Return to North Works Out Well for Mike Rowe by Mike Twist
Father Beats Son By Inches in PASS North Opener at Beech Ridge
Mike Rowe (Black #2) inches ahead of Ben Rowe (#4) at the Beech Ridge finish line. (Jamie Williams Photo)
“I was going for the win, there was no question,” said Ben Rowe. “When I saw that the bottom was open, I went for it. I knew that I had to beat him into turn three and if I could do that, I could probably hold him off in turn four. But he just out-drag raced me to the line.
“It doesn't matter if we are three wide or four wide - I'm going for it. I wouldn't have stuck it in there if I didn't think that I could have come out on the other end.”
“I just had to get my car up to the outside lane where it could get bite. So that's what I did,” said Mike Rowe. “I saved the car until the end and I lucked out.
Before his New England racing season started, Mike Rowe headed South for a few “tune ups”. The Super Late Model pilot was quick during Speedfest 2008 weekend at USA International Speedway (FL) in January, but a blown tire in the final practice session led to a big wreck that sent him home early. At Hickory, he salvaged a top-10 finish in the PASS South opener, but it wasn't the kind of result that the 2006 PASS South champion was looking for.
But now that the snow has melted and racing has resumed in his home state of Maine, all is right in Rowe's world again. After all, he won the season-opening PASS North event at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) on Saturday night and it's good to be home and even better to be back in a familiar victory lane.
“It's always nice to win especially with Benji (Rowe, Mike's son) on the inside,” said Mike Rowe. “It doesn't get any better than this.”
A restart with two laps to go set the stage for the Rowe battle. Mike was leading when the green flag flew and Travis Benjamin, who led multiple times during the day, was to his outside. Ben Rowe lurked in third with newer right side rubber (more on that later).
When racing resumed, Mike Rowe shot to the outside in front of Benjamin. Ben Rowe saw a hole down low and went for it, creating a brief two-and-a-half wide battle for the lead. Benjamin was now stuck in third with the two Rowes fighting it out side-by-side. Ben stayed low and Mike stayed high, with Mike edging ahead by inches at the finish line.
Mike Rowe climbs from his winning racecar (Top - Jamie Williams Photo) and then shares a hig with daughter Tracy and his son Ben - who he beat to the finish line. (Bottom - Leif Tillotson Photo)
“This is a place that I do not like, so I can't wait to go somewhere that I really do like. For some reason, we've just never hit it here. We've had a fast car, but it has faded at the end. It faded a little bit tonight too, but I think that we had something break at the end. All of a sudden, it was wicked free.”
Finishing just off the podium was sophomore runner Adam Bates, who held off a charge by defending Beech Ridge track champion Bub Bilodeau at the line for fourth. At one point, Bates contended for the lead but the race didn't play out to his advance at the finish.
“It was an awesome race,” said Bates. “I think that I had enough for him, but it just didn't work out for me in the end. It was tough, but I could see it and it got away from me. But it won't next time. But, I'm very happy. I had a ball out there.
Ben Rowe marches back to the front after a late pit stop. (Jamie Williams Photo)
“We were a little bit loose all day. They had that sticky stuff [Beech Ridge applied a track sealer before the race weekend to help create a second groove] outside and I had to run out there. Benji, he came up there on the bottom, so I gave it to him. I didn't know if I was going to beat him.”
Once the checkered flag flew, Mike Rowe didn't know if he did beat Ben Rowe either.
“I didn't know if I had him,” said Mike Rowe. “I just kept my foot into it in turn four and got him by just a little bit. I just didn't lift. I thought that I might end up out in the parking lot, but it worked out good. One more lap and Benji would have had it.”
Ben Rowe was a little surer about the outcome.
“I knew that he was right beside me and I knew that it was close, but I could see him ahead just a little bit,” said Ben Rowe.
Ben Rowe had to work pretty hard to get to that spot. He led the race before halfway, but pitted inside of 50 laps to go for new right side tires. PASS rules only allow for a tire change if a tire is flat, cut or otherwise unusable. When Rowe pitted, his right front was down on the rim and the right rear was soft. PASS officials looked over both tires and found only single digits of air pressure left in the rear tire, so a two-tire change was allowed.
“I had started sliding back, trying to save my stuff and I got pinched besides a lapped car,” Rowe said. “That popped both right sides. I knew that the right front was going flat and then we went green for a lap or two and I could tell that the right rear was going down too.”
Rowe now had a long way to go to the front and just a short time to get there. But this time, he got pretty aggressive with his competition and muscled his way through to the front.
“I knew that I did if I didn't get held up for too long,” said Rowe. “I couldn't waste too much time behind too many people.”
Benjamin was forced to stay in third, satisfied that the hard work of his #17 team helped him score a strong finish at a track that had not traditionally been good to him.
“Mike's tough, he doesn't give you any room,” said Benjamin. “We had a great car. Everybody worked so hard. We came down [to practice] on Thursday and we were decent, but we weren't really fast when we put new tires on. I was disappointed with that, but then I knew that maybe we just had a good all-around car.
“The car was running good. For some reason, it was hooked up on the bottom after the last minute changes that we made. I couldn't run down there at all in practice. All of a sudden it came to me though.”
The PASS North Series returns to action on May 3rd at Speedway 95 near Bangor, Maine.