(Oxford ME) Please don’t tell me that you had Johnny Clark winning the 47th Oxford 250 on Sunday.
The 41-year-old from Farmingdale (ME) hadn’t won a race at Oxford Plains Speedway since 2005.
Johnny was also the guy on July 18th at OPS who finished 26th, three laps behind the winner Curtis Gerry.
But there Johnny was on Sunday night under the Victory Lane banner.
I think that it is fair to say that to win the Oxford 250 you must be lucky. And likewise, your closest competitors must be unlucky.
Everyone in the top five had the car to win but four of the top five recalled, post-race, things that happened that cost them the top spot.
Whether it was confusion in the pits (Jeff Taylor), missing a shift on a new car (Joey Doiron), frustrations with the nine cautions (Dave Farrington Jr) or getting behind a stalled car before pit road (Mike Hopkins), all of them would have won but….
The caution on Lap 180 was the killer for both Jeff Taylor and Mike Hopkins.
Jeff (57), who has now come in second three times, went in for tires during that caution on that lap. He left the pits and, to the surprise of everyone, came back into the pits again.
“I thought that I had gone through a stop sign leaving the pits,” said Jeff, “so I penalized myself by coming back in. I don’t know if it was the right move or not, but that’s the one I made. Inevitably, it cost us our chance.”
When Jeff left the pits the second time, he was now in tenth place rather than 3rd place right behind Johnny Clark.
Johnny would quickly take the lead from Alan Tardiff and never give up the front the rest of the way. Jeff rallied from 10th to settle for second. But oh did that pit-road malfunction hurt him!
“If he hadn’t done that, he’d probably be here (Victory Lane) instead of me, wouldn’t he,” said Johnny Clark during the post-race interview.
Mike Hopkins grabbed the lead in Lap 98. “We had the car to win,” he said afterwards. “We went from 11th to the lead and made everyone else look silly doing it.”
Mike would lose the front some thirty laps later but was still in the top five. His chance to get tires and challenge for the top spot went south as he attempted to get onto pit road on the Lap 180 caution.
“Car 51 (John Peters) stalled going into pit road and we were behind him,” said Mike. “By the time we got around him and got the tires we had lost probably ten spots.”
Joey Doiron (Berwick ME) finished third despite having trouble earlier in the race. “I had only driven this car six or seven times,” explained Joey. “It’s a different chassis than I’m used to driving. On Lap 100 I was running second to Jeff (Taylor) and I missed a shift and I think I cut something down trying to get out of the way. I ended up with a flat right front tire. Luckily, we were able to get a timely yellow and do something about a tire with only 12 pounds of air in it. We were a lap down after that because we had lost all our track positioning. We did come back strong at the end.”
When I thought pre-race about who I thought should be the favorite, my choice was Dave Farrington Jr. You talk about momentum going into a race!
“The month of August was incredible,” said Dave. “We won four straight here (OPS). A lot of momentum carried in here and a lot of people had high hopes for us.”
Dave had actually beaten Johnny Clark two weeks ago at OPS.
The nine cautions were the problem for Dave.
“We had more cautions in this 250 than a lot of other ones,” he said. “I don’t know why that was. Not enough patience. I’m not sure. We didn’t want cautions. We want to go long green-flag runs and they didn’t help us there.”
There were two cautions in the final twenty-seven laps. “I think that we would have caught Johnny if it had stayed green,” suggested Dave.
Jeff Taylor took the lead on Lap 24 (from Alan Tardiff) and had, at one point, a six-second lead over the rest of the field.
“We weren’t bad at the beginning of the race but Jeff (Taylor) was stellar,” added Johnny. “We had to go and just stay on the lead lap and let the guys in the pits do their jobs, and it’s up to you after that. That’s exactly how it worked out.”
Johnny got right tires on Lap 91 and four tires on Lap 180.
Johnny came into 2020 not having won a race since 2016. The restrictions of Covid-19 kept him close to home and helped turn things around. “We worked so hard right from March,” he said. “The fact that I was forced to slow down a ton has been huge benefit for my family and everything else.”
Disappointing that the grandstand “crowd” was limited to 200 people. That place holds 8,000. Don’t start me on Governor Mills (D)!
“I wish that I could have heard the roar of the crowd,” added Johnny. “It was awesome to win. Even better than I thought it would be.”
Saturday’s rainout turned Sunday into a morning/afternoon/evening racing event. It was almost 8 o’clock when the 250 started.
That fact had Dave Farrington wondering about being better prepared. “It’s way cooler than we’ve raced all year. Maybe we should have practiced in temperatures like this.”
All of the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.
I am on Twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClelland Miscellanea).