PASS: Wayne Helliwell Jr. Pits Late, Charges Through To Capture 43rd Annual Oxford 250

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Wayne Helliwell Jr. celebrated a long-awaited first victory in the HP Hood Oxford 250 on Sunday. (PASS photo)

Wayne Helliwell Jr. celebrated a long-awaited first victory in the HP Hood Oxford 250 on Sunday. (PASS photo)

OXFORD, Maine. — After years of trying and some frustration along the way, Wayne Helliwell Jr. finally captured the big check and the big trophy in Sunday’s 43rd Annual HP Hood Oxford 250.

Helliwell’s first career 250 triumph came just one year after he dominated the prestigious event but came up short in the end to shock winner Glen Luce.

This time, Helliwell only led 45 laps, but it was enough to capture a total prize of $29,500 and the biggest win of his career to date.

“The car was really, really good for most of the weekend,” Helliwell told Race Chaser Online. “The set of tires that were good for qualifying did not really end up wanting to work that well for the first part of the race. We were luckily able to dip into pit road and get some right side tires there early on and get back through the field and lead some laps.”

The winning move came when Helliwell’s team elected to draw him down pit road on a lap 159 caution — giving up the lead at the time.

From there, Helliwell had to charge through the field, passing some of the top super late model talent in the country en route back to the front. He passed many cars three-wide on both the bottom and the top along the way.

Some questioned the move to pit on lap 159. Many teams had already pitted for the final time and had the tires and the fuel they wanted to finish the race with.

But not Helliwell’s team.

They made a little bit different strategy call compared to others and it worked out in his favor.

“We had some radio problems, but I heard the crew chief say that he wanted to pit there on lap 159 and we came down and took the final set,” Helliwell said. “From there, it was just all about the drive up through the field.”

Once Helliwell drove his No. 27 back to the front of the field, a restart with 24 laps to go proved to be the one that allowed him to pounce.

He worked the inside of race-leader and two-time 250 champion Travis Benjamin for just about the rest of the race, trying everything to slide by and get the advantage. The two drivers gave absolutely everything they had — leaving it all on the line trying to win the most prestigious event in New England.

In the end, the slower car of Garrett Evans sealed the deal for Helliwell. Benjamin’s lane of choice was the outside, where Evans was running, and the Washington state native ultimately held Benjamin up — allowing Helliwell to slip past with seven laps to go and never look back.

“We never even touched,” Helliwell said. “I congratulated Travis in victory lane; he is a class act. It’s great when you can race so hard with someone like that for this kind of purse and never take each other out.”

Benjamin ended up crossing the line second at the end of the 250 lap distance, but was visibly disappointed that traffic cost him a shot at winning the event after leading 159 of the 250 laps.

“The car (just) faded a little bit there towards the end,” Benjamin said to multiple New England media outlets following the race. “Wayne’s strategy won; those 40-lap fresher tires made the difference, but we gave it a good effort.”

DJ Shaw finished third on Sunday. After contending for much of the early part of the race, he took a different strategy — much like Helliwell did — and had to drive his way through the field.

At the end, Shaw just couldn’t get all the way back to the front.

“I think if we had a caution after we got to third, we might have had something for them,” Shaw said. “Wayne passed me three-wide after the pit stop and he earned every spot he got. The first half of the race we were pretty good, but myself and Joey (Doiron) seemed like we got in every wrong lane. We were 12th for a lot of the race, so to be able to come back to third and see the leaders, I am pretty happy.”

Two-time 250 winner Ben Rowe and Joey Pole completed the top five.

Cassius Clark, Garrett Hall, Johnny Clark, Ben Lynch and defending race winner Glen Luce were the balance of the top-10.

Full Results

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