Category Archives: Oxford Plains Speedway

Rookie Alex Mowatt wins Race #1 in Bandit Triple Crown series at Oxford Plains Speedway

Alex Mowatt wins the first of three races in the Bandit Triple Crown series

Alex with trophy

(Oxford ME)  Rookie Alex Mowatt won the first race in the 2019 Bandit Triple Crown series on Sunday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.

The second, of three races, in this series will be held on September 15th at OPS.

Alex, of Norway, ran away and hid in his heat and then did the same thing in the 25-lap feature.

“I got off to a great start and Dustin (Salley) had trouble with his car,” Alex explained afterwards.  (Dustin is the points leader among the Bandits and has won numerous races this season.)

The way Alex’s car was moving on this evening, however, I’m not sure Dustin would have stayed with him even if his car had worked well.

Chad Wills (Oxford) took second and Dustin, despite his gear trouble, was third.

What certainly helped Alex was the combination of a small field (12 cars?) and no cautions.  Alex never had to weave through traffic, and he didn’t have to chance his lead with a restart.

It was clearly his day.

After one lap Alex (11) had control of his heat and later the feature.

Highlight of his racing career?  “This was nice, but the racing highlight so far for me was the first race I won here earlier in the season,” said the 20-year-old from Norway.

Dustin Salley (18) and Chad Wills (54) battled for second place

I tried to figure out the way things go at the speedway.  Sorting out drivers and cars was a challenge.  No up-to-date rosters anywhere to be found in the press box certainly didn’t help.

Dustin Salley (3rd) with Alex after the race

I had planned to interview several drivers afterwards.  That fell through because the inspection of the cars after the race seemed to last at least an hour.  That left me little time to find the other drivers.

But it was my first time trying to cover a race where I interviewed participants, and I enjoyed being there.  I am creating my own Bandits’ roster and I will know better what to expect next time.

I expect to be at OPS for the 250 late in August.

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

Alex with the victory flag

Alex’s car

Nick Ogden (9) leads Dustin Salley in heat

Chad Wills (54), Dustin Salley (18), and Travis Verrill (24)

Eddie MacDonald’s car

Alex finishes

Alex ahead of Dean Jordan (55) and Greg Sessions (91) in his heat

Alex alone on the corner

 

 

 

 

 

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Bubba Pollard: As good as advertised

 

Bubba Pollard – champion

Joey Polewarczyk – 2nd place

(Oxford ME) “Bubba is just good,” said second-place finisher Joey Polewarczyk after the race.  “He’s the best in the country at super late models.”

Bubba Pollard came to Oxford Plains for the first time on Friday and walked away on Sunday night with the title in the 45th annual Oxford 250.

Bubba, from Senoia, Georgia had won at least sixty SLM races coming in.  Sunday night he took the lead for good with 31 laps left.

“This was one of the toughest races, I’ve ever run,” he said post-race.  “I didn’t realize how big this race was until the day of the race.  The crowd was amazing.”

The weather was terrific.  There was sun, but the clouds kept the temperatures lower than they could have been.  There was also a breeze.

OPS 250 is the only race of its kind at the Oxford Plains Track.  All the crews are set up in the infield so there are no wild dashes behind the grandstand to pit row and back when repairs are needed.

Reid Lanpher (59) earned a top position at the start

The length of the race necessitates pitting and that is where the outcome is often determined.  Cautions are the best time to get in and get out, but who knows when a caution will happen?  There were ten in this race.

Reid Lanpher (Manchester ME) finished second last year and third this year.  It was a pit stop that cost him dearly this year.

“I really messed up,” he told me.  “I stalled it in the backstretch before we came into the pit.  I sat there for a moment.  We came into the pits last as a result after being 2nd or 3rd on the track.  That really threw us back.”

Bubba Pollard gets the win

After that?  “Once we got that second set of tires on we were really good.  Coming from where we were (last) to where we ended up (third) was fun, that’s for sure.”

The pit stops for 2nd place finisher Joey Polewarczyk gave him a chance to win the race.

“We started 21st and took a gamble getting four tires early,” he recalled.  “Our goal in doing that was to get track position.  I didn’t think we’d grab the lead and run away with it like we did.”  Joey was one of five leaders during the race.

