Alyssa Pettet hat trick enough to get Amesbury past Ipswich 3-2

Alyssa Pettet lines up a penalty kick that turned into the first Amesbury goal

Alyssa Pettet and Lauryn Whynott

(Amesbury MA) Junior Alyssa Pettet switched from defender/playmaker to striker this year.

This afternoon that certainly looked like the right move as she scored three times as Amesbury held off Ipswich, 3-2.  It was Alyssa’s first hat trick and her fifth goal of the season.

“Striker is more fun,” Alyssa admitted afterwards, “but I like to learn different roles on the field because I think it makes me a better player.”  She has already committed to D1 Holy Cross.

Alyssa had all three of her goals twelve minutes into the second half and Amesbury (5-0-1) had a comfortable, 3-0, advantage, or so it seemed at the time.

Carter King (12) had a goal for Ipswich

The Tigers (0-5-1) had other ideas.

“One of the strengths of our team is that we keep fighting until the end of games,” said Ipswich coach David Wood.

And that they did.

There had been good chances for the Tigers but Indians goalie Alli Napoli (fresh off twenty-eight saves on Monday vs Masconomet) turned everything away.

But when Alli was injured, and had to leave the game, the winless Tigers had new life.

With no backup goalie available (out sick) sophomore Avery Hallinan took over as goalie…..on her birthday!

Avery was quite insistent after the game that playing goalie was not one of her birthday wishes.  “Last time I played there was in 8th grade in a town league game,” she explained.

Ipswich celebrates their second goal

With someone less experienced in net, Ipswich turned up the pressure.  By the time Alli returned to finish the game, the Tigers had collected two goals (Katie Rokes & Carter King).

Alyssa Pettet running off time in the closing second of the game

“How much time was left,” was a question only the lone official had any idea of.  Was in ten minutes?  Five minutes?  No one knew.

With little sense of how much time was left, you wondered if Ipswich had enough time to earn a remarkable tie.  They didn’t.  Alli went back in net after the second goal and the ball never reached her the rest of the way.

“It was an unfortunate situation with their goalie,” said Coach Wood.  “It did give us the opportunity to make a mini-comeback.”

Alyssa certainly took the pressure off her team after the Tigers two goals by getting into the distant corner with the ball and shielding off a defender while time ran out.

“We should have gone to the corners more, late in the game, to waste time,” added Alyssa.

AHS coach Adam Thibodeau was impressed with the Tigers.  “There is no quit in Ipswich.”

Alyssa’s first goal was on a penalty kick.  She dribbled past one defender and was tripped by another (Kyleigh Cranston) to set up the PK.

Goalie Alli Napoli confers with the Thibodeau’s

“Alyssa’s second goal was a thing of beauty,” said Coach Thibodeau.  “She blasted it into the far post.”

“My 3rd goal came after a clear-in from Gracie Doherty,” explained Alyssa.

The first Ipswich goal came on a long, high shot by senior Katie Rokes.  Teammate Carter King tallied the second goal after getting in close and firing a shot into the right corner.

Both Katie and Carter displayed the ability to get by defenders.  Carter was very effective dribbling laterally and finding openings.

The Indians had given up only two goals in their first five games.

Ipswich had scored eleven times but had surrendered twenty goals in five games.

Avery on the Masco win on Monday: “The Masco game was insane.  It was crazy from beginning to end.  McKenna (Hallinan) scored the only goal in the first five minutes of the second half.  She kicked a shot hard into the goalie that bounced back to her and she put it in.  We thought it didn’t go in and then it did.  We just packed it in defensively after that.  I moved back to defense and so did Alyssa.”

No, I don’t want my taxes to go up BUT it really is time for some turf fields with scoreboards and seating to become a reality in Amesbury.  I covered a boys soccer game on Monday at Stehlin Field in Newburyport so I know what could be.

