Ben Rowe Is Living a Racers Dream by Mike Twist
Northerner Races Everything, Everywhere...and Does Pretty Well at It Too
Imagine this situation. You’re one of the best short track racers in the county, with a record of victories and championships throughout your home region. You have a legendary father, who still kicks your tail on the racetrack regularly, to draw experience from. You have a car owner, crew and family that all support and encourage your goals to race as much as possible. You have three completely different types of racecars at your disposal and can pick and choose what events you want to run.
Rowe (R) and fellow New England racer Louie Mechalides (L) at last year's Mason-Dixon Meltdown (51 Photo)
“I don’t care,” said Rowe. “It doesn’t matter what I race. I love racing Super Late Models. There’s nothing like it with the power and the speed. But can have just as much fun running an ACT car. To me, I really don’t care. If we are at a decent facility, I don’t care what I’m in. If it wasn’t freezing out, I’d be out on the ice racing Enduro cars. I love racing.”
Another thing that Rowe doesn’t care about is moving up the racing ladder. He’s not concerned about grabbing the brass ring of a Busch or Truck deal. Rowe has learned that it is possible today to carve out a nice little niche winning on short tracks.
“There’s lot of recognition that you can get by winning a lot of races. Last year, I won three or four ACT races and three PASS races. There are younger guys, like Trevor Sanborn, who want to use that to move up while they are still young. I’m in a different place than that. For me, what I want to do is race. I bring my family – my wife and two boys to every track no matter where it is. They’re with me. I personally, would never go South. I like going down there and running with those guys, but I like coming back home afterwards.”
Boston and know the differences, I look back now at what he did and it amazes me twice as much now. It’s hard to jump from one to the other. It takes you 15 laps just to get used to it.”
At a time when many observers are taking sides in a New England racing civil war, where fans and competitors of Super Late Model and Late Model lob verbal bombs at each other and their preferred type of racing, Rowe is just trying to stay out of the politics and race as much as possible.
Rowe (#4) holds off his father Mike (#24) at Beech Ridge. The two often race hard against each other, but it isn't always Ben who keeps out front. (Jamie Williams Photo)
“Maybe we’ll run the first eight or 10 PASS or ACT shows and see where we are in points. We have options. We aren’t stranded with one series. If we start out slow in one, we might run the other…or we’ll go to the track that I like or Rick likes.”
It’s not just about cherry-picking the good races though. Rowe wants to be challenged as well – and his counts mastering the Modified and learning how to get around Vermont’s Thunder Road Speedbowl as his biggest goals.
“We’ll run the Modified some,” said Rowe. “We’ll get better with that as we keep trying it. We’ll take the ACT car to Thunder Road and try that. I’ve never struggled so bad at any track as I have there. So we’ll keep running up there until we get better.”
Rowe first raced the Modified last fall in the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston Speedway. He jumped from his SLM ride to the Mod throughout practice and ran back-to-back features with it. That wasn’t quite as easy as he planned.
“I remember going to Beech Ridge and watching my father win in a Modified, get out and jump into his Pro Stock. He’d win that race too. For me to drive both cars at South
Getting national exposure for his winning ways is nice though. It helps to make racing buddies across the country.
“People hear your name and know what you do now. When you go to the PRI show, you see all these guys that you read about on Speed51 and they know you too. You can put faces with all of the stories that you read, you can sit down with [Travis] Kittleson and a bunch of those guys. They are just we how we are in the North. We just want to have a good time and put on a good show.”
Winning so many races gets Ben Rowe plenty of attention in his home state of Maine - and nationwide as well. (51 Photo)
At one point in his career, Rowe was not nearly as content. He was on the road up the racing ladder nearly a decade ago and he lacked the resources to move up. Instead, he learned from the experience and applied it.