“Then we had that yellow with like 50 laps to go and since we had two new right’s in the pits I said that we had to at least take those two.  We did and it worked out.”

Joey chased Bubba Pollard over the final 30 laps for the lead.  “I felt like I was catching him a little at the end and if I had a little bit more….”

Bubba and Joey afterwards

But not on this evening and the first driver in six years not from Maine and New Hampshire took the top prize.

I enjoyed the race.  I started in the pit area and was very uncomfortable there.  If you recall, last year Rowley’s Eddie MacDonald backed into me during one of the heats.  There are so many cars coming and going.  Some are setting up for the next race while others are coming in for quick repairs.  A guy said to me, “It’s a wonder no one gets killed here!”  That “encouraged” me to get around to the pressbox side of the stadium.

The beauty of the pressbox is that there are seats.  No chairs in the pit area although someone gave me one after I was hit last year!  There also is less race-car noise.

I saw the Last Chance race from up there.  Curtis Gerry, last year’s winner, couldn’t even race in the heats because of mechanical problems.  Earlier I had seen all the frantic work going on with his car.  Curtis was in Last Chance race and won it.  He would later get into a wreck in the latter part of the main event.  Pre-race he was the top favorite.

Heavy repairs done on Curtis Gerry’s car pre-race

I was also a year wiser getting pictures.  The lights at OPS are minimal.  No need to dream of an action shot as darkness sets in.

I also have had trouble getting onto the track afterwards to get early celebration shots in the past.  This time I got down the 50+ steps from the pressbox with twenty laps left so I was in position to get onto the track faster.  You still have pitiful light to work with even if you get there but at least I was in position to get shots that I could photoshop later.

Something I need to do next year: I must get numbers to go with cars.  My plan was to shoot drivers pre-race and then use those pictures later.  Couldn’t really do that since I didn’t know numbers.  It doesn’t help that some cars have the SAME number.  Both Travis Benjamin and Curtis Perry (former winners) drive #7.  You also must know the color!  If I looked up the drivers online I’m sure I could have had some of the information I wanted.

Thanks to the OPS folks for enabling my visit to happen.  I enjoyed it.

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

Gabe Brown

Mike Rowe interviewed

Crowd taking their chances on pit row

Car on fire on the track

Pre-race lineup

Bubba after taking a victory lap

Bubba on top of his car

Bubba Pollard interviewed

Bubba with trophy and flag

Bubba with Mac and Erin

 

 

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All is well for Wayne Helliwell as he wins the 43rd Oxford 250

 

Wayne Helliwell got the checkered flag after winning the 43rd OPS 250

Wayne Helliwell got the checkered flag after winning the 43rd OPS 250

The trophy, the car, and an excited crew.

The trophy, the car, and an excited crew.

(Oxford ME) Travis Benjamin led the 43rd annual Oxford 250 for 159 laps but it wasn’t enough as Wayne Helliwell led the final five laps to earn the checkered flag on Sunday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.

After the last of the cautions (12) on lap 227 an entertaining battle unfolded between 2-time champ Travis Benjamin and Wayne Helliwell of Dover (NH).

By then most of the non-contenders were off the track and there was plenty of open territory ahead for the two leaders after the restart.  But at the speed the two front-runner were going you knew that the race would eventually be won in the traffic ahead.

Travis on the high side and Wayne on the inside early in the race

Travis on the high side and Wayne on the inside early in the race

Wayne was on the inside and Travis was on the next line up.  Travis had used that line to get by many cars during the race.

In lap 244 the two leaders approached field-trailer Garrett Evans (#64).  Garrett was on Travis’ lane and Wayne was on the inside lane beside Travis.  Travis said afterwards that he hesitated when he approached the 64 because didn’t know what the 64 was going to do.  That “hesitation” allowed Wayne to fly by on 64’s inside and forced Travis to drop down in back of him.  Travis would never recover from what happened with the 64 and had to settle five laps later for, what had to be, a disappointing second place.

Travis said afterwards that he thought the difference was that Wayne had pitted for tires fifty laps after he did.  Those fresher tires allowed Wayne to keep up with Travis and to eventually get to the front.  I’ll still go with what happened dealing with the 64 as the actual difference maker.

Wayne Helliwell pits for tires

Wayne Helliwell pits for tires

Exciting race to say the least.

