Category Archives: Oxford Plains Speedway

Oxford Plains Speedway Media Day

Curt Geary, Mike Rowe, Derek Griffith, DJ Shaw, and Garrett Hall

(Oxford ME) Optimism and uncertainty abounded.

Today was Media Day for Sunday’s 46th running of the Oxford 250.

The Honey Badger Bar & Grill setting had five drivers; Curt Geary, Mike Rowe, Derek Griffith, DJ Shaw, and Garrett Hall on hand.  Ben Rowe arrived later.

Mike Rowe

“At my age (69) I’m still excited about the 250,” said 3-time winner Mike Rowe.  “A lot of drivers have a chance to win it.  You can’t make any mistakes.”

“If I wasn’t the winner, I’d want my old man to win,” said Ben (2-time winner) with a smile.

Ben took a second at Oxford in July and he was quoted as saying that “it felt like a win.”  Makes sense when you realize that in Ben’s previous twelve starts at Oxford Plains Speedway his best showing was one fourth.

“It eats at you when you haven’t won a race in a while,” recalled Ben.  “You ask yourself, ‘Did I forget how to do this?’, and ‘Did I forget all I know?”

Ben won the Oxford 250 in 2003-04.  “I got stagnant because we were ahead of everyone else, but they caught up.  It has taken us this long to get back on top.”

Derek Griffith

Young Derek Griffith (22) watched the race the first time he saw it.  “We came over (from New Hampshire) and didn’t make it in.  I was real young.  It broke us down a bit.  We ended up sitting in the backstretch stands.  It was a cool show.”

Derek sounded like an OPS 250 promoter as he discussed the event: “There is nothing like this race.  It’s crazy watching 41 cars drive around the OPS.  Anyone can win.  The amount of talent and good cars that are here for this weekend is amazing.  People that come for the first time will come back for the rest of their lives.”

Derek has won races this year in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

Last year was Garrett Hall’s first try at the Oxford 250. He finished fourth.

Garrett Hall

Despite Garrett’s success in 2017 his lack of experience in the big race is causing him some anxious moments: “I’m losing sleep.  There are so many different factors that run through your mind.  It’s stressful.  It’s not a race that is easy to get ready for.”

One of the biggest struggles includes the length of the race and the infield pit stop that is required.  None of the other races that these drivers run in have the length and that pit-stop requirement.  Not only does the driver have to be on his game but his crew needs to as well.

One driver, however, who is familiar with all this is last year’s winner, Bubba Pollard.  “Bubba is used to running and winning long races (All-American 400, Rattler 250) and has a crew in place that knows what to do,” added Ben Rowe.

Even though Bubba could handle the quirks of a long race, he came in (from Georgia) last year totally unfamiliar with Oxford Plains Speedway.  “What Bubba did last year was impressive.  Some good drivers have raced here for years and never won.  He comes in for the week and wins it!”

Bubba will be in the field on Sunday.  He would seem to be the driver to beat.  “I liked Bubba to win it last year,” said Ben, “even though he had never seen Oxford.  We tested Beech Ridge with him and then we came over to Oxford.  I knew right off the bat that he’s that good.”

Curt Geary

Based on this season’s results at OPS, the 250 favorites would be Curt Geary and Nick Sweet.  Nick has been very good lately at the track while Curt had been good all year.  Curt won the 250 in 2017.

“The race is unique,” added Derek Griffith.  “At times it’s four and five wide.  You get guys that can start dead last in the consolations and win this thing.  That’s what Mike Rowe did in 2005.”

Derek wanted the race to start right away.  “I’m ready to go.  The campers are rolling in and the parking lot is filling up.  I wish we were here with a truck and trailer today!”

I asked Derek if he had any superstitions: “I got a new race suit the end of 2017 and every time I wore it, I got wrecked.  I’ve been wearing my old suit for the majority of this year and we’ve had a good year.”

Garrett Hall gave even more detail to his race-day superstitions.  “I am very superstitious: the racing suit, socks, even underwear.  Can’t bring a grill to the track.  No hamburgers or cheeseburgers….and there’s even more!”

The race should certainly be an exciting one with so many intangibles and so many terrific drivers/cars on the track.

Who will be standing near the $25,000 check on Sunday night?

