Eddie MacDonald is the Quickest of the Quick at Oxford by Mike Twist
100-Lap ACT Race Goes Green All The Way
When it comes to the time that it takes to run them, some races are like movies. Some are like dramas. Others seem like a complete miniseries. Saturday night’s ACT Late Model event at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) fit more into the sitcom category, going caution–free for its 100-lap distance and taking only 28 minutes and 46 seconds to complete and leaving fans and competitors shaking their heads is disbelief.
“The #51 [Rolfe] was coming,” said MacDonald. “Luckily, we got on the outside of the #77, a lapped car, and we stayed there. It worked out good.“
“Eddie MacDonald has a pretty experienced crew and I’m sure that they were keeping an eye on me,” said Rolfe. “They knew where I could run and where I couldn’t run. At the end, he got besides the #77 car and just rode there. He knew that if he got ahead of him and went down, I was probably going by him.”
MacDonald’s early laps were much better than Rolfe’s though. The driver of the #51 actually dropped back from his starting position of sixth early on.
“It wasn’t fun at first,’ said Rolfe. “We were terrible. It was loose at the beginning. We finally got down on the bottom for me to cool my tires. We were just hoping the tires would come in. I could only run the top groove when it came in. I couldn’t run down bottom.
“That wasn’t planned at all. I’d rather get to the front as quick as I can and stay there.”
Meanwhile, Scott Payea ran away and hid early on, leading the first 71 laps from the pole. But even Payea knew that the good times weren’t going to last.
“It was almost perfect at the beginning of the race,” said Payea. “I knew that if it was that good in a 100-lap race, that we wouldn’t be that good at the end. I tried to save it and the car just loosened up around halfway. I tried to hide in lapped traffic. That is when we car really started to go away. I was riding and it just didn’t work out for us.”
Payea eventually finished sixth.
“He would have had to either go three-wide to get by us or run into the back of me [to get the lead],” said MacDonald
Fortunately for MacDonald, Rolfe has a reputation for being a clean racer – and showed why in the final laps.
“I wasn’t going to bump him to get by,” said Rolfe. “I’ll settle for second any night of the week. I’d rather finish second than wreck someone trying to win.”
If you judged MacDonald and Rolfe by the first half of the race, you’d actually be shocked to find out that they finished first and second. MacDonald started third and just kind of rode there early on – until it was time to take off.
“I was a little worried at the beginning,” said MacDonald. “I figured that I would save my tires for as long as I could, but I really wasn’t doing that good of a job saving them. The
“When Eddie MacDonald got underneath me, I thought that I had him pinched under a lapped car, but he made sure that wasn’t going to happen,” said Brown. “He did what he needed to do to win the race.”
Brown wasn’t sore at the numerous lapped cars that he had to negotiate either.
“They were racing for position, so you just have to be very patient with them,” said Brown. “You couldn’t force them or be mad at them. You just hoped that you picked the right lane.”
Once MacDonald got into the lead, he was also able to use lapped traffic to keep it. Oxford regulars Ricky Rolfe and Travis Adams were on fire at the end of the race and charging up to MacDonald. Knowing that was the case, Eddie Mac used the #77 car of Jon Brill as a block.
car was free and I had to stay on it to keep from spinning out. I was riding around and I looked up and it was lap 67. I said “geez, I need to start doing something.’ So I started running a little hard harder.”
“Luckily, lapped traffic kind of held back the leaders. Those other guys used their tires up a little bit. So I got to get in there and mix it up with them a little bit. It worked out. I got the lead through the lapped traffic.”
Eddie MacDonald was the quickest of the quick at Oxford. (Jamie Williams Photos)
“You don’t see that happen very often, especially here,” said recent TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford winner Roger Brown. “You never see that.”
“I’ve been in some that last two hours, but this is the first one that I’ve seen last under a half hour,” said long-time Oxford competitor Ricky Rolfe.
“That’s amazing,” said Eddie MacDonald. “I couldn’t believe that it went green the whole way.”
And while the cast assembled was an ensemble, with three drivers leading laps and an equal number of others who came agonizingly close to doing the same, there ended up being one star shining brighter than everyone else at the end of the show.
Eddie MacDonald won his first career ACT Late Model event after grabbing the lead from Roger Brown in heavy lapped traffic with only 12 laps to go.
“I saw an opportunity and went for it,” said MacDonald of the winning pass. “It was a small hole and I tried to get up there to fill it. I think that I got into him a little bit. There were about 15 laps to go and I knew that I didn’t have much time. I wasn’t good on the outside, so I had to make that work right there. You always try to use the lapped cars to your advantage and that time it worked out.”
