Leftovers: LA Harley-Davidson Late Model Challenge 100 at Oxford by Mike Twist
Cramming for the 250, What to Do After Winning a Busch East Race and Much More
John Donahue was glad to stick around Oxford. (Chris Roy Photo)
DONAHUE STICKS AROUND TO WIN
John Donahue’s team had a seven hour roundtrip journey from Vermont to get to Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) for the Late Model Challenge 100.
That meant that they needed to get an early start on Saturday, the day that the race was originally scheduled for. However, when the showers also visited the track, the team was faced with the options of either heading home without racing, or finding a place to stay that evening.
Wisely, the team found local accommodations and stuck around for an extra day. It turned out that when the event was run on Sunday afternoon, they ended the day as the race winners.
“We came up yesterday afternoon and got almost here and they called it,” said Donahue. “So I asked my car owner what he wanted to do. He told me that he didn’t spend all of this money not to race the car. We got a hotel and left the car at the track. We came back this morning, got something to eat and it’s been a good day ever since.”
REAL WORLD 250 TESTING
Running the Late Model 150 served as a real-life test session for several teams preparing for next month’s TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford.
For several reasons, such as running an extended length feature and starting in the daylight and not on a typical Saturday night, the LA Harley Davidson Late Model Challenge 100 served its role as a 250 test very well.
“We’re getting ready for the 250,” said sixth-place finisher David Avery. “We know what we want know and we’ll go from here.”
“We haven’t run in the daylight like this,” said Oxford regular Doug Coombs. “This was a really good test for the 250 for us. It gives us a good handle on what is going to happen. It was really, really good for us because it gave us a feel for what we’ll have for the 250. We’re going to be qualifying like this and running around the same time. I looked at my watch when we started and we were maybe an hour earlier than we will be when we’ll start the 250. That’s big. It gives us a good feel.”
MacDONALD’S CAR GETS A TIMEOUT
While Donahue’s weekend ended up a good note, Eddie MacDonald’s went the opposite way. It started out great and went downhill on Sunday.
On Friday night, MacDonald led the majority of the race and won the NASCAR Busch East Series event at Stafford Motor Speedway. Then he headed to Oxford with a pick-up truck, an open trailer and a Late Model on it to try and double up for the weekend with another victory.
Unfortunately, MacDonald’s #17 car needed a time-out when it was time for the feature event. He parked it briefly early, and then went back on track late, ran with the leaders, but finished 30th – 56 laps down because of his early troubles.
“I don’t know, I think that it vapor-locked on us,” said MacDonald. “It got a little hot and started skipping. It just wouldn’t run. We gave it a little break, tried to look at it to see if we could find anything. We let it cool down and went back out. After that, it was running really good.”
MacDonald’s strategy for the 100 lapper probably would have given him a good chance at a good finish late in the going, if he had been on the lead lap that is.
“I wasn’t really running hard at the beginning of the race. I was just trying to save the tires at that point. I put down a few hard laps at the end and it was really good.”
But all things considered, it wasn’t a bad weekend for MacDonald.
“It wasn’t very good on this end, but on the other end it was a lot of fun.”
COOMBS CARRIES THE OXFORD TORCH
Doug Coombs was the top finishing Oxford regular in the Late Model 100, capturing a podium finish with his #57 machine behind ACT regulars John Donahue and Roger Brown.
Eddie MacDonald's #17 team worked off an open trailer at Oxford. (51 Photo)
Khiel had raced a Late Model weekly at Oxford in the past, but it was a different creature entirely without the now-standard crate engines and Koni spec shocks.
“I haven’t driven them enough to figure them out,” said Khiel. “I don’t have quite the feel that I need yet.”
Will Khiel get that feel? It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll get to wheel another race for car owner Mike Lux, but at this point it would be foolish to bet against that possibility.
“We’ll see [what happens next],” said Khiel. “Mike Lux and I are going to talk some more. He’s going to see what his plans are and I’m going to think about what I want to do and we’ll take it from there.”
Coombs might have had the fastest car on the track as the laps clicked down. His car wasn’t handling perfectly reported its driver, but it wasn’t bad by any means.
“I think that we were really pretty good,” said Coombs. “The #7 [Glen Luce] car was also coming through. The car was a little loose in and it actually chattered the nose, it never does that on the outside. So I had to feather the throttle to get some bite. But it was good. The car was good.
“Every time that I went to the outside, it just didn’t feel right. I did not feel like it normally does. I think that it was the sunshine. As soon as we had a little bit of cloud cover and I settled down, I knew that I could go for it. Every time that I had gone out there, it was only good for a few laps. When they said 20 laps to go, I went on the outside and went for it to try and get a couple of them. I needed to do something pretty quick. It was good for those few laps.”
