ACT Late Model Opener Promises to Be an Oxford Turf War by Mike Twist
If a Tour Star, a Track Regular, a Canadian and a Rowe Towed into a Racetrack, Who Would Win?
Picture this Saturday’s ACT Late Model Tour opener at Oxford Plains Speedway as a big wrestling match. At the end of it all, there is going to be one competitor who stands alone in victory lane. But before that happens, there is going to be plenty of down and dirty action. As the event draws nearer though, there is one question – from which corner is the victor going to come from?
Ben Rowe has learned quickly how to win in the ACT ranks. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
“I know right now that I’ve never seen anxiety among our people like I’m seeing this year,” said ACT President Tom Curley. “The talk is not of going to Oxford and winning the race. The talk is of going to Oxford and getting in.”
And since all race teams, and drivers, have their bad days there are no guarantees for anyone.
“Last year, the first ACT race there we were horrible and the second one, we won,” said Rowe. “Anything can happen. These guys can afford to go out and get the same equipment that my father or I have. They can run at the top level and get confidence from that. When you have confidence as a driver, you can do anything.
“There are a lot of cars and a lot of kids coming from ACT. The cars are so equal and close that, anyone can do well. Some kid that you might not have heard of before can end up sitting on the pole.”
The ACT big guns sure aren’t taking the Oxford assault lightly.
“I’d say that Oxford and Thunder Road are both tracks that have their specialists,” said Cyr. “You can call them weekly racers, but I think that they are more specialists. Those tracks have unique characteristics – more so than other tracks. I can go to most tracks and relate from one to another. I can go in and feel like I raced there before even if I haven’t see it.
“You go into Oxford, and Thunder Road, thinking about more than just racing. You are thinking about qualifying and just getting to compete.”
If one of the Oxford regulars does win this weekend, Cyr has a challenge for that team which involves the season-ending Milk Bowl at Thunder Road, another notoriously challenging track.
“If I get beat up at Oxford, I’d love for them to come to the Milk Bowl,” Cyr said with a grin.
The ACT Late Model race at Oxford Plains Speedway is set for Saturday, with a post time of 2pm ET.
Speed51.com will be there and will bring you the story of who came out on top right here, so stay tuned.
“This is not the first time that we’ve all run against them,” said OPS Late Model champion Travis Adams about the ACT regulars. “We’ve done it before. It’s a different type of race. With the extra distance, a lot more patience is required. It’s not just a 40-lap sprint to the front. I just go into the race knowing that it is a longer race. It’s not as different as the (TD Banknorth) 250 either. We don’t have to make a pit stop, so it’s just a longer race that you need to finish.”
“I don’t think so [that anyone has an advantage],” said Rowe. “The Oxford guys have the home field, but there are so many ACT races there now that those guys have learned the track. It used to be after 35 laps, the Tour guys would go to the front. Not now.
"You’ll have your 10-12 Tour guys who do go and you’ll have 8-10 Oxford guys right with them. I don’t think that there is much advantage. They are all on the same tire, same shock and same motor. It’s up to the driver and his crew chief to make the cars fast.”
“A track like Oxford is unique to any track in the country,” said Jean-Paul Cyr, a six-time ACT champion. “When you race against the guys who normally run Oxford on a week-in, week-out basis, you typically have your hands full. That’s what it is like at Oxford. You have to drive the track differently than you do at any other racetrack.
“You definitely need to have your best game ready when you go there, because it’s pretty difficult to qualify and compete with the locals there.”
Qualifying for the race, which is expected to draw 50, 60 or even more cars, is going to be a challenge alone.
It won’t take long to see who is fast this weekend. Curley is famous for his driver’s meetings that are chock full of emotion, insights and information. At least one Oxford regular is planning to take notes there.
“It’s an ACT race and Tom Curley will tell us in the driver’s meeting who is fast,” said Adams. “There aren’t any secrets. If you only have a 10th-place car, you’ll know it before the race starts.”
Oxford regular Shawn Martin beat the ACT touring
guys last year - will that happen again this weekend?
In one corner, you’ll have the regulars of the ACT Late Model tour. They’ll race together this season from Massachusetts to Quebec in what promises to be a groundbreaking season for the Tour.
In another corner, you have the OPS Late Model regulars. When ACT comes to town, those guys put up quite a fight, using their knowledge of the track to win several races against the tourers over the past several years.
There promises to be a few Canadians in the show too. We’re not talking about the ACT regulars from Quebec, like Patrick Laperle, either. Those guys will be there, but so will a few countrymen who plan to tackle ACT’s Quebec Late Model Series this year.
With their opening race not coming until May 20th at Montmagny, there are a handful of good racers looking to scratch their competitive itch a little bit early by towing to Oxford.
And then you have the Rowes. All-time Oxford feature winner Mike Rowe and his son Ben are both entered in the race. Trying to tack a label on those guys is next to impossible. They are both Oxford 250 winners. Mike won an ACT championship back in the 1980’s. Ben is a three-time PASS North Super Late Model champion. Mike is the 2006 PASS South SLM champion. Ben won four ACT races last year. Both got their starts at Oxford.
So does that make the Rowes invaders or locals? More likely, they should fit into a category all by themselves.
“I’m whatever they want to call me,” said Ben Rowe. “All that I know is that I love Oxford – that’s home for me.”
None of the groups have a clear-cut advantage this weekend, that is for sure.
Three-wide ACT action at Oxford.
About the only safe prediction that can be made about this weekend's race will be that the pits will be full of racecars. (Leif Tillotson Photo)