Rowe vs. Benjamin, a Big Backstretch Mess, Cassius Has Strange Trobules and Much More
LAPPED CAR COSTS ROWE A SHOT AT VICTORY
Travis Benjamin was leading around the two-thirds mark of the Riverside race. Mike Rowe was second. Both drivers were behind the soon-to-be lapped #14 of Rick Martin on the backstretch when Rowe made contact with Benjamin’s #17, which then went spinning. Benjamin went to the back because of the spin and had further mechanical problems that kept him from finishing. Rowe was sent to the back for his role in the incident and came back to finish second.
Those are the facts.
As far as opinions of the incident go, there are far too many of those being tossed around after the race and on message boards this week to print here. But the bottom line is this – Benjamin was mad after the race and Rowe showed plenty of remorse for what happened.
“I’ve raced side-by-side with Mike probably five times and every time he’s put me in the fence,” said Benjamin after getting out of his car. “He did it to Cassius [Clark] last week, he’s done it to me a few times. I’m sick of it. I can’t afford to wreck my car trying to dump him and I won’t do that [as a form of payback], but obviously he can.”
“I felt really bad getting into the back of Travis Benjamin,” said Rowe in the tech area after things had died down. “I just touched him a little bit. I was trying to run the low groove because the #14 was holding him
up. It’s a part of racing. It’s a real shame it happened, but that is part of racing. You’ve got a quarter mile track and it was a racing deal.”
“Mike did touch him, but it was more of a racing accident then anything else,” said Scott Pullen, one of Rowe’s car owners. “It wasn’t an intentional dump. He went to the back too. He wouldn’t do something just to go to the back. He right came on the radio and it was the first time he talked in 100 laps. He hadn’t said a word before that. But right after it happened, he came right on and said that he didn’t mean to do that. It happened.”
The role that the lapped car played is up for debate as well.
“I definitely did not hit him on purpose,” said Rowe. “We had a good car and I thought I could run him down. Travis was trying the outside of him [the #14 of Martin] and he was getting run ragged. I tried the bottom and we touched a little.”
“We got jammed up behind lapped cars all night and I never touched him,” said Benjamin. “You don’t turn right on the straightaway like that.”
If the incident hadn’t have happened and the two drivers had finished first and second, both guys would have been in much better spirits after the race.
“There were still 50 laps to go in the race and you know what? I probably would have been happy with second. I would have probably let him go. A top three and I would have been happy. But no, he just drives like that and takes us out.”
“I wish this whole thing didn’t happen,” said Rowe. “I feel bad for
“It’s pretty early,” said Clark. “There are a lot of races, so I won’t get all nerved up on that right now. I just want to win races. I’m not a big points racer, but if we’re still there at the end of it we’ll have to worry about it.”
BACKSTRETCH LOGJAM CAUSES CRAZY FINAL LAPS
With five laps to go, the field returned from a caution period with Johnny Clark on point. The starter did not like the jump that Clark made and did not throw the green flag. That caused all kinds of problems when the field stacked up in a big logjam on the backstretch.
“It was a wild one on the backstretch,” said Cassius Clark. “ We just barely missed that one.”
caught us about halfway down the backstretch. I got turned around right in front of the pack. We got banged around, but it wasn’t too bad. It only got the right rear a little bit.”
“I thought I heard green on the radio, but maybe not,” said Mulkern. “They were racing down in there, so I thought that we would have a green flag and whoever jumped the start would be penalized. I thought that was how they did it. I had no idea when we all went flying down in the corner that everyone would be stopped. When I got there, everyone was piling up.”
Being ahead of the mess was the best plan of attack
“I don’t know, someone must have got into Benji who didn’t know that the caution was out,” said Johnny Clark. “I was lucky enough to be out front when it happened.”
MULKERN A VICTIM OF LATE RACE CARNAGE
Before that final wreck, Scott Mulkern was almost assured of a top five finish. But getting slammed around with five to go, having to pit to repair damage and still having the car wounded doesn’t make fore a good few final laps.
