Speed51.com's Leftovers: 2008 TD Banknorth 250 by Elgin Traylor and Mike Twist
The Final Stories From the 35th Running of a Short Track Classic
“He was pretty happy,” said Glen Luce. “I got him a couple of autographs and he's always been a Dale Earnhardt, Sr. fan, along with me, so when [Harvick] took over the ride, we kind of picked him up. So he was pretty happy.”
FIRST 250 IS A GOOD 250 FOR JOEY POLE
On two occasions in the past, Joey Pole has tried to make the starting field for the Oxford 250. In 2006, he had motor problems with his Super Late Model and in 2007 he was one of a number of great drivers who didn't advance through the heat races.
This year though, he made that all well worth it, by placing third and having a strong
shot at winning in his 250 debut.
“That was well worth it. For me to finish third in my first 250…I'm happy,” said Pole.
Racing for the lead with Cup driver Kevin Harvick was also something that Pole was
“That was awesome. Sitting on the couch and watching the races on the weekend, you
see him run. I've always been a fan of his and now to race against him basically for
the whole race is awesome. He started behind me and he followed me up through.
Then he got by me and I followed him through. We spent about the whole race together
except at the end where he got the lead. He was clean and good to race with.”
CAREY MARTIN TANGLES WITH KEVIN HARVICK
Last year, Carey Martin was the Cinderella story of the Oxford 250. The low budget old-school racer led nearly 40 laps and made some noise for the all independent drivers. This year he made some noise, but in a different way. Early in the race he got into a shoving match with Kevin Harvick as the Sprint Cup Star tried to bully his way around Carey Martin.
“Yeah I think he realized I wasn't going to take his BS and he's no better then I am,” said Martin. “After we exchanged addresses for Christmas cards he pulled up beside me and gave me the thumbs up, I think he just realized it's dumb to fight.”
Joey Pole's #97. (51 Photo)
LUCE HAS A CAREER DAY AT THE 250
Glen Luce grew up around Oxford Plains Speedway. He's been a weekly regular there for years who stepped up this season to the ACT Late Model Tour.
That combination of home track knowledge and touring experience proved to be a stout combination in this year's TD Banknorth 250 as Luce finished a strong second in the race behind Kevin Harvick.
“I think a lot of this is just getting used to running this long,” said Luce. “Short track racing is wonderful, but in 40 or 50 lap sprints, you don't train yourself to take care of the car. You knock the fenders off and knock the toe out. This year, we've been coming along every week. We've been this close to a top-three finish or a win. Last week, we almost won at Kawartha, Ontario. Running this ACT tour has helped us develop as a team and me develop as a driver.
“I'm proud of the team, I'm proud of the girls for putting up with all of our bull crap. It's awesome.”
Finishing on the podium did have its benefits too. After the race, Luce was invited to the press box to take part in the post-race press conference along with Kevin Harvick and Joey Pole. While he was up there, his son Dillon got the chance to meet Harvick. The two talked for a little bit before Harvick turned his attention to the reporters assembled there and that was a big deal to the young man.
Runner-up Glen Luce (R) stands tall in victory lane with race winner Kevin Harvick (L). (OPS / JAR Racing Photography / Trudy Marshall Photo)
Well…was the gesture that Harvick gave a thumbs-up, a number one sign or something else? Only those two drivers know for sure.
“I told him that I was his number one fan,” laughed Harvick, while implying that the gesture wasn't necessarily a friendly one.
That wasn't the only difference between the story, as it was told by Harvick and Martin.
“When you come to a race like this, usually the guys who can't race take care of themselves,” said Harvick. “When there are this many good cars, you have the good drivers in the race. I raced all night with a lot of good racecar drivers and only had one problem that tore the right front fender off there. I think that guy took care of himself.
“I felt like I was pretty far beside him and I got up underneath him. I had gotten to the outside of him one time and I don't think he even saw me. He wound up down in the infield on a mound and I let him get back onto the racetrack. So it all worked out. After that we raced side by side with guys all night."
Carey Martin (#18) leads Kevin Harvick (#29) in the 250. (51 Photo)
CAREY MARTIN TANGLES WITH KURT HEWINS
Harvick wasn't the only driver who Martin has issues with during the 250. In fact, drivers whose names started with the letter H didn't seem to be friends of Martin this year. Unlike the Harvick incident though, an on track run in with Kurt Hewins was anything but calm.
“Yeah what's new with Kurt Hewins he hits everything but the f----- pace car,” said
Martin. “That's Kurt Hewins for you. This was a one groove race track and it was a
fight for the bottom. You can't give a guy an inch. Then that causes fights in the pit
area, and you get stuff thrown at your truck. We had a good run at the start. I'm glad
we ran the race, but we still spent a lot of money for nothing.”
Martin said his piece after the race while Kurt Hewins said his in the infield after the
“Carey Martin just took me plain the f--- out,” said Hewins. “I drove underneath him
last weekend and he told me he was going to take me out of the 250 and that's what
he did. He just ruined it. The car is junk.”
Carey Martin ended up 25th while Hewins was 36th.
LOCAL STANDOUT DROPS OUT OF THE 250 EARLY ON
Oxford Plains Speedway regulars always lick their chops as the 250 weekend draws near. They of course get to race on the track week after week and all dream of winning the biggest race there all season long - just like Gary Drew did in 2001 or Scott Robbins did in 2002 or even more recently in 2006 when local regular Jeremie Whorff won the TD Banknorth 250.
Travis Adams' #03e team goes to work on their Late Model. (51 Photo)
Kurt Hewins' damaged #96 car. (Leif Tilotson Photo)
NOT A GOOD DAