(Oxford ME) They each did it their way and they each made it work.
Skip Tripp had the fast car and the ability to get around cars.
Will Dunphy envisioned chaos on the track and stayed back waiting for his chance.
Skip Tripp won his third straight Outlaws feature on Saturday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Skip started in the back because of his successes in the previous weeks. It didn’t matter.
Within two laps, in both the 8-lap heat and the 20-lap feature, Skip had used the outside lane to pass the field. Once there, he didn’t look back.
“Everything went our way,” said Skip afterwards. “We were pretty hooked up. It was kind of easy tonight.”
Will Dunphy finished second.
Will also started in the back because of previous successes. Unlike Skip, however, Will was content to stay there for a while.
“I hung back because I knew things were going to happen,” explained Will. “I could tell the way drivers were acting at the get-go.”
“Some want to get to the top by Lap 2,” he added. “They need to calm down and realize that there are twenty laps.”
Corey Morgan got spun and his car was totaled early in the Outlaws feature.
“A car getting totaled takes the fun out of it for me,” said Will. “There were way too many cars wrecked tonight. There is no need for it. There are not enough of us out there for that to happen.”
The spin below in the feature gave Will (#4) his chance to move from the back to the front around the involved cars and he did:
Skip Tripp: “We’re just playing with this thing now until we get to Street Stocks for something else. We’re just getting back into rhythm. We’ve been out of it for so long. The car is for my cousin. I set it to her liking but it’s too loose now for her. We need to change it. We’ll tighten it up and hopefully she’ll have the same success.”
Will Dunphy: “Tripp’s car is definitely fast. It wasn’t that fast before but maybe a lot of experience has something to do with the way it’s now going for them. There was too much rubber on the track today from the Super Late Models. It was super icy. I couldn’t stay up there very long. This is my second year with the Outlaws. I was told to move up from the Cruiser Class. It’s been a fun venture so far.”
This was the fifth week of Outlaws’ racing.
Skip Tripp’s lowest finish so far has been third.
Will Dunphy has been either first or second during the past four weeks.
Matt Veinott earned third today. His highest previous finish had been fifth.
Combining two days of racing with fireworks brought out a good crowd. The weather was ideal too.
Yes, I gave the Bandits coverage last year. Their demise set me searching for another group to cover. The Outlaws have a small roster….less confusion initially for me. I’ll see what I can do over the next three months. There will be pictures and interviews.
(The pictures should enlarge if you click on them.)
The Mowatts (Alex and Luke) have certainly done that.
Alex took first in the 17th Bandits feature tonight. It’s his sixth win.
In the Bandits seventeen features this season, Alex and Luke have thirteen wins between them. Jeff Libby has two of the remaining four wins.
September 11th is the final Bandits race of the year. I am going to guess that older brother Alex will be highly motivated to collect a win and tie the win score with his younger brother in that one.
Tonight’s feature was quickly a dogfight between Nick Wilson (he has a win this year), who started on the pole, and Alex Mowatt.
A big difference tonight was the weather. It was much cooler than it has been. That meant that the upper levels of the track would be in play.
“The weather was good,” said Alex Mowatt afterwards. “It cooled down so that the outside groove was workable.”
For almost half of the twenty-lap feature, it was Nick Wilson holding the lead on the inside and Alex Mowatt holding his own on the outside.
Alex, however, was persistent and eventually got his #11 ahead of Nick’s #53 just before newcomer Erin Aiken caused a caution on Lap 11.
“I was working on Nick every lap,” said Alex, “and I managed to be ahead of him before the caution.”
On the restart, Alex had the pole position, and on this evening, he wasn’t giving the inside lead up.
Luke told me that he figured early that he wouldn’t be adding to his win total tonight.
“He (Alex) had me tonight,” he said. “I think that I could have had him early on but as the race went on it got harder and harder.”
Nick Wilson came down from the outside after the restart and tangled with Jeremy Farrar. That did in Nick as he ended up seventh. Jeremy, on the other hand, hung in there and ended up third. It was Jeremy’s best finish of the season.
With Nick Wilson moved back, it was Luke Mowatt’s turn to move up.
Another caution put the two Mowatts side-by-side on the restart with seven laps left. That setup had the makings of an exciting end to the race.
But Alex was off very quickly on the restart.
“I missed a shift on that last caution,” said Luke. “It set me back enough to stay out of it.”
