Category Archives: Oxford 250

Cassius Clark wins 2021 Oxford 250

Cassius Clark win the 48th Oxford 250
Crew celebrates the win

(Oxford ME) Last year it was Johnny Clark.

This year, Cassius Clark.

No, they’re not related.

But both, in successive years, put an end to their Oxford 250 frustrations.

Cassius was the latest, winning the 48th annual Oxford 250 on Sunday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Cassius had failed to win the event in thirteen previous tries, same number as Johnny Clark. 

Oxford crowd gives their traditional wave

It wasn’t a record either one of them wanted to be a part of. Their eventual success, however, should be an inspiration for those who keep trying to win the event.

“We’d dominated so many 250’s,” explained Cassius recalling his frustrations.  “In other attempts, we had led with twenty-five laps left and had been in front for over hundred laps and yet failed to win.  The race was just a thorn in our side!”

But that changed tonight.  The Farmington (ME) resident took the lead for good with twenty-seven laps left.

Cassius also had to survive a pretty good bump from second-place finisher Curtis Gerry on the final turn to get the win.

“I bumped him a little bit and moved him over,” said Curtis afterwards, “but I didn’t make it to the line to beat him.  I wouldn’t want to win that way anyway.”

The race begins

The entertained crowd was treated to thirteen restarts.  Not a favorite of drivers but fans love them. The spread-out field tightens up and the corners become very interesting to navigate.

Cassius Clark got his first lead on Lap 177.  There would be six restarts after that.  On this cool (60’s) evening, Cassius, on the inside, was the quickest on the restarts.

A hint of what was coming today was a race two weeks ago in which Cassius won a PASS 150 event at OPS.

“That was my first race since last year’s 250,” said Cassius.  “The car had been taken back to Canada last year and they worked on it from our mistakes and made this thing awesome.”

Before today’s race, Cassius was actually confident about winning.  “We thought today we were going to have a bit of a cakewalk, but they definitely made us earn it.”

Cassius bumped with Eddie MacDonald (6th) battling for the lead and ended up with a nice dent on the right side of his car.

Derek Griffith (3rd)

Derek Griffith (3rd) started twenty-ninth and got to the front, even holding the lead on Lap 222.

“We were good,” said Derek afterwards.  “We came up through and we led some laps.  The last set of tires we burned up a little bit on the outside.  However, we’ll take what we got.”

Derek was second in the 250 two years ago.

Joey Doiron (4th) was third last year.  This year he was in contention again.

“We tried to maintain with Curtis (Gerry) in the first run,” said Joey after the race.  “We did lead a few laps.”

“After our pit stop there was a huge wreck,” added Joey, “and we ended up having to hop the curb.  I don’t know if we bent something on our left or right front.  The car wasn’t quite the same afterwards. We didn’t have enough at the end, but we did hold on, though.”

Curtis Gerry (2nd)

The most disappointed driver post-race was probably Curtis Gerry.  Curtis started the race in fourth and was in the lead or near the lead all race long. Curtis led from laps 6-108.

“It was frustrating to come so close,” said Curtis afterwards.  “I was definitely faster than him (Cassius Clark) on the bottom, but I don’t know if I had anything on the outside for him.”

“We had a really good car in the first run,” said Curtis.  “We got a little too free at the end of the race. When we pitted and took tires, they were a little too snug for the outside but very good on the bottom.”

If it had been the Oxford 251?  “I think I would have gotten him in one more lap,” said Curtis.  “Once I was under him, it would have been over.”

Curtis will get a sizable check for the many laps he led.  They’re worth $100 each.

Johnny Clark (5th) told me afterwards that he almost didn’t race.

Johnny Clark (5th) talks to his crew before the race

“You wouldn’t believe what we were making for changes and how bad we were,” said last year’s winner.

“We certainly didn’t have a fifth-place car at noontime today,” said Johnny.  “We were thinking we should just pack up and go home.”

But they did stay, and despite starting thirty-first, were able to get fifth.

“The track was rubbing up so much,” he added.  “I’ve never seen it like this before.  It made things so tight.  But we came home fifth and that’s nothing to hang our heads about.”

Cassius Clark knew his car was good.  “I knew that my car was super-fast,” he said, “so if I stayed on the bottom, they were going to have a hard time getting by me.”

Cassius Clark

“Curtis (Gerry) was really fast,” added Cassius, “and he was on me there.  He definitely made me work for it.”

Derek Griffith: “Every time we’d gain a little bit, he (Cassius Clark) would just gain it right back.  I feel as if I used the car up a little bit on the outside of him on those restarts.  I wish I had been restarting from the bottom.”

Cassius Clark: “I’ll have to ask my buddy Johnny (Clark) how long it takes for this win to settle in.  The atmosphere here was awesome.”

Bubba Pollard (10th) started last (43rd).  The driver from Georgia came north in 2018 and won the 250 on his first try.

Billy Clark (Cassius’ dad) was in the OPS 250 six times in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Notably missing from the race were frequent OPS 250 driver Jeff Taylor and highly-touted Florida driver Stephen Nasse.  Neither did well enough in the heats to qualify.

The win by Cassius Clark was the first for anyone from Maine’s Franklin County.

Teenager Kate Re was the lone female entrant.  She finished twenty-seventh.

The temperatures in the 60’s were certainly a big surprise for late August.  The coolness had to make the upper parts of the track more workable.

TJ Bracket (39th) and DJ Shaw (42nd) started in the front but the race didn’t go well for either of them.