Wayne finished seventh in the OPS 250 last year.  This time he won the race and received a check for $29,500.

DJ Shaw came in third.

Last year’s winner Glen Luce was strong in the early going.

TJ Brackett came out of the very first caution unable to get his car to start and was quickly done for the night.

Travis Benjamin stays high and will get past Mike and Ben Rowe

Travis Benjamin stays high and will get past Mike and Ben Rowe

Ben Rowe finished 4th while his dad Mike ended up 24th.

A couple of the young favorites (Reid Lanpher and Derek Griffith) got into benders early and never could challenge the leaders.  Reid was 2nd last year.

I saw the race from above the sky boxes on the roof.  Nice and breezy up there on a hot afternoon/evening with an extraordinary view.

Only problem with that lofty perch was that it was impossible to get down from there to the track in time to get pictures of the early post-race celebrating.  But you can’t have everything!

Thanks to Tom/Mary Mayberry for arranging the media credentials.

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

Mike Rowe explains some of the finer points of racing to TJ Brackett

Mike Rowe explains some of the finer points of racing to TJ Brackett

Derek Griffith before the race

Derek Griffith before the race

Reid Lanpher before the race

Reid Lanpher before the race

Wayne Helliwell introduced

Wayne Helliwell introduced

Travis Benjamin introduced

Travis Benjamin introduced

Austin Theriault

Austin Theriault

Fender bender involving Jeff Taylor (88), Kyle Treadwell (44), Cassius Clark (13) and Mike Hopkins (15).ops-A14-fb2ops-A13-fb3ops-12-fb-4

DJ Shaw after the race

DJ Shaw after the race

Travis Benjamin after the race

Travis Benjamin after the race

Travis Benjamin pit stop

Travis Benjamin pit stop

Travis got past the 64 early in the race

Travis got past the 64 early in the race

2015 winner Glen Luce pressured by Travis Benjamin

2015 winner Glen Luce pressured by Travis Benjamin

Politics on a fender

Politics on a fender

TJ Brackett out early

TJ Brackett out early

 

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Glen Luce takes 42nd Oxford (Maine) 250

Glen Luce and Ryan Lanpher (2nd) pose on victory lane

Glen Luce and Reid Lanpher (2nd) pose on victory lane

Eddie MacDonald (66) on the pole at the start of the race. Winner Glen Luce (7) started 22nd.

Eddie MacDonald (66) on the pole at the start of the race. Winner Glen Luce (7) started 22nd.

(Oxford ME) I rechecked all the area previews for the Oxford 250. No sign of Glen Luce or Reid Lanpher.

Won’t happen next year. The 48-year-old Glen and the 17-year-old Reid took over the race at the Oxford Plains Speedway in the final fifty laps to exit from big-race obscurity.

Good crowd and excellent weather for what is conceded to be Maine’s biggest sporting event.

This year’s edition of the race fooled me a number of times.

Before the race I liked the chances of Travis Benjamin after he had won this event two straight times.

But what about Eddie MacDonald? The two-time winner was back after missing four years and after I saw him zip through his qualifying race to gain the pole position I liked his chances.

Eddie MacDonald loses the lead to Jeff Moore on the outside.

Eddie MacDonald loses the lead to Jeff Moore on the outside.

And then the race started. From my perch on the press box roof I could tell that whatever Eddie’s car had in qualifying it didn’t have it anymore. On lap four Jeff Moore took over and the slide back for Eddie reached 24th place at the end.

The next driver I thought would win was Wayne Hellewell from Tamsworth, New Hampshire. Wayne got to the front in Lap 17 and seemed locked in that spot. But 250 laps are a long way from 17 and eventually in Lap 161 things changed. Wayne earned $14, 500 for all the laps he led.

Glen Luce pulled ahead in Lap 201 and fought off the Marancook Senior from Manchester (Maine) the rest of the way. The twosome had plenty of slower cars to deal with and you always worry that one of them will do something to mess up a faster car. But it didn’t happen and Glen took the title by just over a second.

Ben Lynch, formerly from New Hampshire but now from Charlotte, North Carolina ended third. He said afterwards that the lapped cars bothered him because he couldn’t get up top to get around them very well.