Rather quickly there was a problem when Luke chose to leave the outside.
“I may have come down on Jeff (Libby),” recalled Luke. “I didn’t see him until it was a little too late. I gathered it up once I realized he was there, but it was too late. Once you get sideways it’s hard to come back out of it.”
Jeff Libby took the worst of it and finished sixth.
Luke went after his brother but never could get into the side-by-side position he had on the restart. Luke settled for second.
Remarkably, Luke has come in either first or second in each of the last thirteen Bandits features.
Yet Alex leads in the points standings. How is that possible? It all goes back to May 1st.
“I got wrecked in the heat race (on May 1st) so I didn’t get any points in that feature,” recalled Luke. “Without that I might be leading the division or be right near the lead.” Alex has not missed any of the seventeen features.
It was a cool night with lots of racing and restarts. The Bandits feature started 2 ½ hours after the racing began.
My two cents: If there’s a darker and more dangerous area than the OPS pits when the sun goes down, I’d like to know where it is. The race cars have no headlights, and the OPS lighting is VERY limited. Drivers come off the track in a hurry for repairs and they try to get back on the track fast. This is all being done in the limited light! Many folks are walking around in the pit area at the same time. Something bad waiting to happen?
I wanted to interview Jeremy Farrar after the Bandits feature. Finding him was an adventure in the dark. The best I could find was his car!
Trying to take a picture of Alex Mowatt and his first-place trophy? Another darkness fiasco. (I have since added a picture from the Mowatt Brothers website. They, at least, had someone capable of taking a picture in a dark setting!)
Clearly, the Bandits division is down cars from last year. A year ago, in the OPS 250 weekend Bandits feature, twenty drivers finished. Luke Mowatt got his first win in that feature. Only ten drivers finished tonight’s race.
Missing this year, are drivers showing up week after week. In the Bandits division a three-week rolling average is used to place drivers in the feature. Regulars are placed in the front spots. The further back you finished in the previous weeks, the closer to the front you were placed in next week’s feature. Therefore, you could count on inexperienced, regular drivers being in front on starts and the points-leading type of drivers having to maneuver around them to get the top spots. Certainly added some suspense to the features! Now with few regulars, the points leaders are much closer to the front. Race outcomes are sorted out much earlier than last year.
It was nice to have a crowd watching races at OPS on Friday night. I think/hope that the crowd will be one of the best they’ve ever had for Sunday’s OPS 250.
Nick (the announcer) was very good with the descriptions of what was happening on the track on Friday night. However, I’ll wild guess that he hasn’t been to OPS before. Why? He kept referring to Wednesday night racing at OPS. He also wondered out loud if the “Mow-ATTS” were brothers. When two guys win 13 of the 17 Bandits races, you would have that Mowatt family figured out if you’ve been on hand!
(All of the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
(Oxford Maine) The empty house at the Oxford Plains Speedway on Tuesday was misleading because I know that’s going to change.
It was Media Day leading up to the 48th Oxford 250 on Sunday.
Be certain that the noise will be coming and the excitement as well.
Today, however, was quiet. There were only two race cars, Kate Re’s #10 and Johnny Clark’s #54, plus several drivers on the track.
I had the opportunity to interview several of the drivers (Johnny Clark, Dave Farrington, Eddie MacDonald).
Johnny Clark was last year’s winner. It was unexpected. Johnny hadn’t won a race at OPS since 2006 and in his most recent race there he finished 26th.
But there he was on Victory Lane last August.
“I remember hearing the track announcer say that ‘Johnny Clark has been rubbing the lucky lamp all night,” recalled Johnny.
“It wasn’t like our win was a fluke,” he added. “We led 101 laps which was more than anyone else. We turned in the fastest lap of the race.”
“We had the car to do it and we were able to get the luck we needed to go to Victory Lane,” said Johnny.
Dave Farrington is in his twenties and very intent on winning the 250 for the first time. Dave took fourth last year and wasn’t very happy about it.
He felt that the numerous cautions and lapped cars made it difficult to make a good run.
“I saw the scoreboard with twenty-five laps left and we were second,” recalled Dave. “For several laps we were side-by-side with Johnny.”
“We were in good position but call it what you will, luck or circumstances, but they took over,” said Dave. “It always seems that there’s that one lingering caution before the end of the race.”