TJ Brackett
DJ Shaw

Thanks, from me, to the OPS owners for giving me a chance to take pictures and get interviews for this entry.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Derek Griffith
Cassius Clark
Ben Rowe (30th)
Dave Farrington (16th)
Joe Polewarczyk (9th)
Joey Doiron (4th)
Kyle DeSouza (15th)
Travis Benjamin
Bubba Pollard (10th)
Mike Rowe (21st)
Stephen Nasse
Jeff Taylor (2nd in 2020)
Spinout in an earlier race
Addie McDaniel waits for the Runnin Rebels race
Cassius Clark explains how the race was won

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Alex Mowatt wins sixth Bandits feature

Alex Mowatt takes a victory lap

(Oxford ME) Talk about dominating a division.

The Mowatts (Alex and Luke) have certainly done that.

Alex Mowatt (11) chased by his brother Luke (22) in the Bandits feature

Alex took first in the 17th Bandits feature tonight. It’s his sixth win.

Alex Mowatt with the Bandits feature trophy (photo from Mowatt Brothers site)

In the Bandits seventeen features this season, Alex and Luke have thirteen wins between them.  Jeff Libby has two of the remaining four wins.

Jeremy Farrar and Luke Mowatt side by side in the staging area

September 11th is the final Bandits race of the year.  I am going to guess that older brother Alex will be highly motivated to collect a win and tie the win score with his younger brother in that one.

Tonight’s feature was quickly a dogfight between Nick Wilson (he has a win this year), who started on the pole, and Alex Mowatt.

A big difference tonight was the weather.  It was much cooler than it has been.  That meant that the upper levels of the track would be in play.

“The weather was good,” said Alex Mowatt afterwards.  “It cooled down so that the outside groove was workable.”

For almost half of the twenty-lap feature, it was Nick Wilson holding the lead on the inside and Alex Mowatt holding his own on the outside.

Nick Wilson leads early in the race but Alex is coming up on the outside

Alex, however, was persistent and eventually got his #11 ahead of Nick’s #53 just before newcomer Erin Aiken caused a caution on Lap 11.

“I was working on Nick every lap,” said Alex, “and I managed to be ahead of him before the caution.”

Nick Wilson has both Mowatts after him

On the restart, Alex had the pole position, and on this evening, he wasn’t giving the inside lead up.

Luke told me that he figured early that he wouldn’t be adding to his win total tonight.

“He (Alex) had me tonight,” he said.  “I think that I could have had him early on but as the race went on it got harder and harder.”

Nick Wilson came down from the outside after the restart and tangled with Jeremy Farrar.  That did in Nick as he ended up seventh.  Jeremy, on the other hand, hung in there and ended up third.  It was Jeremy’s best finish of the season.

With Nick Wilson moved back, it was Luke Mowatt’s turn to move up.

Another caution put the two Mowatts side-by-side on the restart with seven laps left.  That setup had the makings of an exciting end to the race.

Alex Mowatt wins the second heat

But Alex was off very quickly on the restart.

“I missed a shift on that last caution,” said Luke. “It set me back enough to stay out of it.”

Rather quickly there was a problem when Luke chose to leave the outside. 

“I may have come down on Jeff (Libby),” recalled Luke.  “I didn’t see him until it was a little too late.  I gathered it up once I realized he was there, but it was too late.  Once you get sideways it’s hard to come back out of it.”

Jeff Libby took the worst of it and finished sixth.

Luke went after his brother but never could get into the side-by-side position he had on the restart.  Luke settled for second.

Remarkably, Luke has come in either first or second in each of the last thirteen Bandits features.

Jeremy Farrar wins the first heat

Yet Alex leads in the points standings.  How is that possible?  It all goes back to May 1st.

“I got wrecked in the heat race (on May 1st) so I didn’t get any points in that feature,” recalled Luke. “Without that I might be leading the division or be right near the lead.” Alex has not missed any of the seventeen features.

It was a cool night with lots of racing and restarts.  The Bandits feature started 2 ½ hours after the racing began.

My two cents: If there’s a darker and more dangerous area than the OPS pits when the sun goes down, I’d like to know where it is.  The race cars have no headlights, and the OPS lighting is VERY limited.  Drivers come off the track in a hurry for repairs and they try to get back on the track fast.  This is all being done in the limited light!  Many folks are walking around in the pit area at the same time. Something bad waiting to happen?

Jeremy Farrar (1) and Nick Wilson (53) in the first heat

I wanted to interview Jeremy Farrar after the Bandits feature.  Finding him was an adventure in the dark.  The best I could find was his car!

Trying to take a picture of Alex Mowatt and his first-place trophy?  Another darkness fiasco. (I have since added a picture from the Mowatt Brothers website. They, at least, had someone capable of taking a picture in a dark setting!)

Clearly, the Bandits division is down cars from last year.  A year ago, in the OPS 250 weekend Bandits feature, twenty drivers finished. Luke Mowatt got his first win in that feature. Only ten drivers finished tonight’s race.

Missing this year, are drivers showing up week after week.  In the Bandits division a three-week rolling average is used to place drivers in the feature.  Regulars are placed in the front spots.  The further back you finished in the previous weeks, the closer to the front you were placed in next week’s feature. Therefore, you could count on inexperienced, regular drivers being in front on starts and the points-leading type of drivers having to maneuver around them to get the top spots.  Certainly added some suspense to the features!  Now with few regulars, the points leaders are much closer to the front. Race outcomes are sorted out much earlier than last year.

