PHOTO: Ben Ashline celebrates his first career American-Canadian Tour victory after dominating the Armed Forces 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

OXFORD, Maine — Anyone that follows the American-Canadian Tour wouldn’t have thought differently about Ben Ashline had he decided to skip a race or two.

The Pittston, Maine racer was involved in one of the biggest late model crashes in recent memory at Thunder Road. The Ashline team worked long hours all week in preparation for the next race at Devil’s Bowl a week later, only to be involved in a single car incident.

Ashline didn’t quit. And for his perseverance, he was rewarded with a dominating effort enroute to his first career American-Canadian Tour victory at his home track, Oxford Plains Speedway, in the Armed Forces 150.

“I came over the radio about halfway through the race and let the crew know that, with the struggles we’ve had so far and the amount of time we’ve spent in the shop, it all pays off when you can look at the leaderboard and see our number up there with some of the best New England Late Model competitors you can get,” Ashline said. “It’s an amazing feeling. It still hasn’t quite hit me.”

Ashline started from the 13th position and quickly made his way into the top five by lap 25. Ashline would restart fourth on a lap 35 restart, which saw Jeff White take the lead from Joey Polewarczyk. White and Polewarczyk would battle over the next ten laps, but as soon as White had Polewarczyk cleared, Ashline powered around both cars to take the lead on lap 47.

After that, it was all the No. 15 of Ashline, who steadily opened his lead after both a lap 65 restart and a lap 101 restart.

“The [car] drove like a Cadillac,” Ashline said. “It felt like I was just cruising down the highway. Distance [Chassis] built a heck of a car. Jeff [Taylor] has helped me out and taught me a lot. The crew worked hard today.”

Ashline made Oxford Plains Speedway his home before joining the American-Canadian Tour last season. The TD Bank 250 polesitter from a year ago had struggled previously at Oxford, but had it all come together for him in front of his home fans.

“This is home,” Ashline said. “We should run a little better at our home track, but coming into it, we just wanted to make the race and finish every lap. We knew if we could do that, we’d be okay. We unloaded it and it was good, real good. But with the fans, this is an incredible feeling. I can’t even describe it.”

Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., of Hudson, N.H., worked his way around 2011 Oxford Late Model champion Jeff White with only a handful of laps remaining to take second. White, of Winthrop, Maine, claimed third.

Brent Dragon, of Milton, Vt., had his best race of the American-Canadian Tour season with a fourth place effort, running in the top five all race long. Austin Theriault, of Fort Kent, Maine, claimed the fifth spot after starting in the third position.

Veteran racer Randy Potter worked his way from the 18th starting position to take the sixth spot, while T.J. Brackett recovered from an early race spin claim seventh. Oxford regular Tommy Ricker, Quinny Welch, and Mark Lamberton completed the unofficial top ten.

Ashline set a blistering pace that saw only seven cars remain on the lead lap.

Wayne Helliwell, Jr., the American-Canadian Tour point leader entering the race, suffered a mechanical failure that led to an overheating issue, sidelining him after just 65 laps. Helliwell was credited with a 30th place finish. Eight-time defending champion Brian Hoar had a strugglesome day and spun out on lap 101. Hoar, however, was able to rebound after an adjustment to finish 13th.

Ashline has endured a rough two races after posting a fifth place finish at the season opening race at Lee USA Speedway. He entered Oxford with one simple goal: to qualify and complete all the laps.

He more than toppled that goal.

“Everybody goes to races with the hopes of winning,” Ashline explained. “They all think they have a chance to win. We came here just wanting to make the race and finish every lap, because we’ve had a rocky season thus far. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t expect to be as good as we were. I thank my lucky stars that the car was this good. It made me look awesome.”

The American-Canadian Tour takes a month break before returning to White Mountain Motorsports Park for a 150-lap event on Saturday, June 23.

American-Canadian Tour — Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Maine
Sunday, May 20, 2012

(# – denotes rookie)

1. (13) Ben Ashline, Pittston, Maine
2. (2) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H.
3. (4) Jeff White, Winthrop, Maine
4. (8) Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt.
5. (3) Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Maine
6. (18) Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H.
7. (5) T.J. Brackett, Buckfield, Maine
8. (21) Tommy Ricker, Poland, Maine
9. (6) Quinny Welch, Lancaster, N.H.
10. (10) Mark Lamberton, Mooers Forks, N.Y.
11. (27) Glen Luce, Turner, Maine
12. (28) Jamie Fisher, Shelburne, Vt.
13. (26) Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.
14. (1) Rowland Robinson, Jr., Birch Harbor, Maine
15. (11) Ricky Rolfe, Albany Township, Maine
16. (7) Bryan Mason, Stark, N.H.
17. (33) Shawn Martin, Turner, Maine
18. (25) Tim Brackett, Buckfield, Maine
19. (23) Dave Farrington, Jr., Jay, Maine
20. (31) Luke Hinkley, Claremont, N.H.
21. (29) Chris Smith, Buxton, Maine
22. (17) # Jimmy Hebert, Williamstown, Vt.
23. (32) Jimmy Linardy, Somerville, Mass.
24. (20) Eric Williams, Hyde Park, Vt.
25. (30) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt.
26. (19) Gary Chiasson, Peru, Maine
27. (9) Jeremy Welch, Lebanon, Maine
28. (16) Travis Stearns, Auburn, Maine
29. (24) Billy Childs, Jr., Leeds, Maine
30. (15) Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Dover, N.H.
31. (14) Ben Rowe, Turner, Maine
32. (12) Ryan Deane, Winterport, Maine
33. (22) Scott Luce, Strong, Maine