Category Archives: Oxford Plains Speedway

Breeanna Spaulding wins Ladies Feature

Breeanna Spaulding wins the Ladies Feature

(Oxford) Breeanna Spaulding has won a lot of Ladies Features at Oxford Plains Speedway.

This season the 28-year-old picked up where she left off winning three of the first four races.

But suddenly things changed, and Breeanna hadn’t won in over a month.

However, last night the also-rans ended, and it was time for that long-awaited victory lap.

“I was driving a different car tonight,” said Breeanna after the race.  “The other one had been running badly, and we finally found out why.  In the hold in the fuel tank there was plastic still in it.”

The different car made last night’s race a pleasant one.

Maddy Herrick and Amara Parker follow Breeanna Spaulding

“It was kind of nice watching them in the mirror,” said Breeanna with a laugh afterwards.

The “them” she referenced were two 15-year-olds, Maddy Herrick and Amara Parker.

In eight weeks of racing, the winner has been either Breeanna (4), Maddy (2), or Amara (2).

Kasie Kolbe won the Ladies 8-lap heat last night and was off to a good start in the 20-lap feature before the front tire blew several laps into the feature. 

Flat tire for Kasie Kolbe

Kasie shares the car with her cousin Skip Tripp.  Ironically, Skip had a flat in the July 8th Outlaws feature on the same side and it cost him dearly in that race.

Kasie’s flat led to a caution and a restart with Breeanna on the pole and Maddy on the outside. 

Breeanna resumed the lead right away with Maddy and Amara close by in Lap 4. 

Amara Parker tries the second groove

Both Maddy and Amara tried, during the final sixteen laps, to use the second groove to get past Breeanna.  It didn’t work for either of them, in fact, they each gave up second when they attempted it.

“There was no second groove,” said Maddy Herrick who finished second afterwards.  “The track was wicked slick.  We’re still getting used to racing on hot days.”

Breeanna got a little wide on the final turn.  “It was the last lap,” she said.  “I was getting excited, and I gave up the bottom a little bit.”

Maddy has been first or second for the last four weeks.  “We were there speed wise,” she said.  “A few more laps and I probably could have got her.  I’ll take second.  She’s very good.”

Maddy Herrick finished second

“We think we have a winning car,” Maddy added.  “We’ll learn from this and be better next week.”

Maddy is also the goalie on the Oxford Hills girls’ soccer team.  I covered her game last year against Brunswick. “Soccer preseason starts soon,” she said.  “It’s a lot of work but I like it.”

My intention was to cover the Outlaws, but their feature was moved to last.  The Ladies were first.

Impressive run by Jake Dobson in the Outlaws’ heat.  Skip Tripp passed everyone else, but Jake won his first heat by holding Skip off for the final four laps of the 8-lap race.

Jake Dobson holds the lead over Skip Tripp in the final lap of the 8-lap heat

Skip Tripp starts to move on the upper groove in the Outlaws heat

The finish of the Ladies 8-lap heat

Heat action

Heat action

Heat action

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Drew Morse wins Outlaws Feature

Drew Morse gets the win and Will Dunphy finishes second
Skip Tripp and Will Dunphy 1-2

(Oxford) It looked like last week but then it didn’t.

Skip Tripp and Will Dunphy had finished 1-2 last week and there they were in the same order deep into Friday night’s 20-lap Outlaws feature.

A blown tire changed everything.

Skip Tripp suddenly lost speed with Will Dunphy close behind him.

Drew Morse makes his move

This turn of events opened the door for Opening Day winner Drew Morse.

“I saw Dunphy and the 12 messing around,” recalled Drew.  “I was like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna hang her out there and pray that I can get around them on the outside.’”

Get around he did, and Drew held the lead the rest of the way to gain his second win.

Will Dunphy

“I thought I had a chance,” said Will Dunphy afterwards.  “I’m still happy with second, in fact I’m happy to be in the top five.”

Will has now finished second four straight weeks.  He had a win before the run of seconds began.

Tonight, was the first night of three straight days of racing.  There were fewer races tonight and that effected the track significantly.

“We had a way better track this time because we didn’t have all the Super Late Model rubber on the track,” explained Will.

The increased traction opened the upper grooves as options and there were plenty of Outlaws’ takers.

