Leftovers: TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford by Mike Twist and Elgin Traylor
More Stories From a Storied Event
Carey Martin spent time up front in the 250 this year. (Jamie Williams Photo)
MARTIN IS ALMOST THE TOP (UNDER) DOG
The change to Late Models in the TD Banknorth 250 could have produced any number of storybook victories. As it stood, race winner Roger Brown didn’t exactly have an unlimited budget when he won the race for the low-buck guys.
But there could have been an even more shocking underdog victory in this year’s race. Carey Martin knows his way around the Oxford oval. He’s won 40 races in the Limited Sportsman division there over the past two decades, but along with the Pro Stocks, that class was also shown the door after the 2006 season.
So Martin went Late Model racing. He had won a single race in that division back in 2005. He’d now have a chance to try and qualify for the 250 now, even with his sponsorless blue #18.
But Martin didn’t just qualify for this year’s 250. He almost won it. Martin led nearly 40 laps on two occasions, but had some late-race mechanical issues that kept him back to a finish of 29th.
“We hadn’t run worth a flip all year,” said Martin. “We showed up today and we brought what we needed and everyone new we were here today. We had something for
them but the engine expired to early for us. For our first 250 with these Late Models, I think we did okay for a Redneck team.“
With a bonus of $100 paid out for every lap led, the bottom line for Martin and his team was pretty good too.
“I guessing we made around five thousand dollars in lap money and we only bought $1,300 of tires. I am not real smart at this but I think we made money.”
Martin was planning a non-stop strategy in the race.
“The plan was to not change tires, but something happened too the motor and when you get in the back you have to change tires, it’s just like Cup racing, but we weren’t planning on pitting if were in the top five.”
Overall, it was a great day for Martin.
“I had a blast, we ran up front and we passed cars. We raced against Cup drivers and there were 145 championships [represented] in this field, it just shows how great this field was tonight.“
PODIUM FOR PAYEA
Scott Payea was another driver humbled after the 250. His third-place finish was something that far exceeded the expectations of the young ACT Late Model standout from Vermont.
“It probably hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Payea in tech after the race. “When they announced that this would be a Late Model race and that I would even have the opportunity to even come and attempt to qualify, I knew that would be great. To come here and run as well as we did is even better.
“We were good right off the trailer. We were good on the outside and knew that we’d have to be good up there to run with the fast cars. We got up to the front on the first run and then pitted for tires and fell way to the back. We used the car up coming back and really didn’t have a lot for Roger. Especially on the short runs. It is what it is and to finish third in our first time here is just phenomenal. It just blows away all of our expectations.”
Payea was also happy with his steed for the event – a car that has also led him to career victory number one on the ACT late Model tour.
“It’s a new car for us this year, a Racebasics chassis, and we’ve worked hard on it in the shop. That’s where you win races.”
ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS END RACE FOR EARLY LEADER MARTIN
There was another Martin that could have easily won this year’s TD Banknorth 250 as well. Shawn Martin, who has beaten the ACT Tour invaders on their past visits to Oxford as a track regular, was the quickest competitor early on. He drew the pole for his heat race, won it and started first for the 250. Then he led the first 41 laps. Eventually, electrical problems would do him in.
Martin was very strong early, but he said that he wasn’t abusing his car to do it.
Scott Payea was all smiles after the 250. (Jamie Williams Photo)
MacDonald never made up his lap. He fell further behind after slowing on the track a little bit later on and eventually finished 23rd. After the race, MacDonald forced a smile, but was still disappointed on how the race went for him.
“I don’t know, the car was definitely pretty good,” said MacDonald. “[At the end], we kind of wanted to stay out of the way of the leaders for the most part. I was trying to have some fun, but also give them room so I didn’t ruin their night.”
As far as the penalty went, MacDonald was surprised at its assessment.
“No, I didn’t know that was an issue. I thought that once you got to pit road, it was pit road. I guess that they have a rule against that. I see that Leighton did the same thing. They didn’t have a pit road speed and I was kind of poor officiating on that matter, but other than that, it was a good night.”
“We were pushing it, but I wasn’t burning the tires up,” said Martin. “I wasn’t spinning them down the straightaway. I was looking for that lap money and having a blast racing with Ricky [Rolfe] He got me in traffic on lap 43 or so and I had a lot of fun trying to get it back.”
Martin’s season at Oxford so far has been a frustrating one for him, but it almost turned completely around in one weekend.
“We’ve been struggling this year, but we had nine hours of practice this weekend. It took us nine hours to get it dialed in. It was great after that. We were well-prepared for our pit stop. The guys did a four-tire stop in one shot. It was awesome. We had a blast. The loaded the car in the trailer in one piece. It wasn’t running, but it still rolled in there.”