Glen Luce had a back row start in his qualifying heat. He began 22nd in the main event field of 41 drivers.

Glen picked up a check for $30, 100 for the win.

Travis Benjamin - two-time winner needed a provisional spot to qualify and finished 17th

Travis Benjamin – two-time winner needed a provisional spot to qualify and finished 17th

It was positively not Travis Benjamin’s day. He tried to qualify several times and ended up starting far back each time. He was given one of the provisional spots to get into the main event. He finished 17th.

Impressive run by 2012 champion Joey Polewarczyk to get 5th place. Joey won the Last-Chance heat and started 34th but found a way to end near the top.

Vanna Brackett was the lone female in the field.

Three-time winner Mike Rowe looked strong in the early going.

I thank OPS media relations director Alan Dietz for arranging my visit to the track.

One of the confusing things about racing is the numbering. Quite often cars have the same numbers. Granted, those who follow racing know one car from another without needing the numbers. But for newcomers and semi-regulars it is confusing.

All of the cars were required to have at least one pit stop. This was unfamiliar territory for many of the drivers.

I thought that the OPS staff was outstanding. They knew what they were doing and got it done decisively and quickly.

There were several spin-outs but I never saw a wrecker get involved. The pictures just below this paragraph are the sequence of one of those spin-outs. Car #36 ends up facing the wrong way with plenty of traffic approaching. Reid Lanpher in Car #59 was one of those nearby but got around trouble.  Click on each picture to get a bigger view.250-A13-spin-1250-A14-spin-2250-A15-spin-3250-A16-spin-4

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

Eddie MacDonald heads out to qualify

Eddie MacDonald heads out to qualify

Scott Farrington

Scott Farrington

Mike Rowe (3-time winner)

Mike Rowe (3-time winner)

Joey Polewarczyk (5th)

Joey Polewarczyk (5th)

feature winner

feature winner

Ben Rowe

Ben Rowe

Car of Ben Lynch

Car of Ben Lynch

In a restart Ryan and Glen are in the 2nd row

In a restart Reid and Glen are in the 2nd row

Ryan Lanpher (2nd)

Reid Lanpher (2nd)

Ben Lynch (3rd)

Ben Lynch (3rd)

Trophy and winning car

Trophy and winning car

TV interviewer

TV interviewer

Johnny Clark

Johnny Clark

Glen Luce

Glen Luce

Vanna Brackett

Vanna Brackett

Top seven qualifiers right to left

Top seven qualifiers right to left

 

 

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Eddie MacDonald of Rowley Wins TD Banknorth 250

Eddie MacDonald with checkered flag in victory lane

Eddie MacDonald with checkered flag in victory lane

(Oxford ME) Well, at least part of his wish came true.

Before the qualifying races at Oxford Plains Speedway for the TD Banknorth 250 on Sunday afternoon (July 19th), Eddie MacDonald of Rowley told me, “It would be neat to have the two of us over there in victory lane when the day ends.”

Eddie (29) was referring to fellow racer Mike Johnson (42) from Salisbury.

But it wasn’t meant to be, as Mike had as much bad luck as Eddie had good luck.

Mike ended the day not qualifying for the TD Banknorth 250 despite three tries. “We had a bad transmission and could only get one practice in,” he said.  Mike’s best chance was in his first qualifying attempt when he started in the pole position.

On the other hand, Eddie practiced, qualified and later ended up on victory lane as the winner of arguably the most important annual sporting event in Maine.

Eddie described the victory as, “the biggest win I’ve ever had.”  He collected $25,000 for first place plus an additional $10,300 for keeping #17 in the lead for 103 laps.

During the race, the Triton graduate held the lead when he went in for a pit stop on Lap 129.  He returned to action and thirty-eight laps later he had made up the time lost and was back in front and never trailed the rest of the way.  A year ago, Eddie made a similar pit stop and got new tires only to find the car going slower after the tire change and had to settle for a frustrating 6th place finish.

Eddie was quick to praise his crew afterwards particularly for the work they did during nearly six hours of practice.  “I’d come in about every few practice laps for adjustments including tire changes.”  The frequent stops were partly for practice for the race itself and partly to make sure the car, and specifically the tires, were right unlike the previous year.