Running four wide is usually a direct route to trouble but not tonight.  The feature had four-wide’s and they never led to cautions.  It was a bit tight for those in the middle of it, however.

Running four wide

“I felt like a pinball out there!” said Drew laughing.

Drew wasn’t pleased with the way his car has been handling since he won the feature the end of May.  “We’ve been struggling with the car being tight,” he said.  “We were still tight tonight, but it was good enough to get the win.”

Drew Morse

However, it wasn’t enough to get the win in the 8-lap heat for Drew. He ended up second to Betty Nelson.

“I just happened to be a little tighter than Betty and she got me,” added Drew.

Chris Foster heads for third

Chris Foster finished third in the feature.

Serious accident in the Rebels’ feature tonight.  The longer the medical people are on the track the more concerned I get.  Can’t help it. 

The prospect of injury is part of the reality that race-car drivers (and their families) face.

“It’s the chance you take every time you buckle in,” said Drew Morse.

The weather was just right. 

Between the heats and the features, kids got rides in race cars.

Victory lap

Last lap

Skip Tripp chases pole sitter Jake Dobson

Betty Nelson wins the heat

Spinout in the Ladies Heat

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Skip Tripp wins third straight Outlaws feature at Oxford Plains Speedway

Skip Tripp takes a victory spin after winning his third straight Outlaws feature

(Oxford ME) They each did it their way and they each made it work.

Skip Tripp had the fast car and the ability to get around cars. 

Skip Tripp (12) heads for the lead in the second lap of the Outlaws feature.
Will Dunphy

Will Dunphy envisioned chaos on the track and stayed back waiting for his chance.

Skip Tripp won his third straight Outlaws feature on Saturday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Skip started in the back because of his successes in the previous weeks.  It didn’t matter. 

Within two laps, in both the 8-lap heat and the 20-lap feature, Skip had used the outside lane to pass the field.  Once there, he didn’t look back.

Skip Tripp

“Everything went our way,” said Skip afterwards.  “We were pretty hooked up.  It was kind of easy tonight.”

Will Dunphy finished second.

Will also started in the back because of previous successes.  Unlike Skip, however, Will was content to stay there for a while.

“I hung back because I knew things were going to happen,” explained Will.  “I could tell the way drivers were acting at the get-go.”

“Some want to get to the top by Lap 2,” he added.  “They need to calm down and realize that there are twenty laps.”

Corey Morgan got spun and his car was totaled early in the Outlaws feature.

“A car getting totaled takes the fun out of it for me,” said Will.  “There were way too many cars wrecked tonight.  There is no need for it.  There are not enough of us out there for that to happen.”

The spin below in the feature gave Will (#4) his chance to move from the back to the front around the involved cars and he did:

Skip Tripp: “We’re just playing with this thing now until we get to Street Stocks for something else.  We’re just getting back into rhythm.  We’ve been out of it for so long.  The car is for my cousin.  I set it to her liking but it’s too loose now for her.  We need to change it.  We’ll tighten it up and hopefully she’ll have the same success.”

Corey Morgan’s car taken off

Will Dunphy: “Tripp’s car is definitely fast.  It wasn’t that fast before but maybe a lot of experience has something to do with the way it’s now going for them.  There was too much rubber on the track today from the Super Late Models.  It was super icy.  I couldn’t stay up there very long.  This is my second year with the Outlaws.  I was told to move up from the Cruiser Class.  It’s been a fun venture so far.”

This was the fifth week of Outlaws’ racing.

Skip Tripp’s lowest finish so far has been third.

Skip Tripp working the outside in Lap 1 of the 8-lap heat

Will Dunphy has been either first or second during the past four weeks.

Car 26 near the Grandstand

Matt Veinott earned third today.  His highest previous finish had been fifth.

Combining two days of racing with fireworks brought out a good crowd.  The weather was ideal too.

Yes, I gave the Bandits coverage last year.  Their demise set me searching for another group to cover.  The Outlaws have a small roster….less confusion initially for me. I’ll see what I can do over the next three months.  There will be pictures and interviews.

(The pictures should enlarge if you click on them.)