Eddie Mac in victory lane.
MacDonald (#17) sets up Brown for the winning pass.
Tommy Ricker's slide off turn two with four laps to go almost brought out the night's only caution, but Ricker kept his #6 going and the race stayed green.
After Payea’s spent time out front and faded, Roger Brown became the somewhat surprised leader – at least until MacDonald took over.
“From the drop of the green, we were wicked tight,” said Brown. “So I just rode. I was riding the whole time. I didn’t think that I’d have enough to win the race. When I caught Payea, I was still riding because it was so tight.
"Then it got loose on the bottom, so I couldn’t run the bottom anymore. So I slid up and ran the outside. That worked for awhile and then that went away with 20 or so laps to go. I couldn’t run the bottom and I couldn’t run the top.”
A late race caution could have helped Payea and a few other competitors, but it never came.
“If we would have gotten a caution or two to cool the tires, that would have helped.”
“We could have used a caution, but I’m kind of glad that it all went the way that it did,” said Cyr. “We didn’t pile up the car any, so that’s good.”
“If we could have had a caution to cool the tires down, we would have been pretty good,” said Brown. “With a caution when I was in the lead, I could have won the race.”
Then again, even without what they needed to take a shot at victory, all of the drivers in the starting field were running at the finish – and all seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
“I was having a blast,” said Brown. “It was a hell of a time.
ADAMS GRABS THIRD AT THE LINE
The race at Oxford was 28 minutes and 46 seconds long, and Travis Adams set outside the top three for 28 minutes and 45 seconds of that time.
But the OPS Late Model point leader got into third exactly when it mattered the most. Adams passed Roger Brown for a podium spot coming to the finish line.
“That feels good,” said Adams. “We were running fourth or fifth most of the race there. I ended up getting fourth and got kind of boxed in with a lapped car. Brown was struggling in the second groove and I was really good there. With one to go, anything goes. I’ve made a couple of passes out here in the Saturday night by using the third groove, so I hung it out there and hoped for the best at the start-finish line. I happened to get him by a nose.”
With the finish being so close, not everyone in the stands knew who took the spot. But there was little doubt in Adams’ mind.
“I knew. In my peripheral vision, I could see. We’re all strapped in and you can’t turn your head over at the guy…if you did that you’d hit the wall. But in my peripheral vision, I couldn’t see his windshield pillar, so that’s a good foot or so.”
CYR GETS A TOP FIVE, BUT WOULD LIKE MORE
You might think that Jean Paul Cyr was happy with a top five finish in the Time-Warner Cable 100. After all, he’s leading the point standings and wants to win his seventh ACT title. His closest pursuer heading into the night, Randy Potter, finished off the lead lap and a safe top five finish should look great on paper to Cyr.
MacDonald (in the hidden #17) rides to the high side of Jon Brill's #77 as Ricky Rolfe closes in with his #51.
On the other hand, Cyr is a racer and he doesn’t suit up for top-five finishes. Right?
“No, I wanted to win,” said Cyr. “I just couldn’t quite get to them. I got to them with about 30 laps to go. I thought that I had a good move going, we went three-wide there, then we were just heavy into lapped traffic. I just couldn’t pick my way through it and pass at the same time.”
But Cyr wasn’t hanging his head either.
“I’m pretty happy with it, I think that we had the fastest car out there tonight, but we only made it to fifth.”
FLASHBACKS FOR PAYEA
Scott Payea ran away with the race early and ran out of steam. For several laps, he rode behind the lapped car of Dale Verrill and then got passed for the lead by Roger Brown.
Ironically, it was a replay of sorts for Payea. In last month’s TD Banknorth 250, the young Vermont driver finished third – behind Brown and Verrill. Did that fact enter Payea’s mind as he was behind Verrill again?
“Yes, And then Roger was chasing me down and he won it [the 250],” said Payea. “So it was a lot like the 250.”
Payea faded to sixth at the finish, but he was still happy about that effort.
“It’s a good solid sixth-place run,” said Payea. “We’re building momentum for the end of the year. It was a good points night. We learned a lot and when we come back here at the end of the year, we’ll be good I’m sure.”
BUSY WEEKEND FOR THE #04 BUNCH
Oxford regular TJ Watson and his team had an exceptionally busy weekend. On Friday night, they raced at Lee USA Speedway, but got caught in a wreck. The team then thrashed to repair their car to hopefully qualify for the ACT race at Oxford on Saturday.
OXFORD REGULARS QUALIFY WELL
A provisional for the race was available to a Late Model regular at Oxford Plains Speedway. With the touring teams of ACT in town, that often means that the provisional goes to the point leader, or someone in the first few points positions at least.
