Tag Archives: Eddie MacDonald

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

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Oxford, Oxford 250, Oxford Plains Speedway

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Oxford, Oxford 250, Oxford Plains Speedway

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Oxford, Oxford 250

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Oxford, Oxford 250, Oxford Plains Speedway

Joey Polewarczyk wins 39th annual TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway

Austin Theriault (3rd), Joey Polewarczyk (1st), Jeff Taylor (3rd)

Joey Polewarczyk – led for 204 laps

(Oxford ME) Joey Polewarczyk won the 39th annual TD Bank 250 held at sunny Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday evening.

The 23-year-old from Hudson NH led for the first 135 laps and the last 69 laps to earn $25,000 for the victory and $20,500 for leading on 204 laps.  Nice payday for the first-time 250 winner.

This year’s race had only three cautions and none for collisions.  The wide-open conditions provided few chances for competitors to get close to Car #97.

Jeff Taylor finished second, five car lengths back.

Eighteen-year-old Austin Theriault from Fort Kent (ME) finished third for the second year in a row.  Joey Polewarczyk is engaged to Austin’s sister Brittany.

Track owner Bill Ryan brought in celebrity driver Trevor Bayne the 21-year-old winner of the Dayton 500 this year.  In the TD Bank 250 Travis finished a distant 31st some four laps off the pace.

Eddie MacDonald – 2-time winner interviewed before the race

Eddie MacDonald of Rowley (MA) was back as two-time champ in 2009 & 2010.  In this race he was in second for much of the first 100 laps but faded back to 9th.  Eddie had raced in Columbus, Ohio the day before and arrived in Maine in the early AM’s for the race.

I discovered the rooftop above the media rooms as an excellent place to watch the race.  The view was better and there was a cooling breeze.

(The pictures above and below enlarge significantly if you click on them.)

Start of the race – Joey on pole outside, Austin 3rd outside, Jeff 4th inside

Eddie MacDonald (17) and Travis Stearns (85)

Joey Polewarczyk nears finish with Jeff Taylor second

Joey Polewarczyk celebrates

Jeff Taylor

water bath

pre-race lineup

Trevor Bayne (Daytona 500 winner) beside his car

crowd salutes the drivers

Leave a comment

Filed under 2012 TD Bank 250

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. )

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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