Eddie MacDonald has won the OPS 250 twice. The wins were back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.
In both of those victories, Eddie drove up on the track and no one could keep up with him.
“Our car was really good in those wins,” explained Eddie. “There is so much that goes into winning this race. Pit strategy is important.”
It looked like the beginning of a long string of top finishes for Eddie but that’s not how it’s been.
“I don’t know if the track has changed but we aren’t able to get to the outside,” said Eddie.
“In the last five years, I haven’t been able to come off the bottom of the track here,” Eddie added.
Eddie was optimistic about Sunday’s race: “We came here a couple of weeks ago with a totally different setup and it seems a little bit better.”
“For the most part you can make your own luck if the car is good,” said Eddie. “You try to put yourself in a good position and not burn it up.”
Dave Farrington was expecting a big race from Johnny Clark on Sunday. “We know that Johnny is going to come back with just as good a piece as last year.”
Dave added, “We’ve been maintaining all year. We have a very good piece. Whether we have the fastest car or not, we still need a perfect day for things to fall our way.”
One advantage that Dave Farrington has over other drivers is his familiarity with Oxford Plains Speedway. He has led in points for two straight years.
“We’ve been racing here week after week,” said Dave. “We’ve dealt with any weather/track condition that could come up. We have a notebook with the information we’ve gathered and hopefully it will help us to be there at the end.”
Dave realizes that the weekly OPS races and the 250 are different. “We’ve certainly got just as many laps on this track as anyone else this season. However, we haven’t seen an OPS 250 winner from the weekly Oxford competitors in a while. We’re hoping to break that.”
Dave expected to be busy on Sunday morning. “A lot of teams are practicing this week in their shops,” he explained, “like almost a live, hot pit stop. We’ve got a crew that is scattered throughout the state of Maine. We really don’t get together that often. Our first practice could be on Sunday morning.”
One thing I like about Media Days is that you can ask questions you would never think of doing after an event. So I came prepared.
I asked the drivers to explain how they chose the number they have on their cars.
“My whole racing I’ve been #17,” said Eddie MacDonald. “It was my hockey number in high school (Triton Regional – Byfield MA). It’s one of the only numbers I could have in hockey and racing.”
Johnny Clark (#54) and Dave Farrington (#23) traced their number back to the one their dads used when they raced.
“My dad was born in ‘54,” said Johnny. “He was my hero behind the wheel.”
Kate Re also told me that her #10 came from her dad’s racing number.
How about the car’s colors?
One of the cars you can’t visually miss is Dave Farrington’s. It is bright orange.
“That color helps our spotters find us quicker than all the black cars,” said Dave. “I am also a 2009 graduate of Jay High School where our colors were orange and black.”
Eddie MacDonald has used a variety of colors. “We’ve used orange, red, and black,” said Eddie. “We leave it up to the car owner and the sponsors to decide.”
Johnny Clark’s car for Sunday’s race is not the same one as last year.
“We debuted this car at Loudon in April, and we were actually thrashing to finish it,” said Johnny. “The lettering is what we got at the track. We kept things as they were after we won that race.”
“Back in the early 2000’s I had a white car,” Johnny said. “It had red accents and a red roof and hood. Everyone had a white car so then I decided to go black in 2007. I’m not saying I started a trend, but you look now and there are a lot of black cars out there.”
I asked the drivers about their recollections of the first time they raced at OPS.
Eddie MacDonald: “It was in the late ‘90’s. We had just bought a car and wanted to try it out. I had been running at Lee and the setup at OPS was very different. I got out there and I thought I was going fast but all the locals went flying by.”
Dave Farrington: “It was in 2010-11. I was just getting my feet wet in racing. We’ve come a long way since.”
Johnny Clark: “It was 1997 and the race was the Oxford 250. I was seventeen at the time. We drew #2 out of the bucket for the heat race. Steve Knowlton, Jeff Taylor, Timmy Bracket, and Kenny Wright were all in the heat. They all tangled up about halfway through and we held on to get second and qualified seventh.”
As for the race itself?
All three drivers have provisional qualifications but each of them hopes that they will improve their positioning in the 250 with good runs in the heats on Sunday.
“The provisional qualification would start us about 38th,” said Dave.
“Oxford is definitely not my best racetrack,” said Johnny. “I have, however, made some progress over the last several years figuring out what I need to do here. We’ve won before and we know we can do it again.”
