ROWES GIVES 1-2 PUNCH TO PASS COMPETITION THIS YEAR by MikeTwist
Ben Wins the Title, Mike Wins the Big Races
Ben Rowe and his father Mike sure pulled a heist job on their competition in New England Pro Stock (Super Late Model) racing this season.
Ben was one win shy of his father, but he did him one better in the points. Ben won four times with double victories at New Hampshire’s Canaan Fair Speedway and White Mountain Motorsports Park. That was more than sufficient for the 2005 PASS championship.
Neither driver took the easy way to get there though.
“We had this as our goal at the beginning of the year and it’s been a long year,” said Ben Rowe.
Ben started out the first race of the season with the flu. He won at the PASS opener at White Mountain but the bigger accomplishment was just finishing the 150-lap race. Upon exiting the car, he was a little green around the gills.
In the next two races, he accumulated a third at Thompson Speedway (CT) and his first of two Canaan wins. But then the wheels started to come off his wagon, at least by Ben Rowe standards.
The 2002 and 2003 PASS champion isn’t used to struggling. For nearly two months, that’s what he was doing. Attrition helped him notch back-to-back third-place finishes at Riverside Speedway (NH) and Oxford in early June, but the rest of Rowe’s early summer wasn’t very much fun. The #00 team could not quite get the handle on their new racecar.
At this point, did Ben think that a championship was in the cards?
Tracy Rowe cheers on her brother Ben as he does his post-race burnout at Star. She's had the chance to cheer her father on this season plenty of times as well. (51 Photo)
“Not at all,” said Ben. “We started off with a 10th-place car. It was a brand new car, but we had a lot of bugs to work through. My father has the same exact chassis and he’s won races and poles, so we knew that the car would work. It was just a matter of me finding what we needed to do.”
Things got so bad that Ben and his team even borrowed their old racecar back from its new owner, Oxford regular Chris Kennison, to tow to White Mountain in July. They won.
After a more lesions learned with their new car, they started to become a force with the new car as well.
Ben Rowe (L) gets congratulated after the PASS finale at Star by last year's champion Johnny Clark. (Norm Marx Photo)
“We lost the point lead and it was down to two points between him [Mike Rowe] and I,” said Ben. “We were backed into a corner and that’s when we seem to come out fighting. We went to Canaan and won the pole and the race. From that point on, we kept getting better and better.”
After his second win at White Mountain, Ben Rowe didn’t finish out of the top 10 in any PASS races. He only finished two of them outside of the top five and that includes the Star season finale where he spun out of second place with less than 10 laps left on the board.
While Ben started out the season struggling with speed, but managing to still rack up consistent finishes, Mike Rowe had the opposite problem.
Father Mike led the way when it came to race victories. He won the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) and five IBG-PASS races, including the tour’s biggest races on both sides of the American/Canadian border. The elder Rowe won the Pullen Heavy Industries 300 at Beech Ridge and the Atlantic Cat 250 at Scotia Speedworld. He also scored other victories at Unity Raceway (ME), Speedway 95 (ME) and a second race at Scotia. This Rowe finished second in the point standings.
Ben Rowe (#00) raced side-by-side quite a bit this season with his father Mike in the #24. (Norm Marx Photo)
Mike probably had the fastest car of anyone at the beginning of the season [actually, all through the season], but encountered a variety of problems. At White Mountain, he tangled with a lapped car while leading. At Thompson, he wrecked two cars for reasons out of his control over the course of the weekend, at Oxford, he had electrical problems and at Riverside he got into a controversial incident with a lapped car and then leader Travis Benjamin, which cost him a chance at the victory. In the Unity 250, he lost another shot at the win as he went from the lead to spinning with Johnny Clark on the final lap due to some hard racing.
In the middle of all those things, Mike Rowe won at Scotia in late June. That helped turn the tide. From then through September Mike Rowe won every other race on the schedule. Still, the early season bad luck came back to bite him. When the season ended, Mike Rowe was 20 points behind his son in the title fight.
“We’re happy with what we’ve got,” said Mike Rowe. “We have no complaints. We won a few more races, but he had some better finishes than we did. I’m glad for him.”
All told, the Rowes teamed up to win exactly half of the 18 PASS point races this season – and they had fun doing it.
Ben won twice at Canaan this year. (Norm Marx Photo)
“I love it,” said Ben. “It’s great racing him. We kind of watch out for each other. I let him in sometimes and he lets me in.
“We race wheel-to-wheel,” said Mike. “We don’t take each other out, but we race hard.”
There’s no shortage of mutual respect either.
“He’s got a great car, great car owners and great equipment,” said Ben of his father. “He’s tough. He’s the best driver in the Northeast and if you give him a good car, he’s going to win races. He will be the man until he retires. He still gets stuff done and will always be up there in my book. I take a backseat to him. If I run second to him, I’m not mad. I still had a good day.”
“Benji was good right from the get-go,” recalls Mike. “Straight from the mini-stocks. We knew that he would be good.”
Father and son also work side-by-side hauling and excavating during the week at Rowe and Sons Trucking. That makes for some good and bad days after the race dust ahs settled.
“If he wins, it’s a good day,” said Ben. “That makes for an easy week at work. If we get into each other, it’s not so easy. I usually end up getting fired. I’ve been fired a time or two, but it works out. I’m on salary, so he’s got to get some work out of me.”
Racing does come up more than occasionally at the workplace.
“We joke around,” said Ben. “We go out [to lunch] and sit around and talk.”
Sometimes they talk about what makes them go fast, but as competitors they don’t give away too much information.
“He helps me out since we have the same chassis, but he won’t give me too much,” said Ben. “He’ll get me close and let me figure the rest of it out myself.”
Mike must have given Ben just enough information this season to get beat by his son. But when it was all said and done, both Rowes won. Just like when he watched Ben beat him to win the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford in 2003 and 2004, Mike had plenty of quiet fatherly pride while watching Ben be crowned the 2005 PASS champion.
“If we couldn’t do it, I’m glad that he did,” said Mike. “It’s awesome. That team works hard just like us and we just came up a little short.”
You also get the impression in talking to Mike Rowe that fatherly pride only goes so far and that he fully intends not to come up a little short next season.