(Oxford ME) Two years ago Chad Wills won his first Bandits race.
The occasion was the race-loaded weekend of the famous Oxford 250.
Tonight, before a large crowd, Chad did it again.
Beating Dustin Salley on this cool evening, however, was not easily done.
Both Chad and Dustin won their heats with little trouble. However, the way the features in the Bandits division are set up, winning a heat does not get you to the front in the feature. Instead, the non-winners are put to the front. So Chad and Dustin had to get past drivers in a second race to get to the front.
“We had few cars tonight,” said Chad afterwards, “so it put us more toward the front in the feature. That definitely helped in the first few laps because that’s when you need to get by as many cars as possible before things settle in.”
“It’s hard starting from the back,” said five-time winner Dustin Salley. “All the guys out here are really good racers. There’s a lot of respect but when you start back you got to get there. Sometimes you have to be a little rougher than normal.”
Jeff Libby had the pole position in the 20-lap feature.
Chad, and then Dustin, were quick to get by Jeff low…….and then we had ourselves an exciting race between the twosome!
Chad stayed low on the track while Dustin used the second groove for many laps. They were side-by-side at times and close the whole race. Chad won this race because he wouldn’t let go of the inside. On this evening, Dustin didn’t have the car to get by.
“I tried, I tried,” said Dustin afterwards. “I had three brand new tires on the car, and it handled it for a while. Once that right front tire got hot it was junk and I just faded back.”
“If Dustin could have got me in the bottom, he would have won,” confided Chad. “He had the car to beat, that’s for sure. I just had position on the track and got there before him. The second groove is hard here, yet he was able to stay with me for many laps.”
The win was sweet for Chad, but he did have to beat his teammate and friend to do it. “Dustin is one of my good friends,” said Chad. “The car he’s driving is the one I started with this year. He had some car troubles, so Kyle Hewins and I let him drive the car I had been driving. I drove a backup car.”
The top three finishers (Travis Verrill came across third) in the Bandits division had their cars checked very carefully after the race tonight. “They pulled the heads off the top three cars,” explained Chand, “checking for competitive advantages.
Dustin is the points leader in the division. “I started strong,” he said, “and the other drivers are getting better and better. I am hoping to win most points for the second straight year.”
Dustin worst finish this year has been fifth. “You try to pick your spots and be smart about it.”
Both drivers have cars owned by Kyle Hewins. “I owe a lot to him,” said Chad.
Chad admitted that he doesn’t know too much about cars: “I can drive them but I’m not mechanically inclined.”
*I have just learned that Dustin Salley was disqualified.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
(I also have a Twitter account – @mcclellandpeter )