Alex (11), Jeff (44), and Luke (22) in second heat

It was nice to have a crowd watching races at OPS on Friday night.  I think/hope that the crowd will be one of the best they’ve ever had for Sunday’s OPS 250.

Nick (the announcer) was very good with the descriptions of what was happening on the track on Friday night.  However, I’ll wild guess that he hasn’t been to OPS before.  Why?  He kept referring to Wednesday night racing at OPS. He also wondered out loud if the “Mow-ATTS” were brothers. When two guys win 13 of the 17 Bandits races, you would have that Mowatt family figured out if you’ve been on hand!

(All of the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Political statement
Wrong direction
Spin-out
Off the track
Stephen Nasse is in the house

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Media Day at the Oxford Plains Speedway

Interview with Johnny Clark today (photo Norm Marx)

(Oxford Maine) The empty house at the Oxford Plains Speedway on Tuesday was misleading because I know that’s going to change.

It was Media Day leading up to the 48th Oxford 250 on Sunday.

Be certain that the noise will be coming and the excitement as well.

Today, however, was quiet.  There were only two race cars, Kate Re’s #10 and Johnny Clark’s #54, plus several drivers on the track.

Teenager Kate Re with her car

I had the opportunity to interview several of the drivers (Johnny Clark, Dave Farrington, Eddie MacDonald).

Johnny Clark was last year’s winner.  It was unexpected.  Johnny hadn’t won a race at OPS since 2006 and in his most recent race there he finished 26th.

Johnny Clark was last year’s winner

But there he was on Victory Lane last August.

“I remember hearing the track announcer say that ‘Johnny Clark has been rubbing the lucky lamp all night,” recalled Johnny.

“It wasn’t like our win was a fluke,” he added.  “We led 101 laps which was more than anyone else.  We turned in the fastest lap of the race.”

“We had the car to do it and we were able to get the luck we needed to go to Victory Lane,” said Johnny.

Dave Farrington is in his twenties and very intent on winning the 250 for the first time.  Dave took fourth last year and wasn’t very happy about it.

Dave Farrington (photo Norm Marx)

He felt that the numerous cautions and lapped cars made it difficult to make a good run.

“I saw the scoreboard with twenty-five laps left and we were second,” recalled Dave.  “For several laps we were side-by-side with Johnny.”

“We were in good position but call it what you will, luck or circumstances, but they took over,” said Dave. “It always seems that there’s that one lingering caution before the end of the race.”

Eddie MacDonald has won the OPS 250 twice.  The wins were back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.

In both of those victories, Eddie drove up on the track and no one could keep up with him.

“Our car was really good in those wins,” explained Eddie.  “There is so much that goes into winning this race. Pit strategy is important.”

It looked like the beginning of a long string of top finishes for Eddie but that’s not how it’s been.

“I don’t know if the track has changed but we aren’t able to get to the outside,” said Eddie.

“In the last five years, I haven’t been able to come off the bottom of the track here,” Eddie added.

Eddie was optimistic about Sunday’s race: “We came here a couple of weeks ago with a totally different setup and it seems a little bit better.”

“For the most part you can make your own luck if the car is good,” said Eddie.  “You try to put yourself in a good position and not burn it up.”

Dave Farrington was expecting a big race from Johnny Clark on Sunday.  “We know that Johnny is going to come back with just as good a piece as last year.”

Dave added, “We’ve been maintaining all year.  We have a very good piece.  Whether we have the fastest car or not, we still need a perfect day for things to fall our way.”

One advantage that Dave Farrington has over other drivers is his familiarity with Oxford Plains Speedway.  He has led in points for two straight years.

“We’ve been racing here week after week,” said Dave.  “We’ve dealt with any weather/track condition that could come up.  We have a notebook with the information we’ve gathered and hopefully it will help us to be there at the end.”

Dave realizes that the weekly OPS races and the 250 are different.  “We’ve certainly got just as many laps on this track as anyone else this season. However, we haven’t seen an OPS 250 winner from the weekly Oxford competitors in a while.  We’re hoping to break that.”

Dave expected to be busy on Sunday morning.  “A lot of teams are practicing this week in their shops,” he explained, “like almost a live, hot pit stop.  We’ve got a crew that is scattered throughout the state of Maine.  We really don’t get together that often.  Our first practice could be on Sunday morning.”

One thing I like about Media Days is that you can ask questions you would never think of doing after an event.  So I came prepared.

I asked the drivers to explain how they chose the number they have on their cars.

“My whole racing I’ve been #17,” said Eddie MacDonald.  “It was my hockey number in high school (Triton Regional – Byfield MA).  It’s one of the only numbers I could have in hockey and racing.”

Johnny Clark (#54) and Dave Farrington (#23) traced their number back to the one their dads used when they raced.

“My dad was born in ‘54,” said Johnny. “He was my hero behind the wheel.”

Kate Re interviewed (Norm Marx photo)

Kate Re also told me that her #10 came from her dad’s racing number. 

How about the car’s colors?

One of the cars you can’t visually miss is Dave Farrington’s.  It is bright orange.

“That color helps our spotters find us quicker than all the black cars,” said Dave. “I am also a 2009 graduate of Jay High School where our colors were orange and black.”

Eddie MacDonald has used a variety of colors.  “We’ve used orange, red, and black,” said Eddie.  “We leave it up to the car owner and the sponsors to decide.”

Johnny Clark’s car for Sunday’s race is not the same one as last year.

