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Cassius Clark wins 2021 Oxford 250

Cassius Clark win the 48th Oxford 250
Crew celebrates the win

(Oxford ME) Last year it was Johnny Clark.

This year, Cassius Clark.

No, they’re not related.

But both, in successive years, put an end to their Oxford 250 frustrations.

Cassius was the latest, winning the 48th annual Oxford 250 on Sunday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Cassius had failed to win the event in thirteen previous tries, same number as Johnny Clark. 

Oxford crowd gives their traditional wave

It wasn’t a record either one of them wanted to be a part of. Their eventual success, however, should be an inspiration for those who keep trying to win the event.

“We’d dominated so many 250’s,” explained Cassius recalling his frustrations.  “In other attempts, we had led with twenty-five laps left and had been in front for over hundred laps and yet failed to win.  The race was just a thorn in our side!”

But that changed tonight.  The Farmington (ME) resident took the lead for good with twenty-seven laps left.

Cassius also had to survive a pretty good bump from second-place finisher Curtis Gerry on the final turn to get the win.

“I bumped him a little bit and moved him over,” said Curtis afterwards, “but I didn’t make it to the line to beat him.  I wouldn’t want to win that way anyway.”

The race begins

The entertained crowd was treated to thirteen restarts.  Not a favorite of drivers but fans love them. The spread-out field tightens up and the corners become very interesting to navigate.

Cassius Clark got his first lead on Lap 177.  There would be six restarts after that.  On this cool (60’s) evening, Cassius, on the inside, was the quickest on the restarts.

A hint of what was coming today was a race two weeks ago in which Cassius won a PASS 150 event at OPS.

“That was my first race since last year’s 250,” said Cassius.  “The car had been taken back to Canada last year and they worked on it from our mistakes and made this thing awesome.”

Before today’s race, Cassius was actually confident about winning.  “We thought today we were going to have a bit of a cakewalk, but they definitely made us earn it.”

Cassius bumped with Eddie MacDonald (6th) battling for the lead and ended up with a nice dent on the right side of his car.

Derek Griffith (3rd)

Derek Griffith (3rd) started twenty-ninth and got to the front, even holding the lead on Lap 222.

“We were good,” said Derek afterwards.  “We came up through and we led some laps.  The last set of tires we burned up a little bit on the outside.  However, we’ll take what we got.”

Derek was second in the 250 two years ago.

Joey Doiron (4th) was third last year.  This year he was in contention again.

“We tried to maintain with Curtis (Gerry) in the first run,” said Joey after the race.  “We did lead a few laps.”

“After our pit stop there was a huge wreck,” added Joey, “and we ended up having to hop the curb.  I don’t know if we bent something on our left or right front.  The car wasn’t quite the same afterwards. We didn’t have enough at the end, but we did hold on, though.”

Curtis Gerry (2nd)

The most disappointed driver post-race was probably Curtis Gerry.  Curtis started the race in fourth and was in the lead or near the lead all race long. Curtis led from laps 6-108.

“It was frustrating to come so close,” said Curtis afterwards.  “I was definitely faster than him (Cassius Clark) on the bottom, but I don’t know if I had anything on the outside for him.”

“We had a really good car in the first run,” said Curtis.  “We got a little too free at the end of the race. When we pitted and took tires, they were a little too snug for the outside but very good on the bottom.”

If it had been the Oxford 251?  “I think I would have gotten him in one more lap,” said Curtis.  “Once I was under him, it would have been over.”

Curtis will get a sizable check for the many laps he led.  They’re worth $100 each.

Johnny Clark (5th) told me afterwards that he almost didn’t race.

Johnny Clark (5th) talks to his crew before the race

“You wouldn’t believe what we were making for changes and how bad we were,” said last year’s winner.

“We certainly didn’t have a fifth-place car at noontime today,” said Johnny.  “We were thinking we should just pack up and go home.”

But they did stay, and despite starting thirty-first, were able to get fifth.

“The track was rubbing up so much,” he added.  “I’ve never seen it like this before.  It made things so tight.  But we came home fifth and that’s nothing to hang our heads about.”

Cassius Clark knew his car was good.  “I knew that my car was super-fast,” he said, “so if I stayed on the bottom, they were going to have a hard time getting by me.”

Cassius Clark

“Curtis (Gerry) was really fast,” added Cassius, “and he was on me there.  He definitely made me work for it.”

Derek Griffith: “Every time we’d gain a little bit, he (Cassius Clark) would just gain it right back.  I feel as if I used the car up a little bit on the outside of him on those restarts.  I wish I had been restarting from the bottom.”

Cassius Clark: “I’ll have to ask my buddy Johnny (Clark) how long it takes for this win to settle in.  The atmosphere here was awesome.”