That wasn’t the case this time around. Seven of the top nine points men all made it into the show on their own, and the teams of Zach Emerson (sixth in the points) and Don Wentworth (eighth in the standings) decided to skip the 100-lap race. That gave the provisional to rookie Tommy Ricker, who sits 10th in the standings currently.
Their efforts paid off. Watson finished third in the first heat race and gained entry into the feature. Unfortunately though, his bad luck for the weekend wasn’t over. The young driver was one of several competitors who were caught a lap down because of the clean and green nature of the race, and he finished 26th.
THE RACE TO MAKE THE RACE
There were 46 Late Models signed into the pit area for the Oxford race, a surprise of sorts since traditionally, car counts for Oxford’s top divisions dip a little bit after the annual TD Banknorth 250.
The high car count meant that nearly 30% of the cars entered, had to head home early after not making the race. Those who didn’t qualify included David Avery – who nearly won the 250 last month, Joey Laquerre. Doug Coombs, Mike Ferguson and Gary Chiasson.
AN EXCITING RACE
As we said earlier, the competitors and the fans were all excited over the closing laps of the race at Oxford. Runner-up Ricky Rolfe wasn’t just excited about the finish though. He managed to get worked up through the whole event – especially after he fell through the pack early on with a car that didn’t quite handle how he would have liked it to at that point.
“It was an excellent race,” said Rolfe. “.It took until lap 47 for me to calm down and start breathing again. Then I got to relax and have some fun running on the outside.”
NO TROUBLE FOR EDDIE MAC
It seemed that every time that Eddie MacDonald rolls out his Late Model at Oxford, two things happen. First, it is fast. Secondly, bad luck finds its way to him. He’s been spun out of a qualifying spot, had pit penalties and suffered from vapor lock problems this season so far.
On Saturday though, he overcame that record of bad luck to win. Did that thought that something could go wrong at any moment enter his mind as the laps clicked down?
“A little bit, but I knew that we had to get a win with this car sometime,” said MacDonald. “It’s fast every time we take it out and it’s awesome to have a win with it now.”
It seems that today in racing, even at short tracks, everyone has a big hauler. 18-wheelers and toterhomes fill the pits at tracks all across the land.
But a trailer doesn’t make you go fast and that fact was proven at Oxford on Saturday night. Among the top five finishers, three teams towed to the track with pick-up trucks and enclosed trailers. The guy who led the most laps, Scott Payea, came to the track with a trailer measuring 24 feet long – smaller than most Legends car rigs. Third-place finisher Travis Adams brought a bus – but not the kind of bus that NASCAR drivers take the track. His #03E team uses a converted school bus that fits all of their tools and the racecar inside. You can’t miss it going down the road either- it’s paint the same lime green color of their racecar.
But all of those haulers were luxurious compared to Eddie MacDonald’s set-up. The winner of the race at Oxford brought his car to the track on an open trailer behind a Ford pick-up truck – a throw-back to the glory days of short track racing.
TARDIFF TRIES OUT ACT
Alan Tardiff planned to run a full season of PASS Super Late Model racing this season, but a practice crash in the season opener at Beech Ridge derailed those plans. Now, Tardiff is racing a variety of cars whenever he can. That included making his first career ACT Late Model start at Oxford.
“This was my first time in a Late Model except for the 250 and that wasn’t a good
weekend for us,” said Tardiff. “But we came back with my old car, the one that Kevin
Lepage drove in the 250. We went back to our set-up that we know works well and tried
it. It worked out – we won the heat race.”
The heat race was particularly sweet for Tardiff because of who he held off for the win.
“We started outside pole, but had to hold off one of the best guys out there – Jean Paul
In the race, Tardiff stayed on the lead lap and finished 13th.
“The car was really good at the beginning, but it dropped off. I slowed the pace down
and a little bit to be around at the end. It paid off with a top 15. That’s pretty good.”
The car that Tardiff drove was his former Pro Series car that was raced at Beech ridge for
years. Earlier in the season, his team sold it to Maine businessman Archie St. Hilaire, who fielded Kevin Lepage in it for last month’s Oxford 250. St. Hilaire called Tardiff on the week before the latest race at Oxford to see if he wanted to drive the car again. Tardiff said yes, and is likely to give the same answer any other time someone asks if he wants to drive their racecar.
“It doesn’t really matter to me what I drive. I just want to race. I’m a younger kid who just has the drive to go racing. Unfortunately, I don’t have millions of dollars behind me. I’m happy driving ACT cars, PASS cars or whatever I can drive…even [racing] lawnmowers.”
TJ Watson stands by his #04...check out the duct tape bodywork on the left front corner.