“We debuted this car at Loudon in April, and we were actually thrashing to finish it,” said Johnny.  “The lettering is what we got at the track.  We kept things as they were after we won that race.”

“Back in the early 2000’s I had a white car,” Johnny said.  “It had red accents and a red roof and hood.  Everyone had a white car so then I decided to go black in 2007.  I’m not saying I started a trend, but you look now and there are a lot of black cars out there.”

I asked the drivers about their recollections of the first time they raced at OPS.

Eddie MacDonald: “It was in the late ‘90’s.  We had just bought a car and wanted to try it out.  I had been running at Lee and the setup at OPS was very different.  I got out there and I thought I was going fast but all the locals went flying by.”

Dave Farrington: “It was in 2010-11.  I was just getting my feet wet in racing.  We’ve come a long way since.”

Johnny Clark: “It was 1997 and the race was the Oxford 250.  I was seventeen at the time.  We drew #2 out of the bucket for the heat race.  Steve Knowlton, Jeff Taylor, Timmy Bracket, and Kenny Wright were all in the heat.  They all tangled up about halfway through and we held on to get second and qualified seventh.”

As for the race itself?

All three drivers have provisional qualifications but each of them hopes that they will improve their positioning in the 250 with good runs in the heats on Sunday.

“The provisional qualification would start us about 38th,” said Dave.

“Oxford is definitely not my best racetrack,” said Johnny.  “I have, however, made some progress over the last several years figuring out what I need to do here.  We’ve won before and we know we can do it again.”

Thanks to the drivers for their cooperation.

I also interviewed teenager Kate Re but unfortunately my digital recorder wasn’t functioning.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk to her on Victory Lane after the race on Sunday.

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Johnny Clark wins the 47th Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway

Johnny Clark is all smiles after winning the 47th Oxford 250

Johnny Clark moments after winning the Oxford 250

(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.

Jeff Taylor came in second

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.

Joey Doiron was third

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.”

The top three finishers; Joey Doiron, Johnny Clark, and Jeff Taylor

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.”

Mike Hopkins was fifth

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.

Johnny Clark

“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).

Joey Doiron, Johnny Clark, and Jeff Taylor with trophies

Johnny with daughter Alivia (left) and Miranda (right)

With hand raised, Johnny Clark crosses the finish line

 

 

 

 

 

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Mowatt and Mowatt dominate Week 9 in Bandits Division at Oxford Plains Speedway

Luke Mowatt (18) wins the Bandits feature for the first time

Alex Mowatt (current Bandits points leader) finished second

Jeff Libby gets an elusive win

(Oxford ME) Racing was back.

At least the way I remember it.

The pits were crowded, and race cars were in places unused until today.

The parking lot was transformed into a campground.  Fires were burning and, I suspect, stories of previous races were being shared.

Races were won and for the first time since June 27th you could hear the winner’s support system erupt in cheers.

But all this was tempered by a look across the infield to the grandstand.

There the policies of Governor Mills (D) were on display.  In an area ready and willing to hold thousands, there were several hundred spectators.

Infield dust kicked up in the heat race

The Oxford 250 is scheduled for Sunday (August 30th).  In the past, the noise of the cars warrants some sort of hearing protection.

The crowds make plenty of noise too. But not this year.

The race will end, and the primary excitement will come from the driver and his close associates.

But I digress!

This is a story about last night’s Bandit’s racing.

It was exciting.

Let me tell you why.

Chris Foster (71) gets turned in the feature

There were folks in the pit grandstand, and they came to root for specific drivers.

There were more cars in the race than usual.  I counted at least twenty.  The more cars, the more action on the corners.

With eight divisions racing in the heats and a large delay while some 250 drivers got some practice, the start of the feature was delayed into darkness.

Without headlights and running under streetlights, the visibility was limited.  Another direct link to action on the corners.

The cautions were frequent in the Bandits 20-lap event.  Cars went into the infield.  Others went off the track high-side.

The placement in the feature is based on a rolling three-week average.  That puts those who show up every week, but haven’t been very successful, in the front.  The successful regulars face the task of getting by a collection of less-successful drivers to get where they have been ending up.  I actually like the concept because it makes every feature interesting.

But I continue to digress.

Luke Mowatt wins his heat

The surprises for the Bandits were already in place even BEFORE the race itself.

Jeff Libby got a pole start in the first heat and actually won.  I know that he has never won a feature at OPS.  I’m guessing that the winless thing might also extend to heats as well.

I have interviewed Jeff after several of his near-wins and he has never made an excuse.  He sees me coming and he says, “One of these times….”  Tonight was that time!

Jeff had points leader Alex Mowatt chasing him at the end but on this evening, Jeff held off the challenger and had, what has been, the elusive win.

The other heat winner was young Luke Mowatt.  Last week, in a heat shocker, Luke held off his older brother for the victory.  That impressed me at the time.  However, in the feature that followed, Luke could only get 6th.

But there was Luke again tonight winning a heat.

Chad Wills (52) and Jeff Libby (44) off the track in the feature

Tonight, however, was only Luke’s fourth feature race of the season, all in the last few weeks. I didn’t think he had the experience yet to be a feature contender.

“I didn’t have a car,” Luke told me afterwards as to why he hadn’t raced earlier in the season.

Tonight, Luke started on the pole in the feature and won the biggest race of his life.

“It was his time to win tonight,” explained his brother Alex post-race.

Luke had the sweet starting spot and a car that could handle the numerous restarts.

Meanwhile, Alex the points leader with three wins, started back in the pack thanks to the 3-week rolling average.  That was indeed where the action was.