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

Tigers second goal rolls into the corner

Throw-in for Rachel Bucher

Mary Kate McElaney set for a corner kick

Maddy DiPietro and Isabelle Harper

Katie Rokes and Avery Hallinan

Goalie Avery Hallinan clears with Gabby Smyth nearby

Carter King pressed by Indians

Ball loose (behind her leg) from Ipswich goalie Cayla Greenleaf with Alyssa Pettet close by

Angelina Rix guards the post on a corner kick

Alyssa Pettet shoots over Victoria Harper (18) and Kyleigh Cranston (19)

Alyssa Pettet finds the upper right corner for 3rd goal

Alli Napoli up for a save

Goalie Alli Napoli faces Carter King with Ashlee Porcaro defending

 

 

 

 

 

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Manchester-Essex overcomes two-goal deficit to tie Newburyport 2-2

Kellen Furse in on GK Stefan Berlind

Josh McPherson over the sliding tackle of Ryan Archer

(Newburyport MA) Both teams are still undefeated in the Cape Ann League but there wasn’t a lot of celebrating after today’s game.

“I thought we had them,” said Newburyport coach Shawn Bleau afterwards. “We were up 2-0 and playing well.”

The Clippers took a 2-0 lead with 16:37 left in the second half.  They had taken more shots and certainly had been set up with more corner kicks.

But the Hornets (4-1-1) can score and in a span of just over a minute had the two goals back.

“Newburyport scored that second goal and it would have been easy for us to put out heads down, but we didn’t,” recalled ME coach Robbie Bilsbury.  “It was great that we were able to battle back.”

Will Acquaviva after scoring the Clippers 2nd goal

Freshman Will Acquaviva had a goal and an assist for Newburyport (2-0-3) while sophomore Naderson Curtis did the same for Manchester-Essex.

Yes, Will is Sam’s brother.  Sam moved from soccer and became a tremendous long-distance runner for the Clippers.  He’s now a freshman at MIT.

“We knew about Will in youth soccer,” said Coach Bleau.  “I coached Sam before he turned to cross country.  Luckily, for us, Will likes soccer a little more than running.”

Ryan Archer dribbles in traffic

The Clippers, led by super-active Ryan Archer, were relentless in harassing ME in their own end in the first half.  “We knew that we could pressure them carrying out from the back,” said Coach Bleau.  “Ryan Archer did a great job.”

Newburyport also had Max Gagnon shadowing Hornets playmaker Kellen Furse.

The Clippers took a 1-0 lead with about nine minutes left in the first half.  Junior Owen Spence collected the goal off a tremendous feed from Will Acquaviva.

“We’ve been working on bringing the ball to the end line and cutting it back across,” said Coach Bleau.  “Will came in on the left and sent the ball across to Owen Spence on the right.  Owen wasted no time in getting off a shot.  It was nice to see them execute something we’ve been working on in practice.”

Ryan Archer shoots at GK Ben Goutal

Junior Ryan Archer set up the Clippers second goal.  “It was Ryan hustling his butt off,” added Coach Bleau.  “He got off a shot and their keeper made a terrific save.”  But there was a rebound and Will Acquaviva was there to cash it in.

The goal happened at 16:37 and you did sense at the time that it was more likely that Newburyport would score the next goal.

Why? They now had a two-goal lead, it was hot, they were playing at home……..but it didn’t matter.

“Newburyport asserted themselves early,” said Coach Bilsbury.  “They were tough on every 50/50 ball, won headers, slide tackled, hustled, and outworked us.  We wanted to impose our possession style on them because they were closing us down.  We picked up our scrappiness in the second half.  Getting that first goal was crucial.”

The first ME score was not only timely but it came quickly after the Newburyport score…….just under ninety seconds later (15:12).

“Striker Naderson Curtis found a little pocket of space and fed a pass through to Kellen Furse near the goalie,” said Coach Bilsbury.  “Kellen was able to poke the pass by the NHS goalie (Stefan Berlind).”

Graham Smith (2) slides across the goal line trying to keep a shot out

Kellen and Stefan arrived at the ball at the same time and the resulting collision sent the ball toward the goal.  Defenders Cameron McDermott and Graham Smith did everything they could to keep the ball from crossing the goal-line.  Graham slide across the goal mouth but the shot had crossed the line.

