(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.
In both races, Nick did a remarkable job protecting the bottom.
“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.
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.
“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 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.
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.)
(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 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.”
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.
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.)
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.
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 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) 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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.)
The Mowatts (Alex and Luke) have certainly done that.
Alex took first in the 17th Bandits feature tonight. It’s his sixth win.
In the Bandits seventeen features this season, Alex and Luke have thirteen wins between them. Jeff Libby has two of the remaining four wins.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
(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.
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.
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.
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 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.
(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 (Alex’s younger brother) took second and continued his run of quality races.
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.
“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 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.”
“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.)
(Oxford ME) Two weeks ago, Brandon Caston took the lead early in the Bandits feature…..and lost it at the end.
Not this time.
It was Brandon’s first win at Oxford Plains Speedway.
“I’ve been chasing this for four years,” said Brandon afterwards. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Jeff Libby was the guy in Brandon’s rearview mirror as he navigated lap-after-lap of the 20-lap feature in front.
Two weeks ago, it was last year’s points winner, Alex Mowatt behind him.
“It was the first race of this season,” recalled Brandon. “I was out there getting used to the car. I had the lead and then I saw Alex coming. I had watched him for two years and I knew he was quick. I was like, ‘Oh, no. Here we go.’ I overdrove the car and lost the lead. I was, however, happy to get my first trophy.”
This time around Brandon kept the challenger (Jeff Libby) in his rearview mirror in the closing laps and secured his first top spot.
Alex Mowatt finished third after winning the first two weeks.
“It’s good to get on the podium with Jeff and Alex,” said Brandon. “They’re really good people.”
One of the appealing trademarks for spectators of Bandits features is that the more successful a driver has been, the further back he is placed to start in future races. (I’m not sure the drivers are thrilled with this!)
“I was pretty nervous going into the feature,” said Jeff Libby, “because I was starting in the middle of the pack. There were guys up front with less experience.”
Accurate split decisions become essential for the previously successful drivers if they are to finish at, or near, the front as they have done before.
“I knew going into the race that I had to get to the outside,” said Brandon. “The car was really fast out there. To get there early I ended up pushing Caleb (Proctor) out three wide. I didn’t mean to do that. I thought there was room.”
But Brandon did get outside and quickly was by early leader Josh Lovell and on his way to the front for the rest of the race.
Brandon’s move helped Jeff Libby.
“Our buddy Brandon poked a big hole for us, and we followed him through it,” said Jeff. “It worked out for the best for us tonight.”
Jeff and Brandon both won their heats.
Jeff was able to hold off Alex Mowatt in his heat.
“Alex is very fast,” said Jeff. “We did everything we could to keep him behind us.”
Brandon Caston: “Three years ago I started racing using Caleb’s old O4. It didn’t go too well and so I took a couple of years off. Last year, I did a little bit and finished 4th in my first race back (July 18th). I decided to buy another car this year and go for the points and see how it would do.”
Jeff Libby: “The car is going very good (4th and two 2nds). We’re running a different tire this year and that seems to be helping quite a bit.”
Overcast weather looking as if it might rain but it didn’t.
Lengthy time in post-race tech for the Bandits drivers after new regulations kicked in.
Good to finally be at OPS in person although the videos of the races from the previous two weeks have been very helpful is seeing how things are going at OPS.
The Bandits feature today was restart free. Maybe the “inexperienced” drivers are getting better at navigating the early laps? Last season that first corner was close to a fender-bender certainty!
It took Jeff Libby nine weeks last season to get his first-ever top finish. Hasn’t had one after three weeks this season. About due?
Expecting something special from Alex Mowatt in Week Four.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
Alex Mowatt takes a victory lap after winning the Bandits feature tonight
(Oxford ME) Great start.
And in between wasn’t so bad for Alex Mowatt either!
Tonight, at Oxford Plains Speedway, 21-year-old Alex won the Bandits twenty-lap feature and took the points championship as well.
“We got what we wanted,” said Alex afterwards.
Alex was the winner on opening night (June 27th) and finished the same way in tonight’s season finale.
In between those victories, Alex won two other races and never finished lower than fifth in any race in a very competitive division.
Spinout early in the race
This season OPS used a 3-week rolling average to place cars in the Bandits features. That rewarded the faithful attendees who weren’t doing very well with front-of-the-pack starts. The “successful” drivers had to start further back and get by cars to get to the front. This arrangement had a habit of making the first few laps exciting to watch.
Tonight was no exception. Lap One, spinout and a caution. Lap Two, spinout and another caution.
Fortunately, for Alex and his brother Lukas who finished second, the spinouts didn’t bother them.
“I started in ninth,” explained Lukas. “and was on the bottom. I saw it happen and was able to sneak under it.”
Alex gained ground on the first caution and had the lead after the second caution.
After that tonight’s race reminded me of many from last year. The cars got in a row on the bottom (Alex, Lukas, Eric Parlin, Chad Wills, Ralph Green) and stayed there, lap after lap.
“If you pull up to try to pass you may not get back,” said Eric Parlin.
“After the first few laps, everybody kind of cleared out and it was clear sailing,” said Lukas.
Lukas told me that he felt lucky to have finished second. “I changed a tire after the heat and it probably wasn’t the greatest idea,” he said. “The car was really loose in the feature. I had all I could do to keep it under control.”
Chad Wills was 5th tonight and finished 2nd in the Bandits points standings. “It was an up-and-down season for us. We won two races and used four different cars. We won the overall championship last year so I’m happy with how this season ended up.”
Eric Parlin finished 3rd in the race and 4th in the points standings
Eric Parlin used the same “up-and-down” description for his Bandits season. He won a race on Week #3 after finishing 10th and 15th the two previous weeks. He also had his share of car trouble. “Please include in the story how thankful I am for the help Caleb Proctor and Brandon Caston have given me,” said Eric. “I never would have finished 4th in points without them.”
Six different drivers (Alex, Lukas, Chad, Eric, Jeff Libby, Travis Verrill) took checkered flags during the eleven-race season. Next year looks as if it may be just as competitive. Alex Mowatt was the only one that I spoke with who wasn’t certain he’d race with the Bandits.
“I’m going to have a full season of Bandits next year,” said Lukas who didn’t compete until August. “I’ve got a new car.”
“I’ll be back racing again,” said Eric. “It’s fun. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a blast. I’ve raced other tracks just trying to get more experience.”
“I’d like to try the Outlaws,” said Chad, “but my budget will keep me in the Bandits division for a while.”
I have gotten used to the small crowds in the grandstands. It would be nice to have that all changed to the way it was come next season.
Really impressed with the driving skills of Alex Mowatt. His ability to race up on the track kept him away from much of the trouble early in races. Never finishing lower than fifth enabled him to win the points championship by a wide margin. He was a distant 7th in 2019.
Nice crisp fall night for racing. There was only one race (of eleven) postponed in 2020.
The delayed start of the racing season worked well for me because my wife and I don’t usually arrive in Maine until June.
I enjoyed interacting with the cooperative/appreciative drivers.
All the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.
I am on Twitter (mcclellandpeter) and Instagram (mcclellandmiscellanea).
Eric Parlin, Travis Verrill, and Chad Wills
Alex and Lukas Mowatt finished 1-2 in tonight’s feature
Alex Mowatt under the checkered flag in the Bandits feature
The lineup for many laps – Alex, Lukas, Eric, Chad, and Ralph Green
Start of the feature
Jeff Libby, winner in Week 10, off with car trouble