Travis Banjamin's #17 gets caught behind the lapped #14 of Rick Martin. You can barely see Mike Rowe's nose in this frame (top). Rowe's #24 made contact with the #17 and sent it spinning out of the lead a moment after the bottom shot was taken. Was it a case of tight racing on a quarter mile bullring or something more? (Norm Marx Photos)
Travis. I sure didn’t mean to do that. I’m happy to finish second, but I really wish that Travis was there with us at the end.”
Rowe told Speed51.com that he’s going to do what he can to keep the peace with Benjamin.
“Shit happens and you go on.,” said Rowe. “I just need to go to him and apologize next week. A week later things will calm down.”
And even though there were heated words between the two camps after the race, Rowe understands exactly where Benjamin and his team are coming from.
“I don’t blame him [for being mad],” said Rowe. “If I were him, I’d be upset too.”
BENJAMIN FLIES BEFORE INCIDENT
The biggest shame of the Benjamin vs. Rowe incident was that it pretty much ended a great run by one of the nicest guys with the worst luck in New England racing. Travis Benjamin has been quick in many events going back through last season, but when it comes to having the luck to get a top finish, he hasn’t been able to seal the deal quite yet.
“We belong up there every week,” said Benjamin. “I don’t know what it is, we just can’t get a win. Whether it is taken away from us like that, a flat tire or an engine. Something always bites us.”
Others weren’t so lucky. Ben Rowe, Scott Mulkern, Donnie Whitten, Donnie Lashua and Corey Williams were among the drivers who got caught up in the melee.
“They never threw the green.,” said Ben Rowe. “Half the field took off and the other half didn’t. On the restart, the #54 and the #24 took off and I was expecting the green. When I went under the flagstand, he was waving the yellow. All three of us lifted and from fourth on back didn’t. They
The #47 team gets to work fixing their car - with a little help from a few friends. (51 Photos)
TEAMS PITCH IN TO HELP YOUNG RACER
On the other side of the coin, there were plenty of teams that did play nice with each other on Saturday. Corey Williams took a head first drive into the frontstretch wall during his heat race and at first glance, it looked like his #47 car might be finished for the night. But that was far from the end of the story.
After his car was towed back to the pit area, several teams walked over to Williams’ pits. Gary Smith came over to talk with the young driver. Mike Rowe’s team offered parts to get the car fixed up and Michael Ruttkamp’s team got right in there to help fix the car.
With that help, Williams not only was able to get ready for the feature, but he was able to go on and finish the 150 lapper in the 10th position.
“The team really worked hard,” said Williams. “That was a good comeback to get the car back together and go out there to finish. It doesn’t matter where we finished, we were just glad to finish the race.”
The help from the other teams really made the difference according to Williams.
The first one was of his own doing, but it didn’t really hurt his run. It actually might have helped him focus a little bit more later in the race.
“I bounced myself off the wall getting too aggressive there early, but it actually didn’t hurt the car,” said Whitten. “That shook me up a little bit and forced me to pay attention.”
“As we got going, the car kept getting tighter and tighter and we finally figured that there must have been a tire going down because it got so bad. It turns out that both right side tires were going down."
That took its toll.
That’s a good reason why it wasn’t turning so well anymore. I wish that it was a 100 lap race because we would have had a better finish.”
“I just can’t say enough about these teams in the pits,” said Williams. “We had more guys throwing parts at us and helping us out. We were borrowing torches and welders, guys were coming over and changing tires for us, they were bending parts for us. It was a big team effort. I think this is what makes the Pro All Star Series what it is. Everybody is just so cooperative and they really like to help each other out. That’s pretty awesome.”
WHILE ONE CLARK WINS, ANOTHER CLARK HAS TROUBLE
Cassius Clark had one of the fastest cars at Riverside and was never far from the lead in the early going. But late in the race, he had to pit his #8 car and drop to the back after a strange tire problem surfaced. Clark went on to finish sixth, but wasn’t partially thrilled about it.