Shawn Martin's #94. (51 Photo)
ROLFE ALSO REPRESENTS OXFORD WELL
The only car that could even run with Shawn Martin early on belonged to Ricky Rolfe. His #51 Racebasics machine was great on its first set of tires, but not very good on its second set of rubber.
“We changed four tires and the car just changed its handling drastically. It got really loose. I thought that it would come into it and it never did. So we came back in and change rights. We put on our original rights and that made it a lot better, but we were so far back then that we just did what we could.”
That wasn’t Rolfe’s only problem.
“We got caught up in someone else’s wreck and that ruined the spoiler and the trunk. We lost a ton of rear downforce. I was just so loose after that wreck.”
Rolfe ended up finishing seventh.
With all of the debate around Pro Stock vs. Late Models cars in the 250, we asked Rolfe his thoughts. He raced both types of cars to the front at Oxford and he builds chassis during the week. He found that some things about this year’s 250 were different, but most were still the same.
“The only difference was the experience level of some of those guys. Some of them
Eddie MacDonald's #17. (Jamie Williams Photo)
haven’t run as many of the longer races and got a little impatient. They were just driving over their heads and thinking that it was a 40-lap race instead of a 250-lap race. When we ran with the Pro Stocks, most of those guys had run at least a 100-lap race a few times a year. But overall, I love driving both cars. It’s all about pit strategy no matter what you’ve driving.”
EDDIE MAC TO THE BACK AFTER PIT PENALTY ATTACK
Now we all know who was quick early in the race. When it came to the closing laps, it would be hard to find a car quicker than Eddie MacDonald’s #17.
The only problem was that MacDonald was not on the lead lap. After leading from lap 133 through 139, MacDonald pitted to take on new rubber. That is where he was penalized for nosing ahead of the pace car while pulling off the track in turn three onto pit road.
LEIGHTON ALSO LOSES OUT IN PITS
Brad Leighton did receive a similar, but slightly different, pit road penalty of one lap. The former Busch North Series champion and New England short track veteran was not happy about the situation.
“I’m really still not sure what I did wrong,” said Potter. “They threw the green and I did what I thought that I heard in the drivers’ meeting. I thought that it was okay after you are by the commitment line and coming around under the curb that it was okay to bring it up to pit road. Apparently, we got just far enough ahead of the pace car doing that to piss someone off. I don’t know.”
“We got down a lap because I pitted too early,” said Leighton. “The problem was that there were no set [pit road] rules. I mean seriously…wow! There were no rules about pitting, and no speed limit. When we came to pit road , I rode down on the bottom and I passed the pace car when I dipped off. They held me a lap, but I watch 10 other guys do the same thing.”
Leighton tried to fight back on the track, but didn’t get as far as he wanted to. He ended up finishing 13th.
“We still had a good run going I think #10 car [of David Avery] got upset after he got taken out of the lead. He ended up taking his frustration out on me. We got punted over the bank and lost a top 10 run despite being lapped.”
After the race, Leighton offered up a suggestion for improving the 250 next year.
“It was very unorganized, period. I have run 250s before. They need [Tom] Curley back running the show. “
POTTER PENALIZED TOO
Finally, Randy Potter was also penalized for a pit road infraction in the 250. The winner of the season-opening ACT Late Model race at Oxford took the matter a little more calmly than the drivers that we just read about though.
Brad Leighton (L) talks with Bobby Dragon (R). (51 Photo)
Randy Potter pits. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Potter had a tough time trying to make up his one lap penalty. He was not able to and finished 17th, after falling further behind.
“I really thought that we were going to [make up a lap]. We got to the top four or four and they weren’t as easy to pass as the rest of them. We were making short order of them and that was awesome. But I think that we used quite a bit up getting to them.”
Still Potter was happy with the weekend.
“It’s awesome, it’s a good day. We’re happy and the car is in one piece, so we’ll race it next week. The car is ready to go. Tonight was worth 100 ACT [appearance] points no matter what we did.”
AVERY HAS GREAT MOMENT TURN BAD
We already wrote about David Avery’s run-in with Roger Brown moments after Avery took the lead of the 250. Avery thought that he got punted. Brown thought Avery came down. It was a classic short track he-said, he-said exchange.
However, there was more to the story. When Avery recovered to stay on the lead lap and come back to almost finish in the top five…that was somewhere between impressive and amazing.
“I think that we got back to sixth,” said Avery. ”I was trying to get back to that fifth-place spot, but I wasn’t going to take the #8 car out to get back there. A top five would have been nice.
“When I took the lead, I said “Oh my God, I’m leading the Oxford 250. Then I thought that I was going to end up in the grandstands a half lap later. But I’ll come back next year and try it again.”