Luke leads Caleb Proctor and his brother Alex in the feature

In recent weeks Alex has avoided most trouble by staying away from the inside.  Not tonight.  With 20+ cars in play, Alex went off the track early along with Chad Wills and his new car.

“I got a nice dent that I’ll have to fix,” said Alex.

But Alex stayed in the race, as did Chad, and thanks to cautions moved back in contention.

Luke, meanwhile, escaped the fender benders.

“I knew about them, but they were all behind me,“ he said.

Before too many laps were gone, Alex had recovered from his earlier mishap and was in 2nd challenging his younger sibling.  Having seen Alex for eight weeks show the ability to engineer comebacks, I was quite certain I knew what would happen next.

The Mowatt brothers with Eric Parlin spinning behind them

But I was wrong.

Luke held his own.

A caution put them side by side near the end but that didn’t matter.  On this night, Luke did not wilt.  He rode to his first feature win in only his 8th race.

I have four siblings and I know how competitive things can get among us, so I tried the “sibling rivalry” angle with the Mowatt brothers but they wouldn’t take the bait.

“You weren’t just letting your brother go, were you?” I asked.

“No, I was actually trying to catch him,” Alex laughed. “With all that went on I was fortunate to be there to get second.

“I’m happy for Luke,” said Alex.

Caleb Proctor ended third in the car that Chad Wills borrowed (for a win) on August 15th.

Track dispute in the feature

Tempers reached an elevated status after one of the multi-car spinouts.  OPS security made sure that things didn’t get worse in the pits.

The weather turned cool as the evening wore on.

One of the most dangerous places you’ll ever be in would be the pits at night.  The cars, coming and going, have no lights and there are no overhead lights in the pits.  It truly can be “look, listen, and run for your life” in that area!

All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.

I am on Twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClelland Miscellanea).

Luke Mowatt, Alex Mowatt, Caleb Proctor, and Chris Foster in the last lap of the feature

Luke Mowatt in front followed by his brother in the feature

Cars in the infield in the feature

Spin off the back in the feature

Brady Heath (91) and Luke Mowatt (22x) in front on a restart

Travis Verrill in the infield in the feature

Brady Heath between races

Doug Churchill (07) spinning in first heat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chloe Kiley wins 4th straight Ladies Division feature at Oxford Plains Speedway

Chloe Kiley gets the checkered flag and her 4th straight Ladies Division victory

Chloe Kiley

Betty Nelson

(Oxford ME) You don’t have to look very hard to find the weekly winner in the Ladies Division at Oxford Plains Speedway.

It’s going to be either Betty Nelson or Chloe Kiley.

At least that’s the way it has been through nine features this season.

Betty dominated July with three wins.

Since then?  It’s been all Chloe.

Tonight, was Chloe’s fourth straight victory in August at OPS.

“It’s been nice,” said Chloe about the consecutive wins.  “The car wasn’t so good today in practice but felt great in the race.  The rain really loosened the rubber up.”

The start of the feature with Betty Nelson (8) on the pole

Betty started on the pole in both the heat and the feature.  Chloe was in the second row in both races.

Betty lost the inside lane in both races and Chloe took advantage and went on to win.

“It was all about learning for me tonight,” explained Betty afterwards.  “We didn’t race last week, and we have a new motor.  This car has more power, so cornering was an adjustment. I need to get better getting into corners and off corners.”

In the feature, Betty held the lead into the sixth lap with Chloe close behind looking for an opening. On a corner in Lap Six the opening presented itself.

“I think she (Betty) got a little loose and went up and I had enough to fill the hole and took it from there,” said Chloe about getting the lead for good.

Chloe Kiley (16) gets inside of Betty Nelson (8) in the heat race

“She (Chloe) got by me because of my error,” recalled Betty.  “I went up a little bit on the corner and it was all her lane.  She took it.  She’s a good driver.”

Chloe was able to expand her lead over the final fourteen laps.

In the closing laps, Addie McDaniels was able to get by Kasie Kolbe to reach third.  At the end, Addie was pressuring Betty for second place.

I asked Chloe about winning four straight times: “I have a great car.  I’d like to thank my dad, Johnny, and Michael Haynes for lending me this motor and everyone who helps out back.”

It will be interesting to see how Chloe and Betty match up in the races ahead as Betty gets more familiar with the new car.  “We’re hoping over the next few weeks to get it all dialed in,” added Betty.

Chloe Kiley gains separation in the feature

Chloe has annually made steady progress in the points section of the Ladies Division and is the current leader.  She was 4th in 2017.  Tied for 3rd in 2018 and 2nd in 2019.  “I don’t really know how I’m different from 2017 which was my first year of driving,” said Chloe.  “I have had a lot more seat time since then.  Larry Emerson has been very helpful in teaching me how to drive this track.”

A little bit of rain before the races but dry once it started.

The Bandits weren’t scheduled for tonight so that gave me a chance to cover the Ladies Division.  Bandits are scheduled to race on Friday with the 250 two days later.

I am on Twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).

All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.

Start of the feature

Heat battle for 3rd place

Betty Nelson (8) holds off Addie McDaniels (68) for second place

Chloe Kiley takes the lead from Betty Nelson in the feature

Chloe Kiley presses Betty Nelson

Betty Nelson led some early laps in the feature

Between races

 

 

 

 

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Chad Wills catches a break and wins 2nd Bandits race at Oxford Plains Speedway

Chad Wills wins the Bandits feature with Jeff Libby second at OPS

Chad Wills takes a victory lap after winning for the second time at OPS this season

(Oxford ME) Over a year ago in the Bandits Division at Oxford Plains Speedway, Caleb Proctor won his only race of the season while driving the 04.

