“Whatever money people have won’t play a factor at Oxford,” said three-time 250 winner Dave Dion. “The advantage that the haves have over the have nots is eliminated. It doesn’t matter because of the track and the chemistry that you need with your crew. You don’t need a good motor or good brakes here. You just need a team that can keep the car on the track for you. That’s what is fun about coming here.
“Anyone can come here, work hard and win a race here. You can’t blame your failure on not being well funded. A guy could build a car right across the street in a old barn, tow it over with a tow rope and win the Oxford 250. I truly believe that he can do it with the right chassis man and the right attitude. Your dreams can come true at the 250. That’s what’s great about these tracks. I love these races and the big sponsors hate them because you can’t buy success.”
“At Oxford, you’ve always got the PASS teams and the Oxford regulars who do well,” said Benjamin. “Everyone is on pretty much equal footing.”
Then again, even the touring drivers who come to Oxford usually have some kind of personal history at the track.
COMPETITORS TALK ABOUT WHAT THE 250 MEANS TO THEM by Mike Twist
It's Like the Superbowl and the Daytona 500 to Short Track Racers
Officially, the richest one day show in pavement short track racing is named the TD Banknorth 250. Scores of Super Late Model/Pro Stock drivers from throughout the United States and Canada will descend on Oxford Plains Speedway this weekend for the annual event. Two days of optional practice sessions and support races will lead up to a day full of heat races, a $25,000-to-win feature race and 250 green flag laps that pay $100 each to the leader in the Oxford Hills of Maine.
And there’s no doubt among any of the competitors that it is a big race.
"How many races do we go to that are standing room only, with helicopters landing in the infield before the race?” said two-time 250 winner Ben Rowe. “The whole atmosphere, we just stand back and take everything in. We've raced in Florida and everywhere else, and nothing compares.
It’s a short track racing event that is so prestigious that it is usually just referred to by its distance. Ask any short track racing fan in the Northeast or Eastern Canada about the “250” and chances are, they will know exactly what you are talking about.
Last year, Corey Williams ran in his first 250. He knows what making it into the race means. (51 Photo).
“Each region of the country has its big race, and the 250 beats the pants off those,” said Cassius Clark.
“To me, it’s the biggest race in the country,” said Travis Benjamin. “It’s our Superbowl and Daytona 500 in one.”
"It's the biggest short track race in the country,” said PASS regular Travis Khiel.
"This race is the reason that most of us compete every week, because we hope it will give us an advantage in this race,” said Oxford Pro Stock regular Bill Whorff, Jr. “We call it the Super Bowl of what we do."
“I had never heard of the race until I moved to North Carolina,” said Texas native Ryan Lawler, who is currently ranked second in PASS South points. “Around here it is definitely a big deal. People are talking about it. You’ve got Cup drivers and veterans racing there and it sounds like a great race.”
“If you can win the 250, you can win anywhere,” said former All-American 400 winner Chuck Barnes. “That’s especially true now with the Cup drivers in the race. I raced with Mike Rowe in the PASS South race at Hickory and he kicked our butts pretty bad. I’ve heard that he is pretty much the man up there at Oxford.”
To merely compete in the race is big. To win the race, well that feeling is hard to describe.
“When we won [in 2001], it meant to us what it meant to Dale Earnhardt to win Daytona,” said Oxford regular Gary Drew. “If you win one race, this is the one to win.”
Mike Rowe has won several big races in the last 18 months from Canada to Hickory, North Carolina. None of those victories got him as much attention as his 250 victory last summer though.
The 250 draws haulers from all over to the Oxford pit area. (51 Photo)
"When I won the race last year, people were calling me for weeks afterward to talk about it,” said Rowe. “I won the Pullen Heavy Industries 400 at Beech Ridge last year, also, and the next day it was like nobody knew a thing about it."
As big as the race is though, it is still an event where anyone can win. Last year, Nick Nichols finished second after being out of a racecar for the quite some time. Saturday night track regulars are right in the mix to win against better funded PASS teams and NASCAR Nextel Cup invaders. If there is one event where the little guy can have a prayer at winning, it is the 250.
“I always laugh when people call the PASS guys 'outsiders' when they come to Oxford,” said track owner Bill Ryan, Jr. “If you look down the top 10 [in PASS North points], it's mostly Oxford guys. Mike and Ben Rowe aren't outsiders at Oxford. Johnny Clark raced at Oxford for years. Scott Chubbuck and Richie Dearborn have a ton of experience at Oxford. This is where most of them came from.”
Anywhere between 60-80 cars, or possibly more, are expected for this weekend’s race. Likely entries vary from Wayne Anderson of Florida to a number of Canadian hotshoes including Scott Alexander, Patrick Laperle and John Flemming.
Here's what it is all about - the 250 trophy. (51 Photo)