Pushing to the lineup

Pre-race family time

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Rookie Nick Wilson wins second Bandits feature

Nick Wilson with his crew after winning tonight’s Bandits’ feature
Nick Wilson won for the 2nd time

(Oxford ME) If your race car isn’t working the way you want, the usual remedy is to upgrade something.

Tonight’s Bandits winner Nick Wilson chose to go in the opposite direction…..he downgraded and got himself a victory.

“The car was awful in the heat,” said Nick. “We didn’t know what to do about it.  We took the new left tire off and replaced it with an old one.  I didn’t think it would work, but it surprised us.”

In the twenty-lap feature, Nick took the lead from pole-sitter Jeremy Farrar in Lap Three and never let go.

This was Nick’s second win in his rookie season with the Bandits. 

On July 25th,Nick won for the first time.

In that first win Nick led the entire race surviving one restart.

Nick Wilson in front (53) protecting the bottom

In both races, Nick did a remarkable job protecting the bottom.

Luke Mowatt finished second

“Nick was good,” said runner-up Luke Mowatt post-race tonight.

“They probably were faster than me,” said Nick of his challengers who never were far away.  “I was protecting the bottom.  It’s hard to go on the outside.”

Luke Mowatt confirmed that point: “The track was hot and still pretty greasy.  I wouldn’t have stood a chance out there.”

With passing opportunities minimalized, the race came down to seeing if the leader (Nick Wilson) would make a mistake.  In today’s twenty-lap feature it didn’t happen.  The order of finish (Nick, Luke, Alex Mowatt, Jeff Libby, Jeremy Farrar) was established early and stayed in place lap after lap.

Jeff Libby gets the lead late in the heat

The Bandits eight-lap heat was a different story.  Jeff Libby skillfully worked his way past both Jeremy Farrar and Nick Wilson late in the race to win.

Luke Mowatt had a remarkable run over the past fourteen races.  He finished either first or second.  Luke led the Bandits with seven wins.

Alex Mowatt won the points race for the second straight year. Alex was in the top three in every race but two of them.

“It would have been a lot closer in points if Luke didn’t have a bad start to the season,” admitted Alex.

Luke had his car get wrecked in a heat in May and didn’t make that feature as a result.  He got no points on that occasion.

“It would have been pretty close in points if I hadn’t missed that one feature,” said Luke.

Alex Mowatt finished third but still led the Bandits in points this season

“Overall, we had a really good year,” said Alex.  “The highlight was winning on 250 weekend.  I hadn’t done that before.”

It sounded to me after the race as if the Mowatt brothers won’t be as active in the Bandits Division next year.

“I’m not going to race a full season in the Bandits,” said Luke.  “It gets to be a lot every weekend.  Maybe I’ll try something else.”

“I’m not really sure what division I’ll race in,” added Alex.  “I might take some time off.”

Both of the Mowatts work for Bancroft Contracting Corporation.

Nick Wilson (senior at Oxford Hills) was named the top rookie in the Bandits Division.  “I’d say I had a pretty good rookie season,” he said.  Nick had two firsts and two seconds in 2021.

Nick Wilson on his way to the checkered flag in the Bandits feature

Nick told me post-race that his #53 was his grandfather’s number.

Alex’s #11 and Luke’s #22 were numbers they said that they have always had.  “It was on my go-kart,” said Alex.

Luke Mowatt tries the outside on the final lap

Nice weather (low 70’s) with sunshine.  The 4PM start gave this photographer some daylight to shoot in.  Always appreciated.

I have enjoyed watching the races and talking to the drivers.  Thanks to the Mayberrys for letting me do it.

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

Jeremy Farrar started on the pole in the feature and faced plenty of pressure in the early going.
Jeff Libby wins the Bandits heat
Alex Mowatt and Logan MacDougall
Fender bender in the Ladies heat
Amari Parker’s damaged car draws plenty of interest

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Breeanna Spaulding gets tenth win

Breeanna Spaulding wins another Ladies Division race
Feature win for Breeanna Spaulding

(Oxford ME) They say that life has two certainties: death, and taxes.

Maybe it’s time for a third: Breeanna Spaulding will dominate in the Ladies Division.

Breeanna was at it again today at Oxford Plains Speedway easily winning for the tenth time.

“Some weeks I really have to work for it,” said Breeanna afterwards.  “Some weeks it’s easy.”