Tonight, Caleb’s 04 earned another checkered flag.  This time, however, the driver was Chad Wills.

“I’ve really got to thank Caleb,” said Chad post-race.  “I wrecked my car two weeks ago and he let me use his.”.

Chad has gotten a third and now a first in Caleb’s car.  Caleb will probably be the driver the next time the 04 appears at OPS.

There will be nearly two weeks off before the next Bandits race.  “I bought another car yesterday,” explained Chad, “like the hatchback that I wrecked.  Hopefully, in a couple of weeks I’ll be here with it.”

Chad Wills and Jeff Libby get inside Eric Parlin (3) in the last lap

Chad got his first win on July 25th when he took full advantage of a multi-car crash to move into contention.  Tonight, it wasn’t a crash. This time it was leader Eric Parlin slipping away from the bottom of the track near the end of Lap 18.

“Eric got loose in the last lap,” said Chad, “and I happened to be close enough to capitalize on it.”

Chad moved inside of Eric and Jeff Libby followed as Eric tried to recover.  Chris Foster also got to the bottom of the track.

“I could have forced my way back down there,” said Eric Parlin afterwards, “but cars might have been wrecked and I couldn’t do that.”

Eric ended the race settling for a tough fourth behind Chad, Jeff, and Chris.

Eric Parlin gets ahead of Brady Heath (91)

At the outset of the 20-lap feature, Eric took the lead from Brady Heath in the second lap.  Chad followed with Alex Mowatt running third.

Alex is not only the points leader but has won two straight weeks.  It was easy to expect him to get the lead sooner or later.  But not tonight.  In fact, his brother Luke, beat him in the second Bandits heat race.

Alex spent most of the evening racing on the upper levels of the track.  “Alex worked hard on the outside, but it heated his tires,” said Chad.  “It was impressive that he could hang out there as long as he did.”

Alex Mowatt (11) persisted in trying to pass Eric Parlin using the upper part of the track

Alex threatened leader Eric Parlin from the outside on several of the later laps.  When Eric slide up from the bottom in Lap 18, Alex got caught behind him and ended up finishing fifth.

Chad realized his good fortune.  “For the second time this year I was in the right spot at the right time.  Sometimes it’s better to be lucky rather than good.”

Jeff Libby continues to chase that elusive first win.  He has finished second three different times, including tonight.

Jeff was behind Chad Wills when the bottom of the track opened up on Lap 18.  “We followed Chad and that’s how we ended up where we did,” said Jeff.

Luke Mowatt won the second heat defeating his brother Alex in the process.

Chad Wills won the first heat and Luke Mowatt won the second heat.

Eric Parlin’s car threw off plenty of smoke last week.  No sign of any smoke this week.

Eric had a pretty good hold on first until a spinout (Brady Heath) in Lap 11 forced a caution and a restart.  The restart bunched everyone up.

The good weather continues.  This is the 8th week I’ve been at OPS and it’s been nothing but sunshine.

Limited number of spectators on the other side of the track.

I am on twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).

All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.

Caleb Proctor Chad Wills, Brandon Caston

Jeff Libby (2nd)

Last lap action

Alex Mowatt tries to get by Eric Parlin on the high side

Eric Parlin comfortably in front in the feature

Brady Heath has the early lead in the feature

Chad Wills and Brady Heath set up in front for the Bandits feature

Luke Mowatt

Luke Mowatt on the inside and Alex Mowatt on the outside in Heat 2

Chad Wills and Josh Lovell in front in Heat 1

 

 

 

 

 

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Alex Mowatt wins third Bandits Division feature at Oxford Plains Speedway

Alex Mowatt (11) gets the lead in the Bandits Division feature

Alex Mowatt – 3-time winner

(Oxford ME) The three-week rolling average used in the Bandits Division at Oxford Plains Speedway handicaps the successful.

If you win you find yourself at the back at the start of the next race.

The possibility for frustration is obvious.

But it’s been anything but frustrating for highly successful Alex Mowatt.

Alex has shown the driving skills needed to work from the back to the front week after week.

Tonight’s win was his third of the season and his second in a row.

Alex Mowatt came from dead last to win last week’s Bandits Division feature. Tonight, he started in tenth position.

Eric Parlin finished second

“Alex is a good kid,” said 2nd place finisher Eric Parlin post-race.  “He’s having a heckuva season.  I feel like he’s a shoo-in for the championship.”

Hard to argue.  Alex has been consistently competitive with three 3rds, one 2nd, and three 1sts.

“I couldn’t ask for a better season,” admitted Alex.  “I’ve had pretty good luck.  Last week we had some damage but nothing serious.”

The attention getter in tonight’s twenty-lap feature was the smoke from Eric Parlin’s car.

Eric started the feature in the front and when smoke started pouring out of his car you figured his night would be over at any moment.

“I thought Eric’s car was blowing up or something,” recalled Alex. “I wasn’t sure what was going on, but he came out of it.”

Plenty of smoke out of Eric Parlin’s car

The smoke, at one point, caused a caution.  “They were going to black flag me,” explained Eric, “but I wasn’t losing oil.  I had raced at Beech Ridge this morning and the car did the same thing there.  For some reason going from second into third sends a lot through it.  Once I get settled down into 3rd gear it snaps out of it.”