Thanks to the drivers for their cooperation.
I also interviewed teenager Kate Re but unfortunately my digital recorder wasn’t functioning. Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk to her on Victory Lane after the race on Sunday.
(Oxford ME) He’s the Bandits points leader at Oxford Plains Speedway.
But it had been five weeks since his last win.
Tonight, Alex Mowatt added to his point total and ended his five-week non-winning streak.
“I’m leading in points,” said Alex afterwards, “My car is in one piece. I can’t complain.”
Luke Mowatt (Alex’s younger brother) took second and continued his run of quality races.
After starting the season fifth, seventh, and tenth, Luke had been either first (six times) or second (four times) for ten straight weeks! That’s consistency.
No question that both the Mowatts have fast cars and can keep up with each other. What they can’t do is pass each other. It’s not that they aren’t trying to do it!
In the lone Bandits heat and the 20-lap feature, Alex successfully used the same strategy. He went to the upper part of the track and was quickly past the front cars. Once in front he basically ran out the laps.
“I jumped right into the early lead,” said Alex. “I took my opportunity and didn’t look back.”
“He got to the front quick,” recalled Luke. “It took me about five laps to get into second.”
Once both Mowatts were in the top positions the outcome wasn’t hard to figure.
“The Mowatts are tough,” said 3rd place finisher Jeff Libby. “They’re fast. I don’t know what to do with them. You’ve got to get to the front first and fight them.”
Luke tried to get by his brother, but it didn’t work. “I knew he wasn’t going to give me the bottom and I definitely couldn’t get by him on the outside.”
On the 12th lap, Luke gave his brother a bump. “I just wanted him to know that I was there,” said Luke laughing. “I think he enjoyed the bump I gave him.”
Alex held onto the lead and won by several car lengths.
The Bandits spent a long time getting checked over after the race.
Two weeks ago, Jeff Libby was disqualified after a lengthy post-race checkout.
“They were trying to figure out some of our transmission codes tonight,” said Jeff. “Some didn’t match but it got figured out.”
I asked Jeff about the disqualification: “I was a little hot-headed when it happened. It was over something we didn’t know about. It had to do with the wheels. We thought they were all the same, but they weren’t. We were wrong. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.”
“Tonight, was a good race,” said Jeff. “We are a little bit off from where we should be, but we still managed to come home third. You can’t complain about that.”
Luke said that the track was “wicked” slippery. Jeff said, “The track lost a lot of grip with all the rain we’ve had.”
There was plenty of action in the Street Stock Division. I caught Shawn Knight (#25) spinning out in one of their heats.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
Chad Wills wins the Bandits feature with Jeff Libby second at OPS
Chad Wills takes a victory lap after winning for the second time at OPS this season
(Oxford ME) Over a year ago in the Bandits Division at Oxford Plains Speedway, Caleb Proctor won his only race of the season while driving the 04.
Tonight, Caleb’s 04 earned another checkered flag. This time, however, the driver was Chad Wills.
“I’ve really got to thank Caleb,” said Chad post-race. “I wrecked my car two weeks ago and he let me use his.”.
Chad has gotten a third and now a first in Caleb’s car. Caleb will probably be the driver the next time the 04 appears at OPS.
There will be nearly two weeks off before the next Bandits race. “I bought another car yesterday,” explained Chad, “like the hatchback that I wrecked. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks I’ll be here with it.”
Chad Wills and Jeff Libby get inside Eric Parlin (3) in the last lap
Chad got his first win on July 25th when he took full advantage of a multi-car crash to move into contention. Tonight, it wasn’t a crash. This time it was leader Eric Parlin slipping away from the bottom of the track near the end of Lap 18.
“Eric got loose in the last lap,” said Chad, “and I happened to be close enough to capitalize on it.”
Chad moved inside of Eric and Jeff Libby followed as Eric tried to recover. Chris Foster also got to the bottom of the track.
“I could have forced my way back down there,” said Eric Parlin afterwards, “but cars might have been wrecked and I couldn’t do that.”
Eric ended the race settling for a tough fourth behind Chad, Jeff, and Chris.
Eric Parlin gets ahead of Brady Heath (91)
At the outset of the 20-lap feature, Eric took the lead from Brady Heath in the second lap. Chad followed with Alex Mowatt running third.
