Tag Archives: Mike Rowe

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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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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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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