Oxford 250 Changes Work Out Well For Roger Brown by Mike Twist
Racer Goes From Observer to Winner With Change in Car Specs
“This is the biggest race that we’ll ever run in our entire life.”
Those were the words of Roger Brown after the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). But they could have just as easily come out of his mouth any time after August 14, 2006 – which is when track officials announced that ACT-style Late Models would replace Pro Stock/Super Late Model cars in the annual event. The move shut many teams out of the race, but allowed a whole new variety of competitors in for 2007.
lane. But it wasn’t that simple either. First, he had to hold off a rapid charge by Oxford
veteran Dale Verrill, who kept reeling Brown in and almost got by him at the finish line.
"Five more laps and I would have gone around him," Verrill said. "I had to go for it there at the end. I wasn't paying attention to what lap it was, and nobody told me."
Brown stayed barely in front at the line though.
“I didn’t have much at the end, but I had enough,” said Brown.
ACT youngster Scott Payea finished third with Oxford regulars Jon Brill and Dennis Spencer rounding out the top five finishers.
And as for Brown, the victory still hadn’t sunk in even after the photos were taken, the trophy was handed over and the interviews were done.
“Not really,” said Brown. “I can’t believe that we won the Oxford 250.”
Once the race began, Brown had plenty of ground to make up. He tried to do it by using pit strategy rather than horsepower, and it worked. By lap 142, Brown found himself leading the race.
“We had a bad draw and started 30th. My crew chief Pat thought that if we pitted early, we gain some track position without using our tires up. We pitted at lap 90 and it worked. After our stop, I just rode around on the bottom and tried not to use the tires up. I was second after about 40-45 laps. People pitted and that put us right in the front. Once we were out front, I tried to save what I had.”
That conservative plan worked, as Brown led 107 ½ of the 108 laps between taking the top spot and finishing the race.
The victory didn’t come without its baggage however, and it was that stray half-lap that Brown did not lead which caused all kinds of controversy.
With 24 laps to go, David Avery went low entering turn three to take the lead from Brown. In doing so, Avery led his first official lap of the Oxford 250. He didn’t get the chance to lead a second one this year though. By the time the field got to turn one, Avery was sailing off the track after contact with Brown.
As expected, both drivers had very different views of both times that the lead changed hands.
“From where I was sitting, I passed him clean,” said Avery. “10 or 15 laps before that, I was under him. I backed off and let him go. I knew that he was coming down and I didn’t want to run like that. I passed him clean in lapped traffic and then he decided that he didn’t like that I guess. That’s just the way that things go.”
A whole new cast of characters chased the TD Banknorth 250 trophy this time around. (OPS / JAR Racing Photography Photo)
Brown was among those new competitors and his words carried a little more weight as he stood in the technical inspection area at Oxford just a few minutes before Midnight on Sunday. That was because of the fact that for the past hour or so, he could accurately put the words “Oxford 250 winner” in front of his given name.
And the ACT regular from New Hampshire knew damn well that he would have been buying a grandstand ticket and not a pit pass for the race, if that change had not been made.
“There was absolutely no way [that he could have entered the 250 under the old rules]," said Brown. "We used to watch this race from the grandstands and we knew that we could never get here. The resources and the money that it takes to run that type of racecar [a Pro Stock/Super Late Model] is insane.
“I think that [Track owner] Bill Ryan made an excellent choice….obviously, because I won…but I always thought that it was a great idea. It gives a lot of people more of a chance to run these races. It’s a huge deal to us. It’s unbelievable and it’s a good thing.”
Brown isn’t selfish either. The fan in him knows that the people in the stands saw a good race as well.
“The race to me looked like it was just as good or better than it was with the Pro Stocks. I
started 30th and there was racing everywhere. The racing was two-wide and three-wide. They
were going up and down. They were really racing. In years past, they haven’t been able to do
that and I think that the fans got their money’s worth.”
Early on, Oxford regulars showed the way. Shawn Martin, Ricky Rolfe and Carey Martin were untouchable during the first half of the race. After that, Eddie MacDonald spent time out front and had a fast car before being penalized one lap for passing he pace car while entering pit road.
Those guys all started in the top eight, while Brown barely even made it into the race. A second-place finish in a consolation race was the only thing that kept him from joining a rich pool of driving talent that included Patrick Laperle, Robbie Crouch, Brian Hoar, Joey Pole, Mario Gosselin, DJ Shaw, Bobby Dragon, Kip Stockwell, Alan Tardiff, Phil Scott and Jeff Taylor as non-qualifiers for the 2007 Oxford 250.
Roger Brown in victory lane.
As Brown takes his victory lap in the #99, Avery shows his displeasure with him for a late-race incident.
“I knew that David was faster than I was,” said Brown. “So I tried to stay on the bottom. They were two wide and I went to the outside [of a lapped car]. David shot underneath us. So I just lifted and pulled in behind him, hoping that he would overshoot turn three. He did and I was able to get to his door coming down the frontstretch. He turned down. He took the chance that I would life and I wasn’t going to. 50 laps into it, I would have lifted. With 25 laps to go, there was no way. He would have done the same thing.”
Avery said that would never happen.
“It’s the Oxford 250, but I wouldn’t have done it,” said Avery. “I won’t race like that. Sometimes you get into people, but you know what you are doing. I passed him clean. He could have just rode behind me like I rode behind him. I just can’t believe that somebody would do that. If he feels good about that win, good for him.”
With Avery out of the top five, it looked like Brown might have an easy path to victory