Just over a minute later (14:01) the Hornets stunned the home team with another goal.

“It was a corner kick,” recalled Coach Bilsbury. “There was pressure on the goalie, and he may have mishandled it, but we’ll take it.  Getting the equalizer was huge for us.”

Incoming corner kick that turned into a goal

The ME pressure was supplied by a jumping Thomas Birkeland who effected a clear look at the CK and by Eli Cox who was very close to GK Stefan Berlind.

“We had breakdowns in the back on both of their goals,” said Coach Bleau.  “Our keeper needs to talk up a little bit more.  It’s something we can fix.  Missing a play can happen but not being vocal back there shouldn’t.”

Coach Bleau: “We’ve had a couple of ties.  It’s tough.  It’s bad on our stomachs.  Hopefully our guys can pick up on that and turns ties into wins in the future.”

One area the Clippers will have to get better on is corner kicks.  They had plenty of them and just couldn’t get the ball and bodies near the ME goalie Ben Goutal and create scoring chances.

Beautiful weather in a terrific stadium to play soccer and to watch soccer.

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

Kellen Furse jarred the ball loose from GK Stefan Berlind and a goal resulted

Hornets celebrate a goal

Clippers celebrate a goal

Emerson Khale and Ryan Archer

Harry Costello and Marcos Pasquale

Henry Acton (15) and Jake Edwards (17)

Jamie Brooks

John Fehlner throw-in

Max Gagnon (14) shadows Kellen Furse (10)

Naderson Curtis readies a corner kick

Owen Spence (11) gets a shot past GK Ben Goutal

Thomas Birkeland (4) and Henry Acton (15) vie for the ball

Thomas Birkeland

 

 

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Travis Verrill wins 2nd leg of Bandit Triple Crown Series at OPS

Travis Verrill wins the Bandits Triple Crown feature

A line formed

(Oxford ME) It was like the old schoolyard days when the teacher told the class to get in line and stay there!

Travis Verrill started on the pole in the 25-lap Bandits feature at the Oxford Plains Speedway and nobody passed him.

Believe me, the attendees this sunny Sunday afternoon will tell you that those who wanted to pass Travis were close by for most of the race.

The track conditions forced drivers to stay down low (in line) and wait for something to happen.

Chad Wills and Shelby

“Today was pretty much a one-groove track,” explained 3rd place finisher Chad Wills afterwards.  “There were no second groove whatsoever.  It was too slippery out there.”

This was the second time Travis has won at OPS.

“It’s been an awesome weekend for our team,” he said.  “We won the Demolition Derby at the Fair (Oxford County) last night and then to come over here and win this race is something special.”

Travis got a good start and separated from the rest of the drivers in the early going.  Grady Doherty (finished second last week) was the nearest pursuer.

“In the beginning I broke away a little,” said Travis.  “I thought for a little bit that I had some room, so I tried to make the track a little wider for myself.  Once I saw (Chad) Wills and Alex (Mowatt) get by #1 (Grady Doherty) I knew that it would be only a couple of laps before they would get close.  It was just a fight for the bottom.”

Once Alex and Chad got close there were at least fifteen laps for them to get by Travis………..but they couldn’t.

Alex Mowatt

“Travis did a good job of holding me off,” explained 2nd place finisher Alex Mowatt.  “I didn’t have anything for him on the outside.  It was just too slippery.”

So in line they stayed and very close to each other.

“Everyone was sliding around so it was a much slower race,” explained Chad.  “You really had to use the brakes and pay attention so that you didn’t run into the guy in front of you.  On a normal night you’re able to coast through the corners but today people were slowing down because they had no grip.”

There was plenty of contact.

“Alex came into me a couple of times, but I managed to hold on,” said Travis.

“We were playing tag a little bit,” added Alex.  “I was having fun and they were having fun and we all got trophies.”

