(Aug. 29, 2017) The Americans have won the last three McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250’s at Speedway 660. They’ll be back for SpeedWeekend with plans to take the big bucks south of the border for the fourth straight year. One American, who hasn’t won our race, would love to make it happen this weekend. Ben Rowe, a four-time Pro All Star Series champ and two-time Oxford 250 winner, wants to win this race badly.
A Conversation with Ben Rowe
Wade: What is it about Speedway 660 and SpeedWeekend that gets you excited?
Ben: I love this place, I mean it goes back to the first time I came here with this whole Hal O’Neal and Mike Murphy bunch. First time rollin in for SpeedWeekend and just seeing the campers parked all the way out to the road kinda blew my mind and then it took 15 minutes to drive down through the campground because there were so many of them. The racing is great, the track owners and staff put on a professional show and the whole weekend is first rate.Ben Rowe loves coming to Speedway 660 for SpeedWeekend. He’s been to victory lane in the Best of the Best 150, but the race he really wants to win is the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250.
Wade: You mentioned the fans. Our fans make it possible for us to put on SpeedWeekend every year and we really focus on bringing them the best racing possible.
Ben: People here just like to have a good time partying and camping for the whole weekend. They pack this place and are treated to one of the best weekends of racing anywhere. From the infield concert and corn-boil on Friday night to the big Sportsman race Saturday night and the Pro Stock race on Sunday, it’s a special event. It’s pretty neat for us drivers to come up here and interact with the fans and have a good time.
I’m always amazed at the fan count at Speedway 660, everybody’s loyal to the track and passionate toward their favourite drivers and they pack the place. It’s a cool deal. They either like you or they dislike you, but either way they cheer. It’s a great time, it’s an off-weekend for the PASS tour and I just love coming up here. We have a lot of fun, but we want to win, that’s why I’m here. Ben Rowe knows the stands will be full and the competition will be stiff when he comes to Speedway 660. SpeedWeekend is always a highlight of Ben’s racing season and he can’t wait to come back to the Geary Woods.
Wade: You’ve raced all over the eastern United States against some pretty stiff competition. How does racing up here stack up against what you are used to down south?
Ben: I was really surprised the first time I came up here with the calibre of racing. We came here for the Pro All Star Series races a few times, but never had been to SpeedWeekend until Hal asked me to drive his car. I was surprised at how competitive the racing was up here and over the years the racing has gotten even better. Those guys who run the weekly RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock Division are pretty tough and the Maritime Pro Stock Tour guys are really good too. Throw in a few Americans and you’ve got a good race.Ben and his Dad Mike (center) have been on the PASS podium together many times. The Father & son racing combo has over 60 Pro All Star Series wins between them! Travis Benjamin, the other guy in the photo, won the 2014 McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250.
Wade: You don’t bring the PASS car here, you drive for “Hurricane” Hal O’Neil. How did that whole partnership start?
Ben: My relationship with Hal started way back when PASS went to Spud Speedway, up in Caribou, Maine. Mike approached me and said they had a car and a bunch of guys and they wanted to race once or twice a year and would I consider driving for them. I said yeah, I’m all for racing, I love racing it’s in my blood. We kinda got hooked up and when I crossed the border that first time I didn’t even know anything about the car or the race team. We ended coming here and having a decent run and it’s just grown from there and now we’ve become best of friends. “Hurricane” Hal O’Neal was a competitive Pro Stock driver before a racing injury forced him out of the seat. But Hal continues to love racing and every year his friend, Ben Rowe, comes up from Maine to run the Best of the Best and the 250.
Wade: So you just hit it off like that and continued on?
Ben: That’s it, but we’ve got more than racing in common. What Hal has on this side of the border, construction business and heavy equipment, I have the same thing in the States. So we have a lot in common and it’s pretty neat that we got together. Hal still had the car, after his racing accident, and he supports us a 110 percent and gives us whatever we need. CANEX Mall, Griffins Pub and East Coast Wheels have been supporting us every year too.
It’s a bunch of buddies hanging around the campfire having a good time. They’ve been friends since back when they were in high school. They raced as a team and Hal was their driver and when he got hurt, Mike asked me to run the Best of the Best 150 and the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250 every year and that’s what we do. Ben has been on the SpeedWeekend podium a few times, including 2013 when he finished third, behind three-time winner Shawn Tucker and Kirk Thibeau.
Wade: Everybody wants to win the 250, but it’s not an easy race to win.
Ben: This team really wants to win the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250 on SpeedWeekend. Hal never won it, these boys have never won it and I’ve never won it, so our goal is to win this race. Winning it would mean as much to me as anything I’ve ever done in my career. We’ve been close several times. We had driver error one year and should have won it. I got into the back of someone and got penalised, I really think we should have won that race. We had a couple of mechanical failures. Travis Benjamin beat us by two or three feet once, so there have been a lot of things that have kept us out of Victory Lane. All in all we have a good time with these guys and nobody gets down, nobody gets upset – they are just a positive bunch. But we do want to win.Ben came this close to winning the 2014 McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250. Rowe and the entire “Hurricane” Hal O’Neal race team figures this just might be the year they finally win the big one!
Wade: SpeedWeekend and the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250 have really grown and become one of the biggest events on the racing calendar.
Ben: It’s basically an open race and you’ve got the best PASS cars and the best Maritime tour cars and this great group of Speedway 660’s weekly divisional pro stock drivers. It’s the best drivers from the northern New England States and eastern Canada. It brings everybody here – it’s a big race and we all have got to thank Andy Fox from McLaughlin Roof Trusses for putting it on and everybody at 660 too. SpeedWeekend has become a tradition now and it’s a good fun weekend. During the winter when I’m planning my racing schedule, I circle this one on my calendar and look forward to it every year.Ben was on the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250 podium again last year, finishing third behind Joey Doiron and Cassius Clark. Rowe hopes to be standing in the center of the photo this year!
Wade: How did you get into racing?
Ben: I grew up around race tracks watching my Dad race for years. I remember going to the track when I was little, sitting in the stands and watching. As soon as I was old enough to race, Dad let me drive. I was in a car at 14 and now I’m 42, so I’ve been racing for awhile. Now it’s pretty funny that I bring my boys here and it’s their turn to sit in the stands and watch their Dad race. Generation after generation this is a true family sport. Everybody can bring their family to the race track because it’s good clean family entertainment. We kinda knock heads once in awhile but we’re all here to put on a show for these awesome fans.Ben Rowe finished second to Cassius Clark in the 2017 Clark Chevrolet Best of the Best 150. Ben’s boys enjoy coming to Speedway 660 almost as much as their Father does!
Wade: Thanks for doing this Ben and good luck this weekend.
Ben: Thank-you Wade. I can’t wait to get to Speedway 660 for SpeedWeekend. We had a good run in the Clark’s Chevrolet Best of the Best 150 and I know the boys have been working hard to make the car even better for this weekend. I’m really excited about getting to the track, hanging out with my Canadian buddies, meeting the fans and getting into the car for the McLaughlin Roof Trusses 250. We’ve been close in the past and hopefully this is the year we get to go to Victory Lane. We’ll see you all on the weekend!