-by Justin St. Louis
VMM Editor

Oh, what an interesting couple of days it’s been. Speed51.com released a story on Thursdayannouncing the reuniting of driver Ben Rowe and team owner Richard Moody on the Pro All Stars Series. The combination was extremely successful, winning multiple PASS championships.

Rowe and the Richard Moody Racing team split after the 2009 season, and Rowe went to drive for veteran owner/driver Scott Mulkern; together Mulkern and Rowe won twice in 2010 and finished second in points, while RMR won races with drivers Brad Leighton and Trevor Sanborn, and also fielded a car for Travis Benjamin.

But Rowe missed his old ride and will return to the Moody operation with crew chief Mark Lyden for 2011. Rowe and Lyden have worked together on the American-Canadian Tour with the Avery Racing team, and Lyden also led Adam Bates to a PASS North win last year.

While we like Mike Twist a lot and think he did a fine job reporting the story on Speed51.com, we’re not entirely sure he was given the whole story to report.

The deal wasn’t nearly as rosy as it sounds.

First, the back story: Due to a lack of funding in 2009, RMR scaled back its operation midway through the season and Rowe was out of a ride for the PASS South and National races, though he remained in the Moody car for the North schedule. Once the season was over, though, Rowe was unable to bring a sponsor to the team and RMR was forced to release him.

Seizing the opportunity to scoop up free agent Rowe, Mulkern stepped out of his own cars and essentially rebuilt his team to Rowe’s specifications. At Rowe’s request, Mulkern hired several paid crew members including crew chief Seth Hobrook, and spent a substantial amount of money adding new chassis and engine combinations to his already sprawling fleet.

Leighton drove Moody’s car three times when he brought sponsorship from Subway, winning the PASS National Championship season opener at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway in January. Sanborn began the season in his own car but was offered the primary RMR car when Leighton’s schedule was over. Working with crew chief Brian Burgess and tire man Buster Bean, fan favorite underdog Sanborn earned a win at Riverside Speedway and finished fourth in PASS North points. Benjamin finished tenth in North points while renting RMR’s second car.

Fast forward to present-day: Everything began to unravel toward the end of the season. According to a source close to the situation, Rowe began asking Mulkern to replace Holbrook — who has been a close friend to Rowe since childhood and led Rowe, Johnny Clark, Joey Laquerre, Kyle Busch, and others to victories — with Lyden.

Mulkern’s position — and rightly so — was that he had spent the money and time to build a team around Holbrook at Rowe’s request, so why would he jump ship and bail on Holbrook now?

Mulkern’s team was not planning on racing at the PASS South finale at Newport (Tenn.) Speedway in October, but Rowe convinced Mulkern to let him bring a car to the race to “work on things for next year.” Since the race was not originally on the schedule, Holbrook had previously made other plans for the weekend and told Mulkern he would be unavailable.

After Rowe finished third in Tennessee, he informed Mulkern that he not only brought Lyden with him and didn’t tell anyone, but the pair was headed back to Moody’s team for next year.

Upon their arrival to RMR, Burgess reportedly told team owner Moody that he wasn’t interested in sharing crew chief responsibilities with Lyden — or anyone else, which had apparently been previously discussed — so Moody showed Burgess the door. Bean left with him.

Now, because Rowe is back in the picture, poor Trevor Sanborn — fresh off the best season of his career — has also been told that his services are no longer needed behind the wheel at RMR. (There’s no official word on Benjamin’s status for next year, although it is believed he will continue to rent RMR’s second car.)

So to summarize, the shunned Mulkern and Holbrook now have a team with no driver, Sanborn is a driver with no team, Burgess and Bean are out on their cans, and Rowe, Moody, and Lyden have reaped all the benefits.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the whole situation, though, is the picture Rowe has painted for himself. Rowe has been one of the northeast’s most beloved drivers in any discipline of racing for the last 15 years, and has been — at least in our dealings with him for the last six years — nothing but a gentleman with a great sense of humor and a willingness to help anyone. But quite simply, this whole situation smacks of lies and backstabbing.

It’s a black eye for one of the best stock car racers in North America in Ben Rowe, it’s a black eye for one of the most visible Super Late Model teams in the country in Richard Moody Racing, and it’s an embarrassment for the fans that have supported both. Not only that, it’s a slap in the face to Scott Mulkern, Seth Holbrook, Trevor Sanborn, Brian Burgess, Buster Bean, and anyone else affected by the dirtiest short track chess game we’ve seen in a while.

We’ve been told that as many as a dozen drivers have already appealed to Mulkern to get in his cars for 2011, including the very talented Cassius Clark. We’ve also heard that Mulkern is considering returning to the seat himself.

In our opinion it would be a shame if Sanborn wasn’t considered for the job, if for no other reason than a little short track justice.

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AROUND THE REGION:

Time to take a look at the Vermont racing scene from the past week…

Lee USA Speedway (Lee, N.H.): Bobby Prior of White River Junction won Saturday’s Outlaw Mini Stock make-up feature at Oktoberfest with Rob Gioia of White River Junction fourth.

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THIS WEEK:

Saturday, Nov. 6
Devil’s Bowl Speedway, West Haven, Vt. — 1:00pm (“6/60” Enduro)

TOURING SERIES:

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Fri., Nov. 5 — Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Tex. (SPEED/8:30pm)
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Sat., Nov. 6 — Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Tex. (ESPN2/12:00pm)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sun., Nov. 7 — Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Tex. (ESPN/3:00pm)