We’ll get to the best part first – this week at Oxford, I finished a career-best second.
Help from some friends and a little bit of confidence was the story of the night. I am my pit crew on most nights at the track, so I’ll take all of the help that I can get and lately, I’ve had some really good help. Photographer Jamie Williams, a former Beech Ridge Motor Speedway competitor himself, came by before practice and helped me figure out a few basic set-up things. He had a few ideas for after practice depending on how the truck felt, but those ideas weren’t really needed. I was very comfortable with the truck in practice and we left it as it was.
The other help that I got came from fellow competitors Marvin Hamilton and Jerry Goss. They didn’t know me from Adam on my first week up at the track and now they’ve both become pretty good friends. After the driver’s meeting, they gave me a few pointers and they definitely helped a lot.
When it came time for the feature, I was lined up third of 17 trucks. Marvin Hamilton was starting on the outside pole and ideally, I wanted to stay close to him and maybe learn his line a little bit. He’s been successful in getting around Oxford well and won the 2002 Sport Truck championship, so I thought that shadowing him would be a good experience.
On lap one, Hamilton went for the lead and I got stuck down on the bottom. I really didn’t want to try the outside. Getting caught out there and falling back through the field from the top three would be a lot more painful than if I did it while running in the bottom half of the field. But the truck worked good on the outside and it seemed like I might have the speed to do it, on the second lap, I tried it.
It worked. From there, it was an uneventful race. I kept the Hamilton’s #7 within my sights the whole race. I didn’t gain on him, but he didn’t really pull away either and we finished 1-2 after 20 laps.
So that tells all about the last, and best, race out of the three weeks since I’ve last written.
Two weeks before was another rainout. There wasn’t much of a story there because I never even left the house to go to the track. It was that kind of a day. On the make-up date of the next night, I had commitments to be covering racing at New Hampshire International Speedway, so I missed it. That might have been a blessing in disguise because instead of the two caution-free races I’ve been in lately, one of the truck features on that night turned out to be pretty wild.
The #28 of Don Veinott ended up flipping over the long way. Jamie Williams got a great photo sequence of the wreck that showed the truck never ended up on its roof.
that is, there was something even more meaningful that I received.
Mike Rowe, who has 150 Oxford victories in his career so far, came up to see my race. In fact, he made me pretty nervous when I was strapped into my truck and he stopped by to wish me luck. He told me that he’d come by to interview me after the race in a true role reversal.
“Please don’t let me make an ass of myself on the track in front of Mike Rowe,” I remember telling myself before the feature.
After the race, Mike came by as promised and told me that I looked good out there and did an impressive job. To have one of your racing heroes tell you that is just amazing.
I started behind the #75 with my #51 truck and looked at passing him low. That wasn't going to work, but the high line did. (Jamie Williams Photos)
It’s been a few weeks since the last installment of this column and those have been good weeks for myself and the #51 Speed51.com/51 Designs Sport Truck that I race in the Summer Racing Series at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME).
Next up was tech. The concrete pad of doom is tough at Oxford. In an effort to keep the 200 plus cars there on Wednesday night close to equal, about a half-dozen guys get DQ’ed from top five finishes every night. It took me three tries to get through there correctly when I first showed up with the truck, so I was more than nervous.
Jay Cushman, car owner for the #29 Super Late Model driven by Scott Chubbuck as well as sometimes car owner to Ted Christopher and Tony Ricci, came down as my one “crew member” allowed in the tech area.
Those 20 laps might have been uneventful, but they weren’t boring either. About halfway through, I started to think that I could actually finish in second. That is when I started worrying about things breaking or tires blowing. It turns out that I had good reason to worry too. After the race, I discovered that a chunk had come out of the right front tire and I would have been lucky to make another 10 laps.
When the checkered flag flew, I was one happy guy. Second-place might be the first loser, but that doesn’t matter to me. For someone who had realistic goals of a top 10 finish and a previous career best anywhere of fourth place, second is as good as a victory.
“Don’t worry,” Jay said. “I know a thing or two about working with tech inspectors.”
With race wins from Canada to Florida on his resume, I couldn’t think of a better guy in my corner. But it didn’t matter, I passed without problem and then sat for a few minutes in the impound area. The top five trucks were released and I started to climb back into mine when the officials called out to me.
“Hey, you finished second right?” I was asked.
Uh oh…maybe I didn’t pass?
“Aren’t you going to take your trophy?” they said.
“I get one of those?” I asked.
So now I have my first ever oval track trophy. As great as
Instead, it planted its nose right into the dirt. Veinott was okay and he even drove his mangled machine back to the pit area. It was back the next week as well!
The next week featured a fast and furious 20 lapper where I started 13th and used the outside groove to pass a few trucks and cross the finish line in the ninth position. The tech line gained me another spot and I ended up eighth. There was a little bumping and banging going on when a truck spun in front of me and when I checked up to avoid him, I got tagged in the side from someone who didn’t check up, but the contact wasn’t even enough to leave a proper doughnut on my fender.
So it’s been another few weeks of having fun, finishing well and most importantly not tearing up my truck. I’ll be back at Oxford next Wednesday night to hope for more of the same as the Summer Racing Series season starts to wind down.