Alex is not only the points leader but has won two straight weeks. It was easy to expect him to get the lead sooner or later. But not tonight. In fact, his brother Luke, beat him in the second Bandits heat race.
Alex spent most of the evening racing on the upper levels of the track. “Alex worked hard on the outside, but it heated his tires,” said Chad. “It was impressive that he could hang out there as long as he did.”
Alex Mowatt (11) persisted in trying to pass Eric Parlin using the upper part of the track
Alex threatened leader Eric Parlin from the outside on several of the later laps. When Eric slide up from the bottom in Lap 18, Alex got caught behind him and ended up finishing fifth.
Chad realized his good fortune. “For the second time this year I was in the right spot at the right time. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky rather than good.”
Jeff Libby continues to chase that elusive first win. He has finished second three different times, including tonight.
Jeff was behind Chad Wills when the bottom of the track opened up on Lap 18. “We followed Chad and that’s how we ended up where we did,” said Jeff.
Luke Mowatt won the second heat defeating his brother Alex in the process.
Chad Wills won the first heat and Luke Mowatt won the second heat.
Eric Parlin’s car threw off plenty of smoke last week. No sign of any smoke this week.
Eric had a pretty good hold on first until a spinout (Brady Heath) in Lap 11 forced a caution and a restart. The restart bunched everyone up.
The good weather continues. This is the 8th week I’ve been at OPS and it’s been nothing but sunshine.
Limited number of spectators on the other side of the track.
I am on twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).
All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.
Caleb Proctor Chad Wills, Brandon Caston
Jeff Libby (2nd)
Last lap action
Alex Mowatt tries to get by Eric Parlin on the high side
Eric Parlin comfortably in front in the feature
Brady Heath has the early lead in the feature
Chad Wills and Brady Heath set up in front for the Bandits feature
Luke Mowatt on the inside and Alex Mowatt on the outside in Heat 2
Travis Verrill first, Jeff Libby second in the Bandits Feature
Travis Verrill went from last to first in one week
(Oxford ME) Last week Travis watched the end of the Bandits feature from the bleachers.
This week? An entirely different story.
“It worked out great,” explained Travis Verrill afterwards.
Travis won his heat and then went on to take the feature on Saturday night at spectator-less Oxford Plains Speedway.
“We had no mechanical failures,” said Travis. “We stayed in front. Clean racing. Good Saturday.”
Jeff Libby was close tonight but still is chasing that elusive first win.
Jeff Libby chased Travis in the heat and the feature. “We’ll get to first someday,” he joked afterwards. Jeff is still looking for his first win.
Travis lined up in the front in the feature with Adam O’Neill. By lap two Adam was fading back and the top four finishers (Travis Verrill, Jeff Libby, Alex Mowatt, and Chad Wills) were in place.
Round and round they went in that order for the final eighteen laps. “It’s hard on these hot days because we have to run these radial tires and it’s hard to keep grip,” added Travis.
So the first four stayed on the bottom of the track waiting for things to change. They didn’t. And there were no cautions leading to restarts.
The order of finish (Travis Verrill, Jeff Libby, Alex Mowatt, Chad Wills) was already in place in the second lap of the feature.
“I just needed that one little shot at it,” lamented Jeff, “but he never opened the door.”
Adam O’Neill got off to an early lead in the feature.
“(Jeff) Libby was all over me though out the whole race but I managed to keep it up in front,” said Travis.
Although Jeff finished second, he loved the race. “It was probably the most fun I’ve had here in three years. The competition was bumper to bumper. If any one of us moved out of the way, someone else was taking that spot immediately. Everyone ran real fair and clean and that’s all you can ask for out of racing.”
Jeff: “We definitely miss the fans, that’s for sure. It’s just not the same.”
Travis: “It’s frustrating for a lot of the fans because we can only bring ten people in with us. Now we don’t even have pay-per-view coverage which is even more frustrating. I am hoping that in the next couple of weeks they can figure it out with the state and get the fans back in here. Then we can all enjoy it together.”
Nice weather conditions…….temps in the upper 70s.
It was certainly a quick evening at OPS. There were heats and features for four divisions and everything was over in less than two hours.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
I am posting things on Twitter (McClellandPeter) and Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).
Alex Mowatt (finished 3rd in feature) finds some water in the pits
Alex Mowatt takes the Bandits Division opener at Oxford Plains Speedway
The pits were filled with cars, drivers, and crew members
(Oxford ME) The caution flag has been out for several months.
