OXFORD — Ben Rowe is used to winning at Oxford Plains Speedway and in the Pro All Stars Series, but a runner-up finish on Sunday was “like a win.” Nick Sweet was “happy with third.”
The two drivers battled for second-best on the final lap, but neither had anything at the end for Curtis Gerry, who has been the cream of the crop in Super Late Model cars at Oxford this season.
Sunday was no different, with Gerry winning the PASS 150, which was the last PASS SLM race Oxford before the Oxford 250 in late August.
“Curtis is just in a league of his own,” Rowe said.
Gerry, the 2017 Oxford 250 champion, had already won a trio of 50-lap Saturday night Oxford features, as well as a 100-lap PASS race the weekend before. He wasn’t the best car early on Sunday, but he slowly picked his way to the front.
“Those guys had a heck of a pace at the beginning of the race. I had all I could to do to keep up with the top five there. We were just pacing ourselves, hoping they’d back up to us, slow down, and they did,” Gerry said. “I was able to pick them off in lapped traffic. But I had my hands full.”
Rowe started on the pole after winning his heat race. That was an accomplishment in itself, with Rowe calling his car “horrible” after the final practice.
“It got to the last practice and we said ‘We’ve done everything, we don’t know what else to do,’” Rowe said. “So I said ‘To hell with it, put it right back to how the 250 was.’ We tried that earlier, and we took off in the heat race and it turned.”
Rowe paced the field until Ben Ashline — making his first SLM start in a while — overtook him on lap 18. Sweet soon entered the mix and closed in on Ashline 35 laps in. Rowe eventually got back under and past Sweet and led briefly again, starting at lap 76, but Gerry’ march was coming.
Rowe said it was about that point that he was just happy to still be going, with how “horrible, horrible” his car had been this season.
But “everything” has been working for Gerry recently, though Rowe chimed in with: “It’s ‘what’s not working.’”
“I mean, I thought we had a winning car,” Gerry said. “Usually they fall off and back up to us, and that’s typical, and they did. Once they were struggling to pass the lapped traffic I kind of knew I’d get them at that point.”
Rowe was dealing with a car that was “stuck to the bottom,” while Sweet said he “couldn’t run the bottom.”
“We had to run the top because we were just too loose. And traffic kind of played havoc at the end there,” Sweet said. “But really pleased with third, and hopefully we can just keep building on that.”
Eddie MacDonald finished fourth, while Reid Lanpher was fifth. Ashline fell back to sixth.
DJ Shaw, who won the first heat but had to start 11th because he was a previous winner this season, wasn’t a factor and finished 15th. Cole Butcher won the third heat and started on the outside of the front row, but after twice topping practice sessions he also fell off early and settled for 10th.
Sunday’s slate also included a 40-lap PASS Mods feature and a 50-lap Honey Badger Street Stock Series race.
Pole sitter Justin Larsen dominated the first half of the Mods race, but gave up the lead to Tyler King, who held that lead until a restart with two laps to go. King and Larsen battled on the restart, and it was Larsen who took the win.
“This was a blast,” Larsen said after the win. “Made some setup adjustments today and it worked.”
Kyle Hewins won the Street Stock feature, the fourth race in the five-race series. Hewins beat out division heavyweight Matt Dufault and Gary Babineau.