I asked Alex about moving out and trying to pass Travis: “I might have had a chance, but Chad was right on my butt and I didn’t want him to get under me.”

There was contact but Travis held on

“I could feel them there,” said Travis.  “There wasn’t time to look back.  I could hear them.  You get caught mirror-driving here and it will cost you.  I over-drove one corner because I made eye contact with Alex in the mirror.”

Alex won the first leg of the Bandit Triple Crown on July 7th.  (That was the first Bandits race I covered.)

The final leg of the Triple Crown is in October.

Travis: “Today is my last race.  My boy plays flag football and I’m a coach.”

Chad: “I will do the October race and maybe a race in Bangor after that.”

With a win and a second, Alex is the points leader going into the final race in October.

Chad: “GA Downing (Minot) sponsors me and I work for them.  They like racing and have helped me out a lot.”

Travis: “I told Alex in tech that he did a great job because he easily could have dumped me a couple of times.  Chad and Alex were in my rear view the whole race.  They certainly were faster than me.”

Nice weather with sun and temperatures in the low 70’s.

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

Car 50 starts on the pole

Frustration for driver of Car 50

Chad Wills, Travis Verrill, Alex Mowatt

Chad Wills tries the second lane

The final stretch of the Bandits feature

Grady Doherty was in second early in the race

Onto the tow truck in another race today

The finish of the top three

Travis and Alex afterwards

Travis out of the car with the checkered flag

Victory lane

Victory lap

The start of the race

Early in the race

 

 

 

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Bilal Hersi (4 goals,2 assists) leads Lewiston by Oxford Hills

Bilal Hersi had four goals and two assists

Senior Bilal Hersi

(South Paris ME) Bilal Hersi.

Special player.

Bilal scored goals and set up teammates as Lewiston dominated Oxford Hills, 8-0, on a sunny/cloudy/rainy Wednesday afternoon.

The Blue Devils (2-0) have won the Class A title two straight seasons and three of the last four.  They’re awfully talented.

I only saw a half of today’s game because by halftime there was drizzle under a threatening sky.  My camera and I have an arrangement; I keep it dry and it keeps working!

So I left at halftime but Lewiston was already comfortably ahead, 5-0, so I had good idea what the final outcome would be.

Bilal Hersi and Mario DeVivo

By then, senior Bilal Hersi already had three goals and had set up teammate Mohamedamin Nur beautifully for a goal.

My homework prior to today’s game led me to believe that the Vikings (0-2) would have their hands full with the visitors from Lewiston.  OH was coming off a 7-8 season with ten seniors.  Only five seniors are on this year’s team.  They were rebuilding.

I also read that Lewiston had taken Oxford Hills out of the Class A North quarterfinals, 5-0, in 2018.

What impressed me about Lewiston?  The first thing was their ability to possess the ball.  They weren’t hesitant to pass laterally and backwards in order to maintain control.  Secondly, they could get away from individual defenders and that created chances down the field.

Bilal Hersi

What impressed me about Bilal Hersi? He’s tall and fast.  He seemed to have the ability to control a possession for longer than other players.  He certainly had the skills to put himself in a position to finish.  I saw him score from long range, in from the right, and in from the left.  I wonder if there are any college plans?

I love watching unselfish players.  Bilal showed that side in the first half.  Hemmed in on the right by a defender near the goal, he managed to thread a pass across the goal mouth to uncovered teammate Mohamedamin Nur to set up the third goal of the game.  Creative play!

Sophomore Romano Bassa also had a goal in the first half.  He came in from the right past defender Casey Southworth for a clean look at goalie Sam Morton and capitalized.

Later I learned that according to a tweet by Lewiston AD Jason Fuller post-game, Bilal’s four goals and two assists tied a school record.

Abdirahman Daud and goalie Sam Morton

It is not wise to predict how a season will go after two games but come Class A tournament time it would be easy to imagine that Lewiston would be in the mix for a third straight title.

Despite the exceptional opposition, the Vikings never let up.  They gave up goals, but they didn’t get after each other.  They will get better as their inexperience turns into experience.