“In 1998, I drove for David Smith [in what was then the NASCAR Busch North Series] and I jumped in to a series that was way over my head at the time,” said Rowe. “We didn’t have the funding, but I learned more that year by racing with people who were so much better than me, than I have in any other year. I tell young guys now if they want to get better, they need to race against guys who are better than they are. I raced with Stan Meserve, I raced with Ralph Nason and I raced with my father…and I was scared to death. Then a few years went by and I started beating those guys. It was fun.”
Even now, Rowe is still learning from racers around him.
“There’s always someone out there better than you. Now, we go South and I don’t care if it is Jason Hogan or Travis Kittleson, they might be better than you on any given day.
I never take anything for granted. You can always learn. At Beech Ridge last year, I followed Jeff Taylor around for the first 30 laps and I learned something that helped us to win the race. I’m never pushing anyone away. If they want to tell a story that could help me out, I’m willing to listen.”
And then there is Rowe’s style. He fits right into the rough and tumbleworld of New
England short tracking, where dirty deeds aren’t tolerated, but rubbing is certainly
racing. It’s a fine line, but one he has learned well.
“I’m pretty laid back until I get riled up. I don’t intentionally knock anyone out of the
way. If they give some room, I’ll give it to them back. You can be aggressive without
wrecking people. Everyone up here knows that if you move somebody, you’re going
to get it back.
“I learned that from my Dad and Ralph [Nason]. They would just wreck each other
and still keep going. They were always still on the racetrack. That happened with
me and Cassius [Clark] two or three times this year. We’d wreck, but everyone kept
going. Nobody got off the track and nobody got mad about it. We would just race hard
and slam into each other. We love doing that. We’d get out after the race and have
one hell of a time talking about it. The fans love it too. As long as we don’t go
overboard and tear up equipment, that’s good. A couple guys get wound up and lose
their tempers about it, but we know who they are, so you have your limits with different people.”
Fendered or Modified? Ben Rowe will race anything, and is with a team that is willing to race everything, everywhere. (Jamie Williams Photos)
Sound like a dream? To most of us, it is. But to Ben Rowe, it’s his reality.
2007 will mark Rowe’s second season driving for car owner Richard Moody. Just about a year ago, Rowe found himself without a ride after the team which he won three PASS North titles for shut down. Moody couldn’t pass up a chance to grab Rowe for what was a start-up second team in PASS North. The team thrashed to get ready for 2006 and in the early part of the season, they were fast, but lacked any type of good luck. By the end of the year, they changed that – sweeping the final three PASS North races of the year.
That’s led to bigger and better things. The team has added an ACT Late Model and Tour type Modified to their arsenal. They were so anxious to race that they went on the road this winter – racing at South Boston, Virginia and Lakeland, Florida and gearing up for the Rattler at South Alabama Speedway this weekend. All in all, Rowe plans to race all three types of cars as much as possible in 2007.
“It’s going to be busy, but I’m all for it. I love racing,” said Rowe. “I don’t care if it’s an ACT car, a PASS car, a Tour Modified, a Sport Truck or a Strictly Stock. Racing is racing. If everyone is at a track with the same car, let’s go racing.
“I got together with Rick Moody last year and he has stepped up to the plate. We just moved into a brand new shop because the one that we were in, we outgrew already. It’s just great to have the backing that we do.”
Rowe isn’t planning to race for points on any one tour this year. He’s going after checkered flags and enjoyment.
“I’m up for challenges. I really don’t care about championships anymore. These guys are putting up big money to get car counts, so we’ll go to those races.
“Rick and I got a bunch of the schedules and pulled them out over dinner one night. We picked out some of our good tracks and decided not to go to some of our worst tracks. We looked at the money races and where we would have fun. That’s what we want to do. You win more races when you’re having fun. Everyone is having a good time and it doesn’t matter where we race, what we race or if it’s Friday, Saturday or Sunday. We’ll just load the tractor trailer and go.
Rowe gets sideways with Cassius Clark (#8) and Johnny Clark (#54) right behind him. Tehse guys race hard, but clean every week. (51 Photo)