(Oxford ME) “Bubba is just good,” said second-place finisher Joey Polewarczyk after the race. “He’s the best in the country at super late models.”
Bubba Pollard came to Oxford Plains for the first time on Friday and walked away on Sunday night with the title in the 45th annual Oxford 250.
Bubba, from Senoia, Georgia had won at least sixty SLM races coming in. Sunday night he took the lead for good with 31 laps left.
“This was one of the toughest races, I’ve ever run,” he said post-race. “I didn’t realize how big this race was until the day of the race. The crowd was amazing.”
The weather was terrific. There was sun, but the clouds kept the temperatures lower than they could have been. There was also a breeze.
OPS 250 is the only race of its kind at the Oxford Plains Track. All the crews are set up in the infield so there are no wild dashes behind the grandstand to pit row and back when repairs are needed.
The length of the race necessitates pitting and that is where the outcome is often determined. Cautions are the best time to get in and get out, but who knows when a caution will happen? There were ten in this race.
Reid Lanpher (Manchester ME) finished second last year and third this year. It was a pit stop that cost him dearly this year.
“I really messed up,” he told me. “I stalled it in the backstretch before we came into the pit. I sat there for a moment. We came into the pits last as a result after being 2nd or 3rd on the track. That really threw us back.”
After that? “Once we got that second set of tires on we were really good. Coming from where we were (last) to where we ended up (third) was fun, that’s for sure.”
The pit stops for 2nd place finisher Joey Polewarczyk gave him a chance to win the race.
“We started 21st and took a gamble getting four tires early,” he recalled. “Our goal in doing that was to get track position. I didn’t think we’d grab the lead and run away with it like we did.” Joey was one of five leaders during the race.
“Then we had that yellow with like 50 laps to go and since we had two new right’s in the pits I said that we had to at least take those two. We did and it worked out.”
Joey chased Bubba Pollard over the final 30 laps for the lead. “I felt like I was catching him a little at the end and if I had a little bit more….”
But not on this evening and the first driver in six years not from Maine and New Hampshire took the top prize.
I enjoyed the race. I started in the pit area and was very uncomfortable there. If you recall, last year Rowley’s Eddie MacDonald backed into me during one of the heats. There are so many cars coming and going. Some are setting up for the next race while others are coming in for quick repairs. A guy said to me, “It’s a wonder no one gets killed here!” That “encouraged” me to get around to the pressbox side of the stadium.
The beauty of the pressbox is that there are seats. No chairs in the pit area although someone gave me one after I was hit last year! There also is less race-car noise.
I saw the Last Chance race from up there. Curtis Gerry, last year’s winner, couldn’t even race in the heats because of mechanical problems. Earlier I had seen all the frantic work going on with his car. Curtis was in Last Chance race and won it. He would later get into a wreck in the latter part of the main event. Pre-race he was the top favorite.
I was also a year wiser getting pictures. The lights at OPS are minimal. No need to dream of an action shot as darkness sets in.
I also have had trouble getting onto the track afterwards to get early celebration shots in the past. This time I got down the 50+ steps from the pressbox with twenty laps left so I was in position to get onto the track faster. You still have pitiful light to work with even if you get there but at least I was in position to get shots that I could photoshop later.
Something I need to do next year: I must get numbers to go with cars. My plan was to shoot drivers pre-race and then use those pictures later. Couldn’t really do that since I didn’t know numbers. It doesn’t help that some cars have the SAME number. Both Travis Benjamin and Curtis Perry (former winners) drive #7. You also must know the color! If I looked up the drivers online I’m sure I could have had some of the information I wanted.
Thanks to the OPS folks for enabling my visit to happen. I enjoyed it.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)