The caution over Eric’s car in Lap 8 looked to give Alex the lead but after realizing there was no oil issues, Eric began the restart on the pole.

Alex started on the outside in the restart but quickly took the lead from Eric, and never trailed thereafter.

There was a third caution in Lap 13.  This time Alex had the pole and pulled away quickly.

Alex Mowatt (11), Eric Parlin (3), Dustin Salley (22)

The battle for second was a good one.  It featured Eric with his smoking car, Chad Wills in Caleb Proctor’s car, and former Bandit champion Dustin Salley in the car that David Cook drove last week.  Plenty of tight action there with Eric holding onto second and Chad taking third.

“It was one of my better races,” said Eric of his 2nd place finish.  “There have been a lot of ups and downs.  I had an incident a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t know if I was going to make it up here tonight.”

Alex won one of the Bandits heats while Josh Lovell took the other heat in his best showing of the season.  Josh started his heat in the front and refused to give way to Chad Wills and Chris Foster.

Alex Mowatt (11) with the lead in the feature

One of the keys for Alex in my opinion has been his ability to avoid wrecks in the seven races to date.  “I’ve stayed out of wrecks so far by watching ahead,” explained Alex.  “I don’t just watch the car right in front of me because a problem ahead will come too quick.”

Eric raced twice today.  “It definitely helps me as a driver because I had a race under my belt.  I felt comfortable in the car today.  From week to week you don’t usually sit in it or run in it.  Then you’ll get back in it on Saturday and it’s a whole different animal.”

Alex talked about the end of the race: “The car was getting a little tight down toward the end.  I used up my tired pretty good.”

Asked about plans to move up a division, Alex answered, “I’m not sure yet.  We’ll see how the year goes.”

The number of spectators is still restricted.

I am on Twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).

All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.

Alex Mowatt (11) becomes the leader

Alex Mowatt (11) is ninth early in the 20-lap feature

Early in the feature Eric Parlin leads

In Heat 1, Josh Lovell holds off Chad Wills (04) and Chris Foster

In Heat 2, Alex Mowatt outside of Travis Verrill

Street stock damage

 

 

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Chad Wills earns first Bandits win of the season at Oxford Plains Speedway

Chad Wills gets his first win tonight in the Bandits Division this season

A Lap 2 spinout gave Chad Wills an opening into second place

(Oxford ME) Chad Wills has won before but sometimes it’s more than the best car that earns you the checkered flag.

“We were fast for sure, but our win tonight had to do with being in the right place at the right time,” explained Chad after winning the Bandits feature at Oxford Plains Speedway on Saturday night.

That “right place/right time” occurred for Chad in the second lap of the twenty-lap event.  He started in the 4th row but a spinout (Eric Parlin) in the 2nd lap quickly rearranged things in the front to his benefit.

“The guys up front at the start are still learning and so we got off to a bit of a slow start,” recalled Chad.  “When things happened, I picked the right lane to get through it.”

Eric Parlin in a spin

Despite several cars thrown off course, there was no caution.  “It stayed green,” added Chad, “and that definitely helped.”

Alex Mowatt, who would end up second, was near the back when the spinout happened.  “I thought there was going to be a caution when Eric Parlin got spun.  I slowed down but they didn’t throw the caution.”

Nick Ogden came out of the spinout ahead with Chad Wills nearby, but not for long.  Chad was by him on Lap 4.

Chad Wills moves to get inside Nick Ogden

“I figured that Nick would do all he could to protect the bottom, but he gave me plenty of room, surprisingly,” said Chad about getting past Nick and into the lead.

“I certainly appreciated the opening,” added Chad.  “Nick is a good driver.  He won the championship at Riverside.”

Last year’s points champion in the Bandits Division cruised over the final sixteen laps to get his first win of the season.

Alex Mowatt rallied back to get second place

This year’s points leader (Alex Mowatt) finished strong getting past Jeff Libby for 3rd place in Lap 15 and Nick Ogden for 2nd place in the last lap.

“I think I would have had a shot at (Chad) Wills if my front tire held up,” said Alex.  “It was pretty chunked off.”

Alex has had a first, second, and three thirds so far.  “I won the first race and I’m ready for another,” he said.

Chad said that he was aware of Alex’s late run: “I kept watching the board.  I didn’t want to burn up everything I had if I didn’t need to.  But then I saw with about two laps left that Alex was making his way around Nick Ogden, so I had to step on it.  I wanted to stay away from those lap cars because you never know what they’re going to do.”

Josh Toothaker

Newcomer Josh Toothaker took the only Bandits heat.  “Josh used to race Outlaws,” explained Chad.  “He can weld and fabricate, and he stumbled upon a good deal for a car.  He hit the right lane in that heat that he won today just like I did in the feature.”

Alex Mowatt: “Most of the drivers get along pretty well.  At the same time, we’re not out here to make friends.”

Another week (it’s been five) without spectators.  The Oxford 250 is less than a month away.  Will that race be run without a crowd?

I am on Twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

crowd at OPS

Alex Mowatt gets by Jeff Libby

Chad, Alex, and Nick in late lap

Chad Wills alone in front

Chad Wills moves in front of Nick Ogden

Chad Wills wins feature

Doug Churchill (07) leads at start of feature

Feature just before spinout

Nick Ogden tries to hold off Alex Mowatt and Jeff Libby

Nick Ogden with the lead after the spinout

Josh Toothaker has big lead in heat

Josh Toothaker (left) uses the top of the track to get the lead in the heat

 

 

 

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Travis Benjamin gets his third Oxford 250 win

Travis Benjamin wins the 46th Oxford 250

DJ Shaw (3rd), Travis Benjamin, and Derek Griffith (2nd)

(Oxford ME) “Short track racing is alive and well here at Oxford Plains Speedway,” declared 3rd place Oxford 250 finisher DJ Shaw.

