BUSCH NORTH REVISITS HISTORY WITH OXFORD RACE by MikeTwist
Dion, Moore and Olsen Raced There in '92 and Are Back Again
Thirteen seasons ago, Oxford Plains Plains Speedway (ME) was the cornerstone of the NASCAR Busch North Series [then known as Busch Grand National North] schedule. There were four BGNN events at the track that year. But after Tony Hirschman stood in victory lane on September 5, 1992, NASCAR’s Northeastern stock car division has not been back.
“We’ve had some great races there,” said Dave Dion. “I’m excited for my team, my family and the fans that I still have around, but I’m really excited for the series to finally be back after all these years. NASCAR did their thing and Oxford did their thing and it just seemed like they would never get back together.”
“It’s a homecoming type of thing to go back where we started,” said Maine native Kelly Moore.
A few drivers have some very fond memories of going to Oxford. Olsen recalls his trips to the track as a child, cheering on his grandfather Stub Fadden.
Helping to put on the return race to Oxford are Fisher Snowplows and the Maine DOT. Kelly Moore got to pose with the DOT mascot in front of a plow to promote the race in a Portland press conference on Thursday. (51 Photo)
“We used to go there a lot with him,” said Olsen. “Most of what stands out when I was younger was the Oxford 250. That was always a big race and back then, it was more of a NASCAR sanctioned race and a lot of the Southern guys would come up and run it. That was a big deal then. We used to really enjoy that.
“The other thing that stands out in my mind, and I was telling my grandfather that this week, was the trophies that he would get there. [Former Oxford and current NHIS promoter] Bob Bahre used to give out trophies that were four or five feet tall. When I was younger, they were always teller than me. When he got one of those, it was a pretty big deal.”
Dave Dion (L) and Kelly Moore (R) talk of the good old days at Oxford. (51 Photo)
“Dale had trouble the week before at Lee with Kelly and he was on probation,” said Dion. They told him not to hit me or he was done. They didn’t want him to win, but they didn’t want me to win either. I think that they wanted for us both to go out. NASCAR probably thought ‘Dion’s been giving us trouble and Shaw’s on probation, so if we give it to the next guy…”
Even today, Dion still ruffles some NASCAR feathers occasionally.
I’m still a thorn to them,” said Dion. “I have to tell it like it is. I think that you need that. These young guys can’t say anything or it will ruin there careers, but I’ll say what I want and NASCAR has to adjust. They never completely adjust and they probably want me to just shut up. That hasn’t changed.”
Dion remembers winning the 1992 Oxford 250, which at the time was a Busch North points event.
“We had a big confrontation with NASCAR and we had boycotted the race the week before at Lee,” recalled Dion. “We didn’t know if we would go to Oxford until Wednesday of that week.”
Not only did Dion go to the race, he put on a great battle with Dale Shaw over the closing laps. The two drivers never touched while racing for the lead and Dion remembers that there was a good reason for that.
The Busch North Series visits tracks that range from tight bullrings to one-mile big-league ballparks like New Hampshire and Dover. Dion thinks that it’s also a place where you don’t need to be a big-buck team to win.
“Oxford is a perfect track for people who are willing to work hard and drive hard,” said Dion. “You don’t have to bring your big checkbook. It’s a place like Seekonk or Thunder Road where the people, not the cars, win the races. There is still cars with the high tech stuff in it, but I like how if you’ve got a decent car, a good strategy and if you keep your head on straight, you can win here. You aren’t going
Dion and watch me spin out three times in practice. The kids go against their parents and grandparents and said ‘That’s your hero?’ You have to start over that day and prove yourself because the past doesn’t count for anything.”
“It’s like Darrell Waltrip saying ‘I used to really know how to drive’ and the people that are listening are thinking that he came from the circus.”
Two-time Busch North champion [and possibly the last guy in NASCAR Touring history to win a championship with an open trailer when he did it in 1992] Dick McCabe will be at Oxford as well. But he’s not coming out of retirement, he’ll serve as the race’s Grand Marshall.
”It was tempting [to try and line up a ride],” said McCabe. “But I thought twice about it. I believe that my racing days are over. I don’t think that I’ll race again. I’d have a hard time adjusting to these new set-ups.”
That will change with the running of the Fisher Snowplows 150, this Saturday night.
“In 1998, when I became involved with the speedway, one of the first calls that I made was to NASCAR in Daytona to talk to them about trying to get the Busch North Series back to Oxford,” said track owner Bill Ryan, Jr. “I must not be very good at my job because it took me seven years to do that.”
Now the buzz is building up for the race and even though it has been more than a dozen years, many of today’s Busch North competitors were also there in 1992 – and even before then.
“When I started in Busch North in 1989, we used to run Oxford six or seven times a year,” said Mike Olsen. “If you didn’t run well there, your chances for the championship weren’t very great. Back then, I didn’t have the finances or the knowledge that I have now.”
“He’s excited about coming here,” said Kelly. “He’s a little nervous because he wants to stand up to the expectations that everyone has for him. Hopefully, he’ll stand up to the hype that people are giving him. He’ll just go there and do his thing.”
Ryan will have plenty of fans and the stands and conventional wisdom is that Dion will be another fan favorite thanks to his three Oxford 250 victories. However, the veteran isn’t so sure either.
“You don’t know when you go to the track,” said Dion. “I go to Thunder Road and it’s the grandchildren of my fans who are watching the races now. They hear this name
One thing that has changed are a few of the names competing full-time in the Busch North Series. Only one other year since the series was started in 1987, has Kelly Moore not raced full-time. He has only started one event, at New Hampshire in 2005, but he’ll be at Oxford.
“We haven’t raced on a short track yet this year, so hopefully we can get the rust out of our bolts,” said Moore. “We were up there testing the other day. It went relatively well.
Lately it’s been time for Moore’s son Ryan to shine. The 22-year-old driver got his start in a full-bodied racecar by running at Late Model weekly at Oxford and he’s glad to be going home according to his father.
Dave Dion. (51 Photo)
Mike Olsen's #61 car. (51 Photo)
In 1992, Joe Bessey won two of the four Busch North races at Oxford. In this photo, he appears with a teenaged Mike Twist (now of Speed51.com) in victory lane there.. (Twist Family Photo)
to just get beat because someone has a DEI engine. It’s not like Loudon, where you have to bring everything to do well.
“You don’t need the big brakes or the best aerodynamics in the world. This is Oxford where an underdog has always been able to come in with a dream and if they put their ducks in a row, they could come home with everything.”
The Fisher Snowplows 150 will take place Saturday night with a green flag time of 8:00pm. The race will be broadcast live on HDTV and Speed51.com will have full coverage of the event.