Thanks to Oxford Hills AD Kevin Ryan for making both rosters available to me on short notice.

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

Abdilahi Abdi and Daniel Paine

Andrew Merrill and Suab Nur

Bilal Hersi congratulates Mohamedamin Nur

Bilal Hersi puts on the captain’s band

Cam Stetson and Nick Bancroft

Lewiston coach Mike McGraw

Goalie Sam Morton

Keegan Watson and Suab Nur

Freshman Khalid Hersi

Lewiston goal scorer

Bilal’s long shot sails past Sam Morton

Romano Bassa and Casey Southworth

Goalie Sam Morton

surrounded by Blue Devils

 

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Dustin Salley wins Bandits feature, Chad Wills claims points title

Dustin Salley wins his 6th race of the Bandits season

Mason, Chad, and Shelby

(Oxford ME) Dustin Salley won the Bandits feature tonight.

Chad Wills won the Bandits points championship.

Dustin looked to be on his way to winning his second straight points title but ran into some “technical difficulty”, as Chad described it, after the August 23rd race and was disqualified.

Dustin’s zero points for that race put Chad ahead going into tonight’s final chance for points.

“I knew that I had to stay within five cars of the 18 (Dustin Salley) to win the points title,” explained Chad.

The opportunity to win the championship had an effect on Chad prior to the race: “I was a nervous wreck.  I was quite sick before the race.  It was nerves.”

So while Chad played it safe, Dustin was all in.

Dustin Salley

“I drove the wheels off it,” Dustin said.  “Tonight, this thing was hooked up.  Brand new tires are what make a difference with these cars, it’s not going to be all about the motor.”

Grady Doherty had a big night.  He won his heat and came across second in the feature.  Grady’s best previous finish had been a 4th on August 10th.

Dustin won his heat and had already won five times before tonight’s victory.

Grady had the pole in the feature while Dustin started 6th.

Several laps in, the race was between Grady and Dustin.  They were side-by-side briefly and there was contact between the two of them as Dustin took the lead for good.

Dustin squeezed by Grady Doherty and Alex Mowatt

“I tried to keep it as clean as I could,” he explained.  “I didn’t have the preferred groove when I’m out in the second groove, so I kept it tight.”

Once Dustin had the lead, the issue wasn’t who would win but by how much would he win.

“We’ll take the win and move on and see what next year brings us,” added Dustin.

To win the title at Dustin’s expense was bittersweet for Chad: “I owe a lot to Dustin.  He helps me on and off the track.  I thank Kyle Hewins too.  He and Dustin are pretty much the mechanics.  All I’m good for is driving the car.”

Dustin: “We had a great crew; KHM, Chad, Kyle and all of those guys.  They help out a ton.  If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to race anymore.  It’s a perfect combination between Kyle and me.  We get these things to go pretty good.  I can’t thank those guys enough.”

Dustin wins the feature with plenty to spare

I decided this summer to spend some time at Oxford and opted to specialize in one division.  The Bandits became the choice, and in my six visits I met six different winners; Alex Mowatt, Travis Verrill, Jake Hall, Caleb Proctor, Chad Wills, and Dustin Salley.

Dustin finished with six victories.  Chad had three.

“We got a DQ last week which cost us the championship,” said Dustin.  “In the whole year it was the only time we were out of the top five so I can’t complain.”

Other divisions settled championships today as well.

I always find the Rookie division entertaining.  It is almost a certainty that the cars will get tangled up.  Tonight’s tangle eliminated all put two cars and so 12-year-old Maddie Herrick was declared the winner.

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

Maddie Herrick wins Rookies feature

Truck winners

Curtis Geary

Driver taken to an ambulance after hitting the wall

Dustin (DSal) and Chad (Wills) get by Dean Jordan (55)

Dustin Salley won the second Bandits heat

Grady Doherty and Alex Mowatt tangle in the feature

Grady Doherty leads in the first Bandits heat

Grady Doherty wins the first Bandits heat

 

 

 

 

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Field of Dreams 2019

Dylan Hardy and Brett Netzer

Out of the corn they came

Brock Lundquist had a homer and a triple

(Portland ME) The Portland Sea Dogs emerged in costume out of the cornfield set up in centerfield at Hadlock Field.

