Most of all, the 250 has been a race where heroes have been born and their place in New England racing history has been cemented. Mike Rowe, Ralph Nason and Dave Dion have each won the event three times each. When it comes to modern day fendered racing in New England, you can’t get much more notable than those three men.
Both Dion and Rowe will return to the event this season to mix it up with along with a crop of proven Super Late Model winners such as Ben Rowe, Cassius Clark, Johnny Clark, Richie Dearborn, Dale Shaw, Scott Chubbuck and Scott Mulkern as well up and coming young drivers like Travis Benjamin, Corey Williams, Alan Tardiff and Travis Khiel. Plus, you can never count out a strong contingent of OPS regulars that includes Tim Brackett, Ricky Rolfe, Gary Drew, Jeff Taylor, Chris Kennison, Bill Whorff, Jr. and Jeremie Whorff.
Or in other words, it promises to be just another installment in a line of great races.
Tickets for the TD Banknorth 250 are available but going quickly. Call the Speedway box office now at (207) 539-8865 to reserve your seat. Qualifying begins Sunday at 2 p.m.
OXFORD 250 HAS A RICH HISTORY by Mike Twist
Through The Years Careers Have Been Made, Hearts Broken and Fans Wowed at 250
But a few things have always been constant for the 250 – it’s always been at Oxford Plains Speedway. It’s always attracted the best and brightest fendered drivers around and it has always been one heck of a show.
The race was born as Bob Bahre’s creation back in 1974. Back then, before Bahre built New Hampshire International Speedway, he was the promoter of the Oxford track. Using a series of 100-lap open competition shows called the Getty Opens as his template, Bahre developed the race as a “run what you brung” affair. The race featured an unheard-of at the time $25,000 purse and was sanctioned as a NASCAR Late Model Sportsman event. An unknown 20-year-old Joey Kourafas won the race after George Summers pitted late for fuel.
And the rest was history.
In 1975, the race actually became a 250-lap event (1974’s advertised distance was only 200 laps). This change ensured that a pit stop would have to be made. The race remained an open show through the 1970’s with rules being added to police weight, tread width and body design. A curious mix of American-Canadian Tour cars, weekly Late Model Sportsman competitors and NASCAR North machines would all share the track at various times into the late 1980’s with rules being drawn up and adjusted to keep the competition equal.
In 1987, NASCAR came aboard and sanctioned the event as a points-paying Busch Series race. The Bahre family sold the track to real estate developer Michael Liberty to concentrate on building NHIS and an era began where NASCAR household names like Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jimmy Spencer and Jeff Burton came to race.
However, none of those five drivers ever won a 250. New England characters like Dick McCabe and Jamie Aube were too busy winning the show.
The TD Banknorth 250 has had many faces through the years. There have been different promoters, different types of cars raced, different stars and different race sponsors.
There are only three men who have won the 250 on three occasions - Dave Dion (Top - Jamie Williams Photo), Mike Rowe (Middle - Justin St. Louis Photo) and Ralph Nason (Bottom - 51 Photo).
The race shifted philosophies again in the early 1990’s. In 1992, it was a Busch Grand National North race that attracted a number of Busch Series competitors as well. The following year, it went back to its Saturday night roots. The track split with NASCAR and ACT came aboard with their flavor of Super Late Model-type Pro Stocks. This allowed Saturday night regulars back in the show along with a number of tough Canadian entries. Junior Hanley, Derek Lynch and Dave Whitlock would bring the 250 trophy North of the border for the next three seasons before Mainer Larry Gelinas took the top honors in 1996.
As the ACT Tour shifted away from Super Late Models to Late Model cars, the 250 went back to being an open show. It is not a PASS sanctioned event, but pretty much the entire PASS North field will be there for the race this weekend. The most recent winners of the event have been a mix of PASS regulars like Ben and Mike Rowe, as well as Saturday night Oxford heroes like Gary Drew and Scott Robbins.
Bill Ryan purchased Oxford Plains Speedway in 1998 and has revitalized the event since then. Under his control, the race has attracted NASCAR stars like Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch in recent seasons and Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley this year. The race has made it back prominently into mainstream Maine newspapers and television news reports and has near or at the sellout level over the past few years.
Over the years, the 250 has meant many things to many different drivers.
It has been a race where careers can be made and a path to the big leagues can be blazed. Ricky Craven won the race in 1991 and used his winner’s purse of $50,025 to fund a move down South. The national attention for winning the race didn’t hurt either and Craven was able to further a career that has included victories in all of NASCAR’s big three series.
Winning the 250 in 1986 helped former Busch Series champion Chuck Bown get established down South too. He returned to the race in 1990 as a NASCAR Busch Series competitor and won that year as well.
It’s also been a cruel race to many through the years. Robbie Crouch finished second on three occasions but never took the winner’s trophy. Local underdog Alan Wilson was leading late in the 2004 event when he got into some oil and went sailing off the backstretch.
Larry Gelinas won the 250 in 1997 (Top - Norm Marx Photo) and Ricky Craven won the race in 1991.
It’s been a race that has drawn entries from all across the map as well. Southerners Bob Pressley, Butch Lindley and Tommy Ellis have been winners while Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd and L.D Ottinger have been shut out in numerous attempts.
Some other notable drivers to have raced in the 250 have included Kevin Cywinski, Rich Bickle, Mike Alexander, Butch Miller and Freddie Query.
The TD Banknorth 250 is the final installment of a three-day race weekend, all presented by New England Dodge Dealers. Friday and Saturday night action begins at 6:30 pm.
For more on the rich history of the Oxford 250, be sure to check out racing historian Mark Truman's 250 website by clicking here.