That ended Saturday as the green flag dropped at Oxford Plains Speedway and this season’s racing began.
No spectators were allowed making for an odd view across the way of an empty grandstand. Hopefully, this will soon change.
I decided last year to concentrate my coverage on one division (Bandits) at OPS and I am doing it again this year.
Alex Mowatt (11) was quick to build his lead after restarts in the feature
Alex Mowatt (Norway ME) won tonight’s Bandits feature easily.
Alex’s win in the first heat earned him the pole position in the feature.
Alex never gave up the front in the feature despite two restarts and clearly had the best car in the Bandits division on this evening.
Even in his heat win, Alex was lengths ahead of the rest of the field when it was over.
In the second heat, Eric Parlin (Oxford ME) appeared to be coasting to a win. However, with less than two laps left, Eric lost control, spun out, and his lead vanished. He ended up 6th.
Brandon Varney chats pre-race with Dustin Salley
Brandon Varney (Mechanic Falls ME) took advantage of Eric’s spinout and won the second heat. Brandon finished the feature several car lengths back of Alex in second place.
Mike McKinney (Greenwood ME) rallied in a close finish to get third in the feature, despite a car that seemed to be coming apart the longer he drove it. Mike had a fender that hung off for several laps and later a pipe that was bouncing on the asphalt in the final laps. These things, however, didn’t faze Mike. He was going to drive that thing until it stopped!
Comfortable weather and plenty of, “how-you-been’s?,” heard in the stands.
I am on Twitter (Mcclellandpeter) and Instagram (McClellandMiscellanea).
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
Spinout Doug Churchill (07) in the Bandits feature
1st Heat – Alex Mowatt (11), Chad Wills (52), and Jeff Wentzil (77)
2nd Heat – Eric Parlin (3), Brandon Varney (1X), and Mike McKinney (08)
Travis Verrill’s car stopped in the feature
Fender trouble for Mike McKinney (08)
Chad Wills gets ready to race
Alex Mowatt wins first heat
2nd heat lead change – Brandon Varney (1X), Mike McKinney (08), Dean Jordan (55), and Leon Kennison (13K)
Alex Mowatt wins the first of three races in the Bandit Triple Crown series
Alex with trophy
(Oxford ME) Rookie Alex Mowatt won the first race in the 2019 Bandit Triple Crown series on Sunday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.
The second, of three races, in this series will be held on September 15th at OPS.
Alex, of Norway, ran away and hid in his heat and then did the same thing in the 25-lap feature.
“I got off to a great start and Dustin (Salley) had trouble with his car,” Alex explained afterwards. (Dustin is the points leader among the Bandits and has won numerous races this season.)
The way Alex’s car was moving on this evening, however, I’m not sure Dustin would have stayed with him even if his car had worked well.
Chad Wills (Oxford) took second and Dustin, despite his gear trouble, was third.
What certainly helped Alex was the combination of a small field (12 cars?) and no cautions. Alex never had to weave through traffic, and he didn’t have to chance his lead with a restart.
It was clearly his day.
After one lap Alex (11) had control of his heat and later the feature.
Highlight of his racing career? “This was nice, but the racing highlight so far for me was the first race I won here earlier in the season,” said the 20-year-old from Norway.
Dustin Salley (18) and Chad Wills (54) battled for second place
I tried to figure out the way things go at the speedway. Sorting out drivers and cars was a challenge. No up-to-date rosters anywhere to be found in the press box certainly didn’t help.
Dustin Salley (3rd) with Alex after the race
I had planned to interview several drivers afterwards. That fell through because the inspection of the cars after the race seemed to last at least an hour. That left me little time to find the other drivers.
But it was my first time trying to cover a race where I interviewed participants, and I enjoyed being there. I am creating my own Bandits’ roster and I will know better what to expect next time.
I expect to be at OPS for the 250 late in August.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
Alex with the victory flag
Nick Ogden (9) leads Dustin Salley in heat
Chad Wills (54), Dustin Salley (18), and Travis Verrill (24)
Eddie MacDonald’s car
Alex ahead of Dean Jordan (55) and Greg Sessions (91) in his heat
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.
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.)
Sparks fly from Mike Hopkins’ car
Curtis Gerry finishes first
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
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. )