file photo

Making lists is the most thankless, self-inflicted task in all of sports journalism.

Try to rank good, better and best, and invariably you’ll leave someone out or be greeted with hate mail questioning your sanity for putting so-and-so in the wrong category.

That being said, the cream rises. With four three-time champions and five two-time winners, a select few have risen above the reasonable doubt and any risk of having their triumphs labeled a fluke.

Here’s a best shot at either a three-wide drive down memory lane or an exercise in making you wonder if someone has inhaled too many exhaust fumes. It’s one man’s take on the top 10 drivers in Oxford 250 lore:

10. Butch Lindley. Twenty-two drivers to win this crown jewel once run the spectrum from long shots (Jeremie Whorff, Larry Gelinas, Roger Brown) to all-time greats (Ricky Craven, Bob Pressley and Junior Hanley, in addition to NASCAR champions Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch).

The only acceptable way to weigh that diverse pack for this list is to consider the impact those drivers had in the years they didn’t win. And that leaves us with a toss-up between Lindley and Dick McCabe.


Aside from his bicentennial victory, Lindley logged an incredible decade in which he finished second in 1977, 1980 and 1982 and third in 1978 and 1984. His middle runner-up result was a two-horse race between Lindley and Geoff Bodine to see who would be first to cross the finish line with no more than a sip of fuel in the tank.

The only question was if that sustained excellence was enough to vault Lindley above one or more of the multi-time champs. I’ll let my respect for the difficulty of holding that office more than once be my guide and say no.

9. Geoff Bodine. As noted, Bodine and Lindley are inextricably linked by that classic finish of yesteryear, so they might as well be bumper-to-bumper in this countdown.

That white No. 99 was a rocket in Bodine’s back-to-back wins. He remained a force and an outsider the local fans loved to hate for the next three years before focusing mostly on his successful career in Cup. Harvick is the only other driver with both Oxford 250 and Daytona 500 wins on his resume.

The only reason for ranking Bodine beneath the other double-dippers is the small sample size of his 250 career. He conquered the race, and winning it twice (1980 and ’81, the first back-to-back champion) built a foundation for his national notoriety,

8. Eddie MacDonald. Consecutive wins are a big deal. Bodine, Ralph Nason, Ben Rowe, Travis Benjamin and this modern-day outlaw from Massachusetts are the only ones to pull it off.


Eddie MacDonald holds the trophy in victory lane after winning the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on July 19, 2009. Press Herald file photo

A racer of diverse talents who has won at the Late Model, Super Late Model and then-NASCAR Busch North/East levels, MacDonald dominated the American-Canadian Tour era of the 250, with wins in 2009 and 2010 as well as finishes of fourth and eighth.

He has also led and threatened to win other editions, and a victory under the current format would certainly vault MacDonald into the upper echelon of any future discussion.

7. Jamie Aube. The preeminent points racer of his day, Aube won the 1987 and 1989 versions in much the same way he claimed Busch North titles at the time. He was consistent, stayed out of trouble and turned up the wick in the home stretch.

After lengthy stints in the lead by Buzzie Bezanson and Morgan Shepherd, Billy Clark dominated the ’87 showcase, foreshadowing Gary Drew and Scott Robbins’ future conquests in Saturday night-legal rides, until pitting a tad too late in the going. Aube paced the final 29 circuits.

He led the most laps in ’89, but not before Joey Kourafas, Mike Rowe and Bobby Dragon ruled a lion’s share of the event. You can make a case that fellow Vermonters Dragon and three-time runner-up Robbie Crouch had a more dominant 250 presence, but Aube is one of its most storied closers.

6. Chuck Bown. In the Busch North/South era of the 250, Bown won it while representing both rungs of that NASCAR developmental ladder in 1986 and 1990.


Bown had already competed in the Cup series on occasion prior to that, but there is no question his Oxford wins and Grand National championship both charted the course to his injury-shortened career at Bobby Allison Motorsports.

Ben Rowe of Turner celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2003 Oxford 250. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Press Herald file photo

The first win was over a pair of New England legends, Crouch and Dave Dion, and the second a night-long, memorable duel with Tommy Houston. You want to see a deep 250 field at its peak? Go back and look at those finishing orders. Nothing against the modern era, but by that measure the quality of Bown’s wins dwarfs anything we’ve seen since.