You put a tightly spaced field of 41 race cars on a small track (three eighth of a mile) for 250 laps and the likelihood of situations leading to cautions is great.  In this one, there were ten cautions.  The last caution, on Lap 212, was the closest Eddie came to being knocked out of the race entirely.  Right in front of the crowded grandstand a driver spun around right into Eddie’s path but Eddie was able to swerve and avoid contact and drive on from there to the win when racing resumed.

Eddie laughed when he told me that he had “cautions” on his mind as the race wound down.  “I figured that there would be a caution at twenty, ten, and even on the last lap.  I was praying that the caution flag didn’t come out and luckily it didn’t.”

Mike and Eddie are part of the Camping World East Tour.  Ahead for them are scheduled races in New York and Connecticut followed by a September 18th race at nearby (1 ½ hours) Loudon, New Hampshire.
Eddie won twice at Loudon in 2008.

Well-known driver Rusty Wallace was the grand marshal at Oxford while Kenny Wallace and his nephew Steven also took part.  The threesome drew plenty of attention from the crowd.

However, when the race was over it was Rowley’s Eddie MacDonald drawing the biggest cheers of the day.  He summarized the way things went best when he said, “Everything worked just the way we needed it to.”

( This story appeared in The Town Common on July 29, 2009. )

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Eddie MacDonald Wins 2009 TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway

 

Eddie MacDonald with checkered flag in hand and trophy behind him.

Eddie MacDonald with checkered flag in hand and trophy behind him.

 

( Click on the underlined words for pictures. )

(Oxford – Maine) I was at the TD Banknorth 250 held at the Oxford Plains Speedway this evening and saw Eddie MacDonald of Rowley (MA) win the event.

Earlier this week I took an interest in this race because I thought that someone from Rowley had been in it last year.  On the Oxford Plains website, I learned that there were actually two drivers (Mike Johnson and Eddie MacDonald) from the readership towns of The Town Common.

Divinely, The Town Common wanted the story and the media department of OPS put me on the media list.

I talked to both drivers before they did any racing.  I was taken by how soft-spoken and polite Eddie was.  He had a crew that was busy with a lot of high-tech equipment.  Mike was also easy to talk with.  He had a crew of one working on his car.

Eddie ran in the third qualifying race.  I got confused, unaware that there were two #17’s in the race, and thought he had not qualified.  Turns out, he had started in sixth and gone on to win the heat and qualify.

Mike was in the fourth qualifying race in the pole position.  His very long day started early.  He quickly lost the lead and before long spun out.  A second try in the consolation round resulted in another spinout.  A third try in the Last Chance round had him starting at the back and staying there.  At least there was no damage to his car.  His difficulties had almost everything to do with a bad transmission that allowed him very little practice.

Eddie, on the other hand, put in hours of practice time and his car was ready.  Winning the third heat, got Eddie placed on the inside in the second row for the TD Banknorth 250.

I had been on the pit side of the track for all the qualifying races.  I opted for the other side and the press box for the big race.  Good choice because the pits were transferred to the infield closer to the grandstand.  The press box was enclosed so the roar of the engines was lessened.  The view was terrific and there was food to be had.  Yes, very good choice!

They had the parade of the cars and all the drivers including Eddie were introduced.  After the national anthems, a howitzer was fired off that put a scare into most of the folks in the grandstand.

Eddie got the lead for the first time in Lap 5 and was in the top five until he pitted on Lap 129.  That pitting was crucial because a year ago he had pitted while in the lead and had come back with a car that didn’t run as well.  He ended up a disappointing sixth.

When he came back this time, I couldn’t figure out what place he was actually in.  On a caution a few laps later, he was 15th in row but some of those cars were a lap behind.  On Lap 147, he was listed fifth.  Twenty laps later, he was in first.  He never gave the lead back.

There was one narrow escape when a car spun out right in front of him in front of the grandstand.  He dodged by it and then just took off on the restart.

From my position in the press box, I was a little tardy getting down onto the track afterwards.  I missed a picture of Eddie getting out of his car and standing on the roof.

There was a replica of the check that Eddie will receive for the win ($25,000) and the lead laps ($10,300).

I got a picture of Eddie with his crew chief (Rollie LaChance) and with his father (Red).

It was quite the adventure and I thank God for it.

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