Mulkern looks over his car in practice. (51 Photo)
“Just a bad night at the races I guess,” said Mulkern. “I don’t know, we had flat tires in front of me, then that big mess. I don’t know what was going on with the car after that wreck, it was vibrating and shaking.”
Mulkern did end up in the top 10, but it wasn’t something he was happy about when he climbed out of his car.
“I’m not too happy, I was running fourth with nine laps to go and I don’t know where I finished, but it sure as hell wasn’t fourth.”
Mulkern ended up ninth.
The rim separated from the tire on the inside on the right front,” said Clark. I’ve never had that happen before. “I think that we could have challenged for the win. We had a pretty decent car. We came back up and finished. That’s better than not finishing I guess.”
Clark came into the race second in points and now shares that position with his close, but unrelated friend with the same name - Johnny Clark. But even as he sits just a few markers out of the point lead, Cassius Clark isn’t thinking anything about a possible championship at all.
WHITTEN UP THERE AGAIN
Donnie Whitten is easily one of the names that keeps coming up when talking about who has improved the most in 2005. The Maine schoolteacher finished fourth at Canaan last week and was right up in the top five again at Riverside before running into a few problems.
ROWE NOT DOWN AFTER LATE RACE SLIDE
With 10 laps to go, Ben Rowe was leading. In those final ten circuits, he slid through some oil and lost the lead and then he got turned around on the backstretch during the infamous late restart. Rowe ended up with the third place trophy instead of the winner’s check, but he wasn’t down about that at all.
“I’m pretty happy actually, the boys worked their asses off today in the heat and that’s the best that we’ve run here. We really didn’t have a car to win. We had a second or third place car and that’s where we ended up.
LAPPED CARS A PROBLEM FOR MANY, BUT NOT CLARK
Lapped cars and late race fireworks hurt many driver when it came to getting a top finish, but those two factors actually helped Johnny Clark when it came to being able to win the race.
“Lapped cars were a problem out there for almost everyone,” said Clark. “They weren’t a problem for me, but they were for the leaders. They kept slowing most everyone down. We actually were making up time in traffic.”
Clark also won last year’s race at Riverside and compared the action in the two events.
“Last year was pretty clean, we didn’t have a caution until lap 100 and I think we had even more cars than today,” said Clark. “We started out pretty good this year when it came to staying green, but we sure made up for it the last 50 laps.”
ROWE DOES HAVE LAPPED CAR TROUBLE
Mike Rowe was one of those guys that had big problems with the lapped cars.
“We had a good car,” said Rowe after finishing second. “Lapped traffic was a problem all night.”
Rowe lost a lot of time early on when the #02 of Eric Hudson was in his way. Eventually, Rowe got by and even though he didn’t want to point fingers after the race, he remembered the trouble that he had.
“I tried getting by another guy and had problems,” said Rowe. “I went to the outside and he just about put me into the wall. That was the second time that I was lapping him. I won’t mention any names. There’s no need for that. It’s just the way it goes.”
Rowe was dominating the PASS opener at White Mountain earlier this season when a lapped car turned him around and cost him the lead. That incident was fresh in his mind at Riverside.
“I was leading up there and got dumped by a lapped car, but that’s part of racing. We just need to go on and live with it.”
STAPLES TAKES MOD VICTORY
The PASS Modifieds played a supporting role in the racing card at Riverside. Chris Staples kept ahead of defending champion Mark Lucas to win the Modified feature after starting from the pole. Katie Hagar and Wayne Allard were also contenders in the event, but tangled past halfway. Allard’s #15 went over the left front of Hagars’ car and both received enough damage to retire early from the race.
PASS Director Tom Mayberry (L) discusses the incident with Benjamin (R) after the race. (51 Photo)
There were plenty of cars piling up on the backstretch late in the race. (Norm Marx Photo)