“What a crowd,” he added……and who could argue!

The seats were filled, and the crowd was into it for the 46th edition of the OPS 250, held on Sunday.

Travis Benjamin won the Oxford 250 for the third time.  The last time was five years ago.

“I can’t believe it,” said Travis to a gathering on Victory Lane that may have included everyone from his hometown of Morrill (ME), “to have our name on the trophy again.”

Travis surveys the crowd on Victory Lane

There was no mention of Travis on Media Day on Wednesday of this week.  Why? His best run this year had been a 4th in Vermont.

And Travis didn’t show much in the first half of the race to make you think that he would be holding the checkered flag later.  But he has been racing for a while and there had been some changes to the car and in the makeup of the crew.

“We concentrated on the car that I liked, and we got the crew back together that keyed the other two Oxford 250 wins,” explained Travis.

Travis admitted that for the first half of the race he would have been willing to “settle for a top five finish.”

Travis Benjamin (7) leaves pit row

There were seven cautions, however, and things turned Travis’ way during the one on lap 179.  He added four tires and thereafter was in contention, taking the lead for good with forty laps left.

Eddie MacDonald (17) and Ryan Kuhn (72) started in the front

Two cautions, however, in the last twelve laps made things exciting for the crowd and nerve-wracking for Travis, who had gained separation from Derek Griffith and TJ Shaw.  “I was nervous on those last restarts,” said Travis.  “DJ has won a lot of races and Derek is as hungry as anyone, but I was confident in our car at that point.”

Travis broke away quickly on each of the restarts, regained some breathing room, and won his third title.

“Those last two restarts really helped us,” said second-place finisher Derek Griffith post-race.  “I had a better restart run on most of the people around me.  He (Travis) was just a little bit better than we were today.”

DJ Shaw crossed third and didn’t think that the restarts did him any favors.  “We had a long-run car and we got short runs at the end,” explained DJ.

Scott McDaniel ran into trouble

“To be the best car on a one-stop strategy says a lot for our program,” said DJ.  “It was our best race of the year.  We led a lot of laps and they knew we were here.  It’s never a bad day to get a top three in the 250.

DJ was 6th in 2018.  “This is our second 3rd-place finish.  We’ll look to move up next year.”

Mike Hopkins (Hermon ME) got 5th but wasn’t happy about it.  Mike, however, was quick to praise his crew (“They killed it on pit stops”) but was sure that he personally could have done better.

“Right before we came in to take four tires, I dropped down too early and Tom penalized me and put me in the rear,” Mike told me.  “We would have been fifth with four new tires.  I don’t think anyone had anything against us, but it would have made a difference, I think.  We drove from the back to the front twice.  We rode the corners so well and passed a lot of cars.”

Mike had a win in Richmond (VA) in March.  “We killed it in Richmond but haven’t put it together since.  I cost us a chance tonight to win the Oxford 250.”

Winning car

Travis Benjamin explained that the track was hard to read.  “Part of the race I was good outside and other times I wasn’t.  The bottom was like that too.  You just kind of had to go all over the place.”  This was certainly where the years of racing, including many at Oxford, paid off.  Travis had the skills to adjust successfully to the changing conditions.

Travis had nothing but kind words for the racing in the Northeast.  “When someone like Bubba Pollard (last year’s winner) comes up here and we’re lapping him that tells you who’s racing up here.  That’s nothing against the guys down South.  It’s just that the racing up here is the best in the country, hands down.”

Forty-four cars started and eighteen of them finished on the lead lap.

Travis started in 11th place.

The estimated winning total for Travis from the race was $29,000.

Johnny Clark came in fourth.

Bob Bahre was the grand marshall

Former owner Bob Bahre was the grand marshall.

I have to admit the degree to which I was taken in by the talk at Media Day on Wednesday.  I heard there plenty of good words about Curt Geary’s chances of winning the 250………and there were lots of them deserved for the 2017 winner.  When I saw that “7” flashing by in the limited lights of the track later in the race last night I thought it was Curt Geary (also #7).  The PA announcer eventually straightened me out. My bad and I do wear glasses!

Also full disclosure: I did not sit in on the post-race interview with Travis Benjamin in the press box.  However, I did see the Sun-Journal’s video of that interview.  I had actual conversations with Derek, DJ, and Mike after the race.

The crowd was certainly amazing.  The two cautions in the closing laps gave everyone a clear look at the defining moments of the race.

OPS humor?  I heard a seated lady ask a 10-year-old (?) boy, who was walking by, if he had a hole in his sock.  The kid naturally said that he didn’t.  The woman asked, “How did you get your foot into it?”

Part of the crowd at the Oxford 250

Nice weather but did it ever cool off when the sun went down!

Thanks to the OPS staff, especially Mary Mayberry, for letting me in to witness the race.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Derek Griffith (2nd place) congratulated after the race

Travis Benjamin on the roof

Earlier race trouble on the turn

Eddie MacDonald and Ryan Kuhn introduced as the two in the first row

Garrett Hall (R) pre-race

Heading the wrong way in an earlier race

Setting up for the 250

Third title for Travis Benjamin

 

 

 

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