This was one of those “easy” ones.

Breeanna came out of the second row in the 15-lap feature and had the lead for good on the third lap.

In the heat race (8 laps) the same thing happened.  In both races, Breeanna got by Kasie Kolbe on the outside, and sailed home unchallenged.

“I’ve enjoyed racing with the ladies,” added Breeanna, “but I wish it was a little more competitive.”

Chloe Kiley – second place

Chloe Kiley ended up second and Kasie Kolbe finished third.

This was the second time that Chloe has finished in the runner-up spot this season.

“I was good on the outside,” Chloe said, “but once I got to the bottom there was not a lot.”

Last week Chloe won for the only time in 2021. 

That race was not a pleasant memory for Breeanna Spaulding.  The 27-year-old was cleanly in front with another win just a few turns away when suddenly her car came to a stop and the other cars moved by her.  What happened?  “The wires burnt onto the manifold, and it made the car die,” said Breeanna.  “I had no choice but to stop racing, unfortunately.”

Chloe took advantage of Breeanna’s car trouble.  “I was right behind her when her car quit,” said Chloe.  “I’m happy I didn’t hit her.  For a second, I didn’t know what to do but we made it through.”

Breeanna told me that she will race in the Outlaws Division next year.  “We bought a new car.  We’ll have our current car for the ladies and use my new car for the Outlaws.”

Breeanna Spaulding wins heat

After dominating the Ladies Division in 2019 (won first ten races), Breeanna tried the Outlaws last year.  It didn’t go very well.

“My car couldn’t really keep up,” she said.  “We had some altercations with other people.  It just wasn’t worth it. But now we have a new car.”

Chloe’s car (#16) is currently being used in both the Outlaws and the Ladies.  Jon Emerson has been driving it in the Outlaws.

“I’m not sure about next year yet,” added Chloe.  “I might buy another car and have two to race.”

Chloe does know a thing or two about buying cars since she currently sells cars at Bessey Motor Sales.

Breeanna in the lead over Chloe in the feature

Kasie Kolbe was third in the feature and Amara Parker was fourth.

The weather was cool but not cold.

I liked the 4PM start because the more daylight the easier it is for picture taking.

Only one more week for points. 

A month from now I’m back in Amesbury (MA) teaching driver’s education part-time.  Talk about dangerous!

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

First turn in the Ladies feature with Kasie Kolbe leading
Breeanna Spaulding pressures Kasie Kolbe in the third lap of the feature
Amara Parker’s car
Chloe Kiley’s car waiting to go in the Outlaws feature
Number one in points in the Ladies Division

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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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Jeff Libby wins second Bandits feature

Luke Mowatt (22) and Jeff Libby (44) battled lap after lap
Jeff struggled for control in the last lap

(Oxford ME) Jeff Libby’s strategy was “not to look back.”

But he knew where Luke Mowatt was.

“I could see him going across my mirror,” said Jeff afterwards, “but I was just trying to focus on my line and not mess up.”

Jeff and Luke had at it for eighteen laps of the twenty-lap Bandits feature on Saturday night.

Jeff came away with his second win of the 2021 season at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Luke, who has been first or second in the last eleven races and won six races, did everything he could to get the lead.

Jeff started on the pole and Luke was quick to get out of the second row and in behind him.

Luke Mowatt has been first or second for eleven straight weeks

There Luke would stay the entire remaining laps of the twenty-lap Bandits feature.

“I was trying to get by him with everything I knew,” said Luke.  “I knew that it would be tough to get under him.  I was hoping he’d slip up, but he just never did.”

“The tires got hot quick,” added Luke. “It was hard to go on the outside.  I couldn’t do much after the first lap.”

Jeff had a lot to do with it because every way Luke tried to go (to pass), Jeff positioned his car to prevent it.

“Jeff is good at holding his spot,” said Luke.

While that race was going on, another many-lap race went on between Nick Wilson and Alex Mowatt for third place.

Nick Wilson fought off Alex Mowatt for third place

Nick started in the second row and Alex in the third row.

Jeff Libby and Luke Mowatt quickly separated from the rest of the field.

That left Nick and Alex to have an eighteen-lap battle for third place.