Coombs' #57 (Jamie Williams Photo)
BROWN IS BETTER THAN LAST TIME
Roger Brown finished ninth in the season-opening ACT race at Oxford Plains Speedway. Not bad. But it was much better when he finished second in this round of the Oxford Plate Model Challenge.
“We were ten times better today than we were at the ACT race,” said Brown. “We still have to make some progress, but I just learned a ton from this race. Just running a consistent 100 laps was good. I saved the car, but didn’t just ride around. I saw what the car would do and learned a ton for the 250. If we make a little bit more progress, we’ll have a good shot at it.”
ROLFE CONTINUES HIS EDUCATION
Ricky Rolfe finished fourth with his #51 and was happy with the way that his car performed.
“It was a good run,” said Rolfe. “The car got a little bit tight from lap 50 on, but it really was the best that the car has gone all year actually – even though we had a win early in the year.”
But don’t expect him to return with the exact same set-up again.
“Every week, I come down here with at least two different springs to try out on the car. Every week, I’m going to learn something. I don’t like coming to the track with the
Khiel (#23) races with Ron Henry (#05). (Jamie Williams Photo)
same set-up as the week before, even if we won. I’m always going to come down with something different to try to get better.”
KHIEL GETS BACK ON TRACK
Travis Khiel had not seen a green flag in the better part of a whole year before the LA Harley Davidson Late Model Challenge 100. The former Oxford and then PASS North regular enjoyed his return to the track. Finishing 18th wasn’t the result that he had hoped for, but his lead lap finish wasn’t a bad run either.
“It was all right,” said Khiel. “We were pretty decent in the first half. I could hold my own. We didn’t have the best car out there by any means, but we were good. After that third to last restart, the car got real tight and wouldn’t turn. We fell back and tried to salvage the best finish that we could without tearing the car up.”
LUCE GETS A HANG OF LMS RACING QUICKLY
Late Model racing of any sort is still anew game for former OPS Pro Stock regular Glen Luce, but when that class was phased out after last season, Luce joined the Late Model ranks.
It turns out that Luce is a quick learner. He finished fifth against some stout competition in the recent Oxford 100 lapper.
“I ran Pro Stocks, but I had never run a Late Model before. We’ve got a good team and we’re starting to learn it. We’ve been struggling with the soft set-ups and it’s a new car for us, but we’re working on it. We stiffened the car up this week, we’re working on it, but we just came up a little short today.”
Luce’s car had a less than perfect set-up at the end, which kept him from advancing further through the top 10.
“The stagger closed up. I don’t know if the bleeder stuck or what. We only had an inch and 3/16th in the rear and we usually run two and a sixteenth.”
PLENTY OF OTHER RACING OVER THE WEEKEND
Sunday’s LA Harley Davidson Late Model Challenge 100 wasn’t the only race this weekend for several competitors. We already know that Eddie MacDonald won Friday night’s NASCAR Busch East Series event at Stafford Motor Speedway, but there were also a few smaller machines being wheeled on Friday night as well.
Teenage Late Model standout DJ Shaw returned to his roots on Friday at Oxford
by entering his racing kart in the unrestricted class and finishing second to Dave
Farrington Jr. Before moving up to big cars last year and winning the track
championship at White Mountain Motorsports Park in a Late Model, Shaw cut his
racing teeth as a karter.
Also on Friday night, Mike Lux – car owner for Mike Rowe and Travis Khiel at
Oxford, took part in some lawnmower racing organized by the Pathfinders
Snowmobile Club in North Saco, Maine. Lux led early on in the 40-lap feature, but
ran into mechanical problems which sidelined him late in the race.
His driver, Rowe, drove the pace tractor and wasn’t immune to mechanical problems
either. A rash of caution periods kept Rowe and his Craftsman pacer busy enough
to actually smoke a drive belt right off late in the going.
ANOTHER GOOD AVERY FINISH
“I’m really happy with that. We struggled all day. We were bad, real bad. We ended up changing quite a bit and worked our way up through. It was pretty good I guess.”
“We still have three more races to go. I really wanted to win this one today, but we’re improving each time and getting pretty good. We got sixth this week and fifth before.
ADAMS HAS A LOT TO OVERCOME AT OXFORD
“We drew third for the heat race, but broke a distributor when they were getting ready to drop the green flag on it. We had to come in, scramble and put in a new used distributor. The thing was really, really good in the consi. We started 10th and won it.”
“Then we went into the feature and were struggling with a little bit of tightness. That was all that we had. I don’t even know where we finished. We had a super car in the consi, but our troubles from the rest of the day carried over into the feature.”
Mike Lux (Green John Deere #24) races with fellow car owner Steve Perry (#4) on the dirt. (51 Photo)