Bubba Pollard (10th) started last (43rd).  The driver from Georgia came north in 2018 and won the 250 on his first try.

Billy Clark (Cassius’ dad) was in the OPS 250 six times in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Notably missing from the race were frequent OPS 250 driver Jeff Taylor and highly-touted Florida driver Stephen Nasse.  Neither did well enough in the heats to qualify.

The win by Cassius Clark was the first for anyone from Maine’s Franklin County.

Teenager Kate Re was the lone female entrant.  She finished twenty-seventh.

The temperatures in the 60’s were certainly a big surprise for late August.  The coolness had to make the upper parts of the track more workable.

TJ Bracket (39th) and DJ Shaw (42nd) started in the front but the race didn’t go well for either of them.

TJ Brackett
DJ Shaw

Thanks, from me, to the OPS owners for giving me a chance to take pictures and get interviews for this entry.

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

Derek Griffith
Cassius Clark
Ben Rowe (30th)
Dave Farrington (16th)
Joe Polewarczyk (9th)
Joey Doiron (4th)
Kyle DeSouza (15th)
Travis Benjamin
Bubba Pollard (10th)
Mike Rowe (21st)
Stephen Nasse
Jeff Taylor (2nd in 2020)
Spinout in an earlier race
Addie McDaniel waits for the Runnin Rebels race
Cassius Clark explains how the race was won

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Curtis Gerry wins 44th Oxford 250 and I get hit by a race car!

Curtis Gerry wins the 2017 Oxford 250

Cassius Clark (3rd), Curtis Gerry (1st), Reid Lanpher (2nd)

(Oxford ME)  Sunday afternoon/evening I took in the biggest car race in the northeast….the Oxford 250.

Curtis Gerry of Waterboro (ME) was the surprise winner at the Oxford Plains Speedway.  Racing on a low budget, the 46-year-old didn’t even try the 250 last year.  This year, however, has been different.  The wins have come (at Beech Ridge Speedway in Scarborough) and his car has been consistently solid.  He had the fastest practice time during Friday’s OPS practice runs.

Pole-sitter Cassius Clark had the car to beat in the first hundred laps but a sea of cautions (eleven in the first 125 laps) offered too many chances for an eventual lead change.  That finally happened but Cassius would finish strong to get 3rd.

Curtis took the lead with 53 laps left and fought off challenges from Eddie MacDonald (4th) and Reid Lanpher (2nd) to get the $25,000 top prize.

The sunny/cool weather was perfect for the race.

Drivers were very adept at avoiding collisions

This race had seventeen cautions.  Almost all of them were caused by individual drivers losing control and spinning out.  There were a couple of multiple-driver incidents but little damage done.  You become aware of the skill of these drivers when you witnessed seventeen restarts on a 3/8-mile track and watched them repeatedly avoid sideswipes on the tricky turns on the small track.

Scott McDaniel spins out

If this entry was for a newspaper it would end shortly but it’s a blog and I get to personalize the Oxford 250 experience.

The big guy in the racing “room” today was Speed51.  These folks were everywhere.  They had the equipment and personnel to thoroughly cover the race.  I realized the extension of their clout when I moved to my favorite viewing spot on top of the grandstand.  Been up there for years.  Didn’t last this time.  A Speed51 person informed me that they had exclusive rights to that space.

Now how would I get pictures?  I can assure you that I had no plan to hang out in the infield as the race went around me!  I saw photographers doing it but it was never a possibility for me.

One of the OPS staff members recognized what had happened to my usual vantage point and directed me to a windowed booth.  The beauty of that spot was that there was a (closed) door which lessened the deafening car noises.

I never had any intention of being in the infield.  Why?  Things happen too fast.

I had discovered earlier in this afternoon that the pit area can be dangerous too.  The pit areas are tight.  You have drivers, cars and crew/family members milling about.  And then there are the photographers, like me.  When races are in progress the cars come fast into the pit area where quick attempts are made to fix problems and get the car back out into the race.  Everyone has to be alert or you can get hurt.

I have been a fan of Eddie MacDonald’s ever since I learned that he was from Rowley (MA). I supply pictures to The Town Common which is headquartered in that town.  Eddie won the Oxford 250 twice (2009 & 2010).

I did not expect to see Eddie at today’s race because there had been zero news that he was coming and he wasn’t in the field in 2016. However, I saw in the early afternoon that he indeed was competing.

The starting positions for the race are determined by performance in qualifying heats.  Qualifying waivers are given to former winners but if they want to start up in the field they must qualify for a better placement.  Competing against drivers who don’t have waivers makes the going extremely rough-and-tumble as Eddie found out.  Twice in the consolation race he was knocked off the track.  The second time he decided to come into the pits to get repairs before re-entering the race.

