(Oxford ME) Talk about dominating a division.
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.)