 

 

 

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Caleb Proctor wins first Bandits feature at Oxford Plains Speedway

Chad Proctor won his first Bandits feature tonight

Chad Proctor on Victory Lane

(Oxford ME) You come back week after week and finally everything falls into place.

That’s what happened tonight for Caleb Proctor as he won his first feature at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Caleb started in the pole position and never let go of the lead.

“Starting at the front really helped,” said Caleb afterwards. “We started in the front and stayed there.”

The driver from Casco has been in all fourteen of the Bandits races this season.  Prior to tonight his best finishes were third on June 29th and fourth on May 25th.

I asked Caleb if they had done anything different with the car this week: “Nothing different.  We’re running on old tires.  We’re about as low-budget as it gets.”

Jeff Libby – still chasing his first win

Jeff Libby, from Poland, took second.

“Sooner or later we’re going to get one,” said Jeff afterwards.  “We’re getting close.”

Jeff finished second on July 27th behind Travis Verrill.

Jeff stayed in second for most of the 20-lap feature after moving up from 5th at the start.

“Caleb is a really good guy,” explained Jeff.  “Running second to him?  I’m not mad about it.”

I asked Jeff what it might take for him to win a race: “A little bit better starting position would help.”

I dubbed Dustin Salley, “Mr. Consistent,” last week.  He continues to be just that.  DSal’s lowest finish this season was 5th on June 8th.  Tonight he ended up third but believe me he was pressing Caleb and Jeff over the last few laps.  Dustin started near the back in the feature but skillfully worked his way into contention.

Travis Verrill and Bobby Doherty caused a caution early in the race.  Travis didn’t return from the collision that resulted.

Tyler Green (26) and Luke Mowatt (53) after the race was over

Luke Mowatt and Tyler Green came together at least once during the race and didn’t stop the interaction after the race was over.

I have covered four Bandits features and met a different winner each week.

The weather was chilly and there was a little rain before the race started.

Rookies Brady Childs and Owen Stuart put on another show tonight.  Brady won the heat, but it was Owen in the feature winning for the sixth time.

Two weeks ago, Brady crashed just before the finish.  This week he was spun out at the top of the stretch.

Owen Stuart (8) and Brady Childs (1) pass a slower car

Both these young drivers showed me something when they overtook, and lapped Jeremy Turner.  Brady went high and Owen went low.

The Oxford 250 is on August 25th.

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

Skip Stanley (64) and Matt Dufault (61)

Skip Stanley (64) spins out

Start of the Bandits feature

Travis Verrill won a heat

Travis Verrill and Bobby Doherty in the feature

Final turn in the Bandits feature

Jake Dobson (12) involved with Luke Mowatt and Tyler Green

Luke Mowatt (53) and Grady Doherty (1)

Owen Stuart and Brady Childs side by side

Owen Stuart wins 6th Rookie race

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Jake Hall returns to win the Bandits feature at Oxford Plains Speedway

Jake Hall celebrates with his children after winning the Bandits feature tonight

Mikey McKinney gets second place

(Oxford ME) The car wasn’t even his.

It belongs to Eric Parlin, and he wanted someone to “try it out and break it in.”

Jake Hall accepted the opportunity and drove Eric’s car to victory in the Bandits’ feature tonight at Oxford Plains Speedway.

This was Jake’s first race in the Bandits division this season.

“It was a perfect night, honestly,” said Jake afterwards.  “I got the win.  My kids got to see it.  And my teammate (Mikey McKinney) got to finish second.  You can’t beat that.”

Lineup for the start of the Bandits feature

Jake came in second in his heat to Dustin Salley but in the feature, it was a different story.  Starting in the pole position, Jake led from beginning to end in the 20-lap race.  “This thing is a rocket,” exclaimed Jake.

Mikey McKinney was quickly in second in the feature and the teammates (“I help Mikey with his car” – Jake) separated from the rest of the field.

No cautions cut the gap between cars and without cars to pass it was an easy win for Jake.

Jake and Mikey on the final turn

Jake was rookie-of-the-year in the Bandits division several years ago but has not raced much lately.  “I’ve got a car, but I haven’t broken it out,” he said.  “We bought a house and stuff, so finances weren’t there.”

This was only Mikey’s fourth race this season in the Bandits division and the best he had done previously was 14th.  “I haven’t raced much this year, but I’ve done well in the past,” Mikey told me afterwards.