Avery almost did get his top five after all. A scoring issue gave him the fifth position for a short time after the race. In fact, track officials had the Avery bring their trailer to tech after they were about to hit the road back to New Hampshire. The Avery team unloaded their car and had it tech’ed in case they were awarded fifth place. But in the end, the #8 of Dennis Spencer, Jr. was declared the official fifth-place finisher.
LABONTE PUTS ON A SHOW
Terry Labonte’s return to the TD Banknorth 250 after over a decade away was looking to have some good results in store. Just past halfway, he had new tires on and his #44 Richard Moody Racing machine was dialed in. But then he got caught in a wreck and finished 42nd.
“Well, I don’t know what happened,” said Labonte. “Somebody wrecked up there and it was a real mess. Several cars got together. I went down on the apron there and had it missed. Then some guy came in there at 50 miles an hour backwards and backed over the right front of my car. It just killed us.”
Labonte enjoyed his 250 nevertheless.
“I really liked the car and I think they really have something here with these types of cars, they are sure fun to drive and I have to thank these guys for letting me drive their car. It’s been a long time since I was up here. I remember back in like 1985 me and Darrell Waltrip were up here. This place sure is fun.”
NOLIN HAS A BRUSH WITH TWO-TIME CUP CHAMPION
Remember how Labonte referred to a guy who spun backwards into him at 50 miles per hour? That would be Vermont’s Ryan Nolin.
“Something happened in front of us all and we checked up, then I went spinning into the mess in reverse and it just ended our night,” said Nolin.
Nolin was then told that the car that he hit backwards belonged to Terry Labonte.
“That was him?” Nolin asked. “You know he’s just another racecar driver when were out on the racetrack”
Nolin is used to running some big Late Model events. How would he rate the 250 against the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road?
“The 250 is pretty cool with the fans and the big crowd. The whole race is really based on the draw, I am not so sure I agree with that 100%. I guess we should be fortunate that we do time trial every week. I think it’s bigger then the Milk Bowl. All the drivers that come too it and it’s a straight out 250 laps. I like this experience and I wish it could have been better.
WILLIAMS COMES HOME TO RUN THE 250
Corey Williams moved from Maine to North Carolina this past winter. He’s been winning PASS South races and serving as the car chief for Jeffrey Earnhardt’s NASCAR Busch East Series team. But when it came time for the 250, Williams came back home to hop into Steve Reny’s car and take part in the race. Williams was running fifth when sparks appeared from under his #12 car and he exited the race.
“We started off struggling; we made quite a few adjustments on the car,” said Williams. “We came from the back and got all the way up into the top five and the rear end let go. The guys up here in Maine pretty much prepared the car for me, working down South has helped me but they are the ones who got this car ready for me. I showed up and drove it.
“It means a lot to come home, it would be nice to get a good finish here once. It’s just racing though. This place does owe me one, I have been fortunate enough to win at every track in the state of Maine, but not here. Maybe next year.”
Williams raced the 250 last year under Pro Stock rules and this year under Late Model rules.
“It’s different, these cars [Late Models] are way under powered, but at some of these
smaller tracks you don’t need all the extra power. Momentum is key to going good in these things.
WHORFF DOESN’T HAVE A GREAT RESULT DEFENDING THE 250
Last year, Jeremie Whoff left the TD Banknorth 250 as the big winner. This year, he encountered bad luck and finished 16th.
“I really enjoyed myself there,” said Whorff. “We were saving the car towards the end. We got up to around fourth and we got spun by a lap car. We came in and changed tires and starting moving back to the front again and the 20 (Kurt Hewins) blew a motor and we got caught up in his oil. Not a great night but were still learning these cars.
“The Oxford regulars really have an advantage here, they get to see how the cars turn and go in and out of the corners. These cars you can’t drive into the corners as hard and they fall off a lot more then the Super Late Models do.“
JUST TO MAKE THE SHOW WAS BIG
Nearly 100 cars showed up for this year’s 250 and the list of non-qualifiers was a big one. Here are the guys who didn’t make the race this time around:
Bill Childs, Sr.
Jamie Swallow, Jr.
David Avery's #10 (Jamie Williams Photo)
51's Elgin Traylor (R) talks with Terry Labonte (L). (OPS / Trudy Marshall / JAR Racing Photography Photo)
Robbie Crouch (#48), Brian Hoar (#45), Kip Stockwell (#36) and Alan Tardiff (#8t) were among the high profile drivers who didn't advance from the heat races to the feature in this year's 250. (51 Photos)
Jeremie Whorff's day wasn't quite as fun as it was in last year's 250. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Corey Williams' #12 (Jamie Williams Photo)