5. Ben Rowe. Most of us remember the second-generation star’s twin triumphs in 2003 and ’04, but it’s easy forget that he was in position to prevail in 1996 as a Super Late Model rookie until a small fuel cell ran dry two laps from the finish, setting the stage for a scoring nightmare and Gelinas’ out-of-nowhere victory.

And how close was Rowe to being a five-time conqueror? Only Nason finished ahead of him in 1999 and 2000. With numerous additional top-10 finishes on top of that, there’s no question who is runner-up to the Mount Rushmore of 250 legends.

Travis Benjamin celebrates winning his third Oxford 250 title at Oxford Plains Speedway in August 2019. Brewster Burns photo

4. Travis Benjamin. Back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014 and a runner-up finish to Wayne Helliwell Jr, in ’16 were enough to make Benjamin an all-timer.

Coming back with a different team and reclaiming the top spot on the podium in 2019 when defending winner Bubba Pollard and Curtis Gerry were the names atop everyone’s list of favorites secured a special place in the hallowed history book.


In any sports-themed discussion, we all tend to be a prisoner either to our bias, whether it’s recency or remember-when. I admittedly fall into the latter category when it comes to the 250. The depth of the field the other three-time winners encountered is the only reason Benjamin is a fender away from the podium here.

3. Mike Rowe. One of two drivers to win his titles in three different decades, the 73-year-old cancer survivor and recent OPS weekly feature winner will vault to the top of the list if he adds 2023 to his 1984, 1997 and 2005 triumphs.

Track owner Tom Mayberry, left, and driver Mike Rowe participate in Oxford 250 media day Wednesday at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

He’s the unquestioned King of Oxford, but Rowe didn’t rule those three races with an iron fist. He became the first Maine winner by waiting out the carnage in a star-studded ’84 field. Likewise, ’97 was a caution-filled affair in which Rowe caught a break to stay on the lead lap early and used grit and guile to get to the front. And in ’05, he memorably went from nearly last to first after winning the last-chance qualifier.

Others may lament how they managed not to win each of those races. Rowe parlayed persistence, experience and local knowledge into three more pillars of a Hall of Fame career.

2. Dave Dion. Likewise, the Granite State great whose career theme song could have been “My Way” won the race three distinct ways in three eras.

He ruled the first 250-lap edition by beating the likes of George Summers, L.D. Ottinger and Morgan Shepherd in 1975. He led one lap, the only one that mattered, with a pass of Kourafas when the race was at its pinnacle in 1985.


Seven years later, then-promoter Michael Liberty phoned Dion in the week leading up to the race, convinced him to set aside differences with NASCAR and dust off his Busch North-legal Ford for the 250. Dion wound up at the center of an all-New Hampshire top-three photo with Dale Shaw and Babe Branscombe.

In the first decade of the 250, Dion was out of the top 10 only one time. That’s consistent greatness, and it takes a back seat to only one unforgettable personality of this race.

Ralph Nason of Unity celebrates as he climbs out of his car after winning his third consecutive Oxford 250 on July 2, 2000. Press Herald file photo

1. Ralph Nason. It’s probably no coincidence that 58-, 59- and 60-year-old Nason owned this race in the final three full years of Dale Earnhardt’s life (1998, 1999 and 2000), because he was Maine’s answer to The Intimidator.

When either man was introduced prior to a marquee event, the chorus of resounding boos would commence the moment fans recognized the car number or hometown. But don’t kid yourself: There were always plenty of cheers in the mix.

Still, Nason relished his role as the villain. It motivated him. He enjoyed egging it on with snappy one-liners in victory lane even more. And around the turn of the century, that’s where you would find him at the 250 and at nearly every other pro stock race in the northeast.

It’s a spell of domination by one man we haven’t seen in these parts before or after, and it makes Racin’ Ralph the all-time titan of Maine’s greatest short track showcase.

Former Sun Journal sports journalist Kalle Oakes attended or covered every Oxford 250 from 1979 to 2015. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Stay in touch with him at

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