Sometimes it takes a driver with plenty of touring experience to win a race on a regional tour like the PASS North Super Late Model Series. Sometimes it takes the familiarity with a certain track that a weekly series competitor has to win at that level.
So when a driver such as Mike Rowe enters a race like the season-opening PASS North event held at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) on Saturday with both attributes, he can be pretty much unbeatable - and that is exactly what Rowe was during the 150-lap feature.
Rowe has won over a dozen PASS races and was the first ever PASS South champion. He is also coming off a 2009 season that saw him dominate the weekly Pro Series (Super Late Model) division at Beech Ridge on the way to that track title. For good measure, he also won the fall PASS 300 at Beech Ridge.
And on Saturday, despite having to run a consi event to just get into the field and subsequently starting in the rear of the feature lineup, Rowe was untouchable. He worked through the pack and took the lead from Trevor Sanborn with 30 laps to go in the race. Once in the lead, he never gave it up and won the race.
Even though his latest victory only adds to the legend of a man who is one of the best racers from Maine who ever strapped into a racecar, Rowe was quick to downplay his own role in the victory.
“We've just good a good crew and a good car,” said Rowe simply while standing in victory lane. “They make me look like the hero, but I'm not.”
The crew that took Rowe to victory lane at Beech Ridge was actually a hodgepodge of teams. Rowe's former PASS North car owner, Massachusetts' Paul Watts, brought his black #2 Super Late Model out for Rowe to run. Meanwhile, the Dick Fowler-owned #24 team that Rowe won the Beech Ridge championship for last season saved their own car for upcoming weekly series season opener at the track, but prepped the #2 Watts car in their own shop on the other side of town for the race.
When an open practice session was held on Friday, the team didn't think that they had a car capable of winning. So they worked to change that.
“I'll tell you, Dickie Fowler, Mikey Fowler and all of the boys just do an awesome job,” said Rowe. “They worked on the car all week. Yesterday we practiced it and it was a little off. I needed to leave early to go to Gary Bellefleur's [memorial services] and they took it back to the shop. They worked until Midnight and got it back together.”
On Saturday, Rowe was involved in a heat race skirmish that requires him to run the consi and start near the rear of the field for the 150-lap feature.
“I wasn't too happy because in the heat race, they were running like idiots,” said Rowe. “They weren't using their heads at all. I knew [for the feature] that if I could stay out of the accidents, I had a good car. I didn't know if I could run the #29 [of Trevor Sanborn] down or not though.
“We kept coming on and coming on. I knew that we had to save our tires, so I followed Trevor for awhile. I saved it until 25 or 30 laps to go.”
Sanborn, who will also race weekly at Beech Ridge this season, led 99 laps in the race until a bleeder valve stuck in one of his tires. He eventually finished fifth, but Rowe knew he would have been tough to beat.
“Trevor was strong,” said Rowe. “We'll be running with him weekly and if I was a betting man, I would have bet on him to go all the way today. I don't know if he used his stuff up or what. I was just lucky to get by him I guess.”
Mike wasn't the only Rowe who thought Sanborn was going to be a threat.
“I thought Trevor was going to be a lot better than what he was,” said Ben Rowe. “He faded at the end, but it was a lot of fun to race with him before that. It's a lot of fun to race with guys who will give you room.”
While Sanborn faded late in the race, Adam Bates, who ended up finishing second, was flying.
“We were coming at the end,” said Bates. “I raced my own race until about 20 laps to go, maybe a little bit before then. I knew that when I got to fourth place and they broke away. I let them do their own thing because I knew they would come back. I thought Mike would wear his stuff out too, but he didn't. I should have known better.
“I honestly don't know how he gets that thing around in a circle so unbelievably. I just don't know how he does it.”
The guy who finished right behind Bates in third spot, Ben Rowe, knows exactly how Mike Rowe does it. Then again, Ben also has the wisdom of growing up as Mike Rowe's son.
“That isn't anything new here,” said Ben Rowe. “If I can see him at the end, I'm doing good. I've said it before. If you let him race a track all year every week, there isn't anyone here who is going to beat him. They might beat him for a week here and there, but that's it. You're just not going to do it. He just knows so much.”
But while other drivers were willing to go on and on about how good Mike Rowe is at Beech Ridge, the winner himself downplayed all of that talk - focusing on his crew, his car and luck as the factors for his victory.
After a few minutes in victory lane though, Mike Rowe finally gave a simple and very telling answer on why he is just so good at Beech Ridge.
“I just love this place,” he said.
With the record that he has built up there, what's not to love?