The 15th sellout crowd of the season then witnessed the Portland version of a segment of the baseball classic, “Field of Dreams.”

The reenactment was well done on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Radio announcer Mike Antonellis narrated the show dressed in appropriate attire.

I always like the show, but to me the best part is after the Portland Eskimos reach the infield.  They then go up into the crowd and thank folks for their support.  That’ll win you a lot of repeat customers!

There was also a baseball game played afterwards and it did not go well for the Sea Dogs.  The visiting New Hampshire Fisher Cats won easily, 7-1.  NH starter Yennsy Diaz held the home hitless into the seventh inning. The Dogs would only get one hit (Brett Netzer).

Josh Palacios had a homer for New Hampshire

Josh Palacios and Brock Lundquist homered for the team from Manchester (NH).

The teams will meet against tomorrow (Labor Day) to conclude their seasons.

I went to the game hoping to catch another look at Portland pitcher Daniel McGrath.  He was scheduled to start but got the call (yesterday?) to move up to Pawtucket to fill in there.  Daniel should start 2020 in Pawtucket with a chance to move to Fenway.  He’s that good, in my opinion.

This game was short on action because of the barrage of strikeouts.  Ten Sea Dogs K’d, and sixteen Fisher Cats were retired without contact.  For a team scoring seven runs (NH) it was hard to imagine how they could do it with that many strikeouts.  Josh Palacios was the only Fisher Cat who didn’t strike out.

Josh’s solo homer was pulled down the right field line.  Portland pitcher Matthew Gorst applied some body English to keep it foul, but it didn’t work.  I overheard Josh in the dugout say that “it started out foul and then came back fair.”

I continue to wish that minor league teams would wear uniforms with numbers on the front.  I am trying to set myself up with an excuse if I misidentify the pictures I took today.

Bag missed

Slugger did himself no favors in his baserunning competition with a youngster when he tried to compete out of uniform.  He was all gussied up with a top hat.  He didn’t even get into his starting stance, so I knew he was done for.  The most troubling part of today’s loss was that the opponent was in enemy (Fisher Cats) garb and never came close to touching third.  Slugger didn’t catch the baserunning shortcut and took yet another defeat in his usual classy way.  Maybe a video review will give the big guy today’s win?

Chris Cameron

Thanks (again) to Chris Cameron for enabling me to be in the best photography locations for yet another season.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.  Please let me know (85peterjulie17@gmail.com) if I have inaccurately identified players, so that I can make the needed changes.)

Yennsy Diaz pitched superbly for New Hampshire

Nick Lovullo

Portland’s Marcus Wilson takes a lead

Shortstop Kevin Smith

Jarren Duran eyes a pitch

Fisher Cats dugout

Cullen Large 3B

Cullen Large with Coach Donnie Murphy

Bag stolen and a bubble blown

Adam Lau

Brock Lundquist

Dustin Feltman signed autographs before the game

Marcus Wilson

Nash Knight

Vinny Capra

 

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Travis Benjamin gets his third Oxford 250 win

Travis Benjamin wins the 46th Oxford 250

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travis surveys the crowd on Victory Lane

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

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

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

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

Travis Benjamin (7) leaves pit row

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott McDaniel ran into trouble

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

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

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

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

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

Winning car

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

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

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

Travis started in 11th place.

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

Johnny Clark came in fourth.

Bob Bahre was the grand marshall

Former owner Bob Bahre was the grand marshall.

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

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

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

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

Part of the crowd at the Oxford 250

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

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

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

Derek Griffith (2nd place) congratulated after the race

Travis Benjamin on the roof

Earlier race trouble on the turn

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

Garrett Hall (R) pre-race

Heading the wrong way in an earlier race

Setting up for the 250

Third title for Travis Benjamin

 

 

 

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