Dustin Salley won his heat

Mr. Consistent (Dustin Salley) won his heat and came in third in the feature.  “Consistent” describes Dustin because in thirteen races this season, he has never finished lower than fifth!  He has also won five times.

Alex Mowatt, who has won twice, took fourth.

Chad Wills won the other Bandits heat.

I am starting to become a fan of the Rookie Division.  There aren’t many cars but it’s highly competitive and there’s plenty of action.  Last week, Brady Childs tried to catch Owen Stuart at the very end and crashed just before the finish line.  Tonight, the same two were side by side and the next thing you knew Owen was spinning, and he and unfortunate Maddie Herrick collided.  Maddie’s night ended but Owen returned.  Brady won this race.

Cole Binette

How can you not pull for Cole Binette in that Rookie division?  The young man is 10 years old!  Tonight he got third.

Lovely night for racing.

Jake Hall: “Eric (Parlin) has only raced a couple of races but this car is a good one for him to start with.  I’m going to run again on the 250 weekend with the Rebels.  Then I’ll be down here helping Eric make sure that this car does for him what it did for me tonight.”

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

Mikey McKinney chasing Jake Hall

Jake Hall and Mikey McKinney

Jake Hall gets out of the car

Dustin Salley (18), Alex Mowatt (11), Jeff Libby (44), and Caleb Proctor (04) chase the leaders

On the wall

Reid Lanpher (59) on the move

Chad Wills wins heat

Brady Childs

Brady Childs (1), Maddie Herrick (95), and Owen Stuart (8)

 

 

 

 

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Travis Verrill wins first Saturday night Bandits feature at Oxford Plains Speedway

Travis Verrill celebrates his first Saturday night feature win

In the final yards, Travis Verrill (24) holds off Jeff Libby (44) with three other cars close by

Start of the Bandits feature

(Oxford ME) They came around the final turn with the chance of a lifetime.

One driver had never won a Saturday night feature.

The other had never finished above third.

Travis Verrill got his first win; a Saturday night feature in the Bandits division at Oxford Plains Speedway.

“It was my first Saturday night win,” said an exuberant Travis afterwards.  “We’ve got a couple of third places and fourth places on Saturdays.  We’ve won some flag poles but never on a Saturday night.”

For Travis to get that first Saturday night checkered flag was exciting but the race itself (20 laps) was one of the best I’ve seen at OPS.

Jeff Libby (pardon the poor camera setting) finished second

It was highly competitive from start to finish.  With no cautions sometimes the field spreads out and the outcome takes shape very early. This race wasn’t like that.  Travis and Jeff Libby started at the front and never seemed to separate by more than a car length.  Most of the time they were side by side.

Later in the race, three other drivers (Chad Wills, Dustin Salley, and Alex Mowatt) closed in on the top two.  Dustin has multiple wins while Alex had a win two weeks ago.  Any mistake up front and they were ready and in position to take the lead.

But it didn’t happen.  Both Travis and Jeff were that good on this evening.

I asked Jeff about the race: “It was exciting to get second since third was the best I had ever done before this.  The only chance I had to get past him (Travis Verrill) would have been to move him and I don’t race like that.  It still was our best race so far.”

This is how it looked into the 19th lap

Travis used his car last Friday in a four-cylander, figure-eight race.  Things didn’t go so well.

“We don’t usually do a race like that,” said Travis, “and we took a lot of damage.  We had to replace everything in the left rear.  We even missed the first practice today but got it together before the heat.”

Travis won the first heat ahead of Alex Mowatt.

Dustin Salley took the second heat.

“I figured that all the work these guys put in this week to get me back on the track, there was no way we were going home without that trophy,” said Travis.

Little room for error in the last lap

The Paris resident added, “We won this in front of a good crowd.  I have a lot of fans who come out and support me.  My mom makes everyone come whether they want to or not!  But I appreciate everyone who comes.  It’s really the only reason it’s worth it.  You don’t make a million here.”

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

Brian Caswell (47) loses a tire

Rookie spinout – Brady Childs (1) and Dylan Cook (87)

Mark Turner (09) spins out in the Street Stocks

 

 

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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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Filed under Oxford, Oxford 250, Oxford Plains Speedway

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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Filed under Eddie MacDonald, Oxford Plains Speedway, Rowley, TD Banknorth 250

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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Filed under Eddie MacDonald, Oxford Plains Speedway, Rowley, TD Banknorth 250