Nick, like Jeff Libby ahead of him, held the third spot and never gave it up.

Lap after lap Nick and Alex were side-by-side but the positioning never changed.

“Alex was beside me the whole race,” said Nick afterwards.  “It wore me out, but it was fun.”

On July 24th, Nick held off both Mowatt brothers to get his first Bandits win.

Two separate battles made this a very interesting race to watch
Alex Mowatt

This time Nick only had one of them to contend with.  “We ran side-by-side and didn’t touch once,” said Nick.

Alex has won five times and only finished less than third twice in fifteen races.  Tonight, was one of those times.

“I just held the inside line and kind of prayed,” said Nick.  “I tried to race as clean as I could.”

Nice night for racing.

It seemed like a light crowd to me.  Maybe folks are saving up for the 250 later this month.

Jeff Libby also won the Bandits heat tonight.  “Tonight was our night,” he said.

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

Jeff Libby and daughter Karmann with the trophy
The finish of the Bandits feature
Jeff Libby takes the checkered flag in the Bandits heat
Luke Mowatt gets into second (behind Jeff Libby) early in the Bandits feature
Jeff Libby does a victory lap after his feature’s win
Curtis Gerry was racing tonight
Rookie Cody Macomber leaves the heat
Repairs are made and Cody gets second in the Rookies feature
Nick Wilson (53) surrounded by Alex (11) and Luke (22) Mowatt in the Bandits heat

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Alex Mowatt wins 5th feature

Alex Mowatt (11) uses the high side in the feature
The order of finish was established early in the feature.

(Oxford ME) He’s the Bandits points leader at Oxford Plains Speedway.

But it had been five weeks since his last win.

Tonight, Alex Mowatt added to his point total and ended his five-week non-winning streak.

“I’m leading in points,” said Alex afterwards, “My car is in one piece.  I can’t complain.”

Luke Mowatt (2nd) and Alex Mowatt (1st)

Luke Mowatt (Alex’s younger brother) took second and continued his run of quality races.

Luke runs second to his brother Alex

After starting the season fifth, seventh, and tenth, Luke had been either first (six times) or second (four times) for ten straight weeks!  That’s consistency.

No question that both the Mowatts have fast cars and can keep up with each other.  What they can’t do is pass each other.  It’s not that they aren’t trying to do it!

In the lone Bandits heat and the 20-lap feature, Alex successfully used the same strategy.  He went to the upper part of the track and was quickly past the front cars.  Once in front he basically ran out the laps.

Alex dominated the Bandits heat

“I jumped right into the early lead,” said Alex.  “I took my opportunity and didn’t look back.”

“He got to the front quick,” recalled Luke.  “It took me about five laps to get into second.”

Once both Mowatts were in the top positions the outcome wasn’t hard to figure.

“The Mowatts are tough,” said 3rd place finisher Jeff Libby.  “They’re fast.  I don’t know what to do with them.  You’ve got to get to the front first and fight them.”

Luke tried to get by his brother, but it didn’t work.  “I knew he wasn’t going to give me the bottom and I definitely couldn’t get by him on the outside.”

On the 12th lap, Luke gave his brother a bump.  “I just wanted him to know that I was there,” said Luke laughing. “I think he enjoyed the bump I gave him.”

Alex finishes first with Luke (22) second

Alex held onto the lead and won by several car lengths.

The Bandits spent a long time getting checked over after the race. 

Two weeks ago, Jeff Libby was disqualified after a lengthy post-race checkout.

“They were trying to figure out some of our transmission codes tonight,” said Jeff.  “Some didn’t match but it got figured out.”

I asked Jeff about the disqualification: “I was a little hot-headed when it happened.  It was over something we didn’t know about.  It had to do with the wheels.  We thought they were all the same, but they weren’t.  We were wrong.  Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.”

Karmann, Jeff, and Tony

“Tonight, was a good race,” said Jeff.  “We are a little bit off from where we should be, but we still managed to come home third.  You can’t complain about that.”

Luke said that the track was “wicked” slippery.  Jeff said, “The track lost a lot of grip with all the rain we’ve had.”

There was plenty of action in the Street Stock Division.  I caught Shawn Knight (#25) spinning out in one of their heats.

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

Contact in the Bandits feature

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