That’s where Eddie and I got “together.”

I saw his car turned around in the infield during a qualifying consolation race and then I saw him heading for the pit area for repairs.  I decided to get closer to get a picture of the repairs being done in the pit area.

After taking this picture I moved to the left of the tire. Little did I know that Eddie MacDonald in the red car ahead would reverse into me.

Eddie parked his car perpendicular to his normal space.  I took a picture of the work being done and then moved to safety in a spot beside a car two spaces away from Eddie’s space.

I suspected that Eddie would do a quick forward turn and head back to the track when the repairs were done.  Instead, he came my way in fast reverse.

I was beside another car two spaces away and clearly off the roadway but it didn’t matter.  Eddie didn’t realize that there was a car parked in the direction he has chosen to go and he definitely didn’t see me.

I turned to avoid a direct hit and Eddie’s car drove me into the parked car.  I believe that Eddie realized at the last second the bad route he was on and hit his brakes.  I would have been in a morgue, instead of writing this entry, if he hadn’t I suspect.

I never went down and I do not recall Eddie’s car leaving the scene.  I do know that he went back out and competed.

Instantly there were folks coming from everywhere seeing if I was all right.  I told them that I thought I was.  I was offered a chair which I gladly took.  In a while, I stood up to see if my legs were okay.  I felt some soreness in my right side but nothing serious.  People offered me water.  Some of them were my daughter’s age.  The one that meant the most was a young lady who was probably my granddaughter’s age.  So young and yet so thoughtful!

A lady connected to the OPS medical staff talked to me several times.  She wanted me to come over to where the ambulance was and I started imagining a trip to Norway’s St. Stephen’s.  No thanks.  Not needed.

I was asked if I was with anyone.  I wasn’t and there would be no other ride home.  My wife wasn’t going to be called.  No need to worry her because the pain was minor.

As these numerous interactions were taking place the consolation race ended.  Before I knew it, Eddie and his car were back two spaces away.

I stood up to see if Eddie was there.  He was, with his driver’s suit half off.  He must have known that something had happened earlier, when he backed up into me, because he was looking back to where he had hit me.  I put both of my arms up in the air beside me, gesturing in his direction.

For some reason, at that instant, I decided to go over there and see him.  I approached him and said that I was the one he had hit.  He asked if I was alright.  He said he was sorry.  I told him that I couldn’t understand how the accident had occurred since I was not on the road.  He said that he had been hit a couple of times during the race and wanted to get right back out there and wasn’t careful enough.  I told him not to worry about it that I was okay.

The medical staff person intercepted me after that and had me fill out paperwork stating that I had refused medical assistance.  She said that if there any medical problems tomorrow (Monday) the paperwork was in place to proceed.

One of the witnesses to my getting hit told me that instead of signing anything I should find out who Eddie MacDonald’s insurance was with and sue them.  Future lawyer, I suspect!

You would have guessed that my interactions with Eddie MacDonald ended there, wouldn’t you.  But you be wrong.

I have already described my grandstand “adjustments.”  From that new (better?) position I watched the Oxford 250.

Eddie was nearly dead-last in the 43-car field at the start.  But in a long race things happen.  With thirty laps left of the 250 laps, Eddie was in second hounding leader Curtis Gerry.  I started imagining that Eddie might pull this one out.  It was not meant to be, however, and Eddie started to slide back.

I figured that I might get one last interaction with him if he made the top three.  Those are the trio that get to pose with the winner’s check.

Eddie, however, ended up 4th.  I worked my way down to the track.  I had media credentials and planned to get shots of the top three.  I didn’t realize that the top five were down there.

I took the expected collection of pictures of the top three finishers and then I ventured over to where Eddie was.

Eddie MacDonald

I knew his father by sight from Eddie’s two championships.  Eddie was talking to his father and I headed over to them.  Eddie saw me coming and told his father, “This is the guy I backed into.”  Yup, that’s me!

Eddie’s dad asked if I was okay and was quite concerned.  I said that I was fine.  I repeated that I couldn’t understand how the accident happened.  This time Eddie said that he had been directed to back up by his crew.  It was not good advice.

And that’s my version of this year’s Oxford 250.

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

Joey Polewarczyk

Derek Griffith

Sparks fly from Mike Hopkins’ car

Curtis Gerry finishes first

Reid Lanpher

Cassius Clark was the #1 qualifier

Ben Tinker wins Pass Modified feature

Justin Drake (09) nips Dennis Spencer and Mike Rowe in Last Chance race

Joey Graf gets sideways

Andrew Breton wins Street Stock feature

TJ Brackett

Ray Christian

Mike Rowe

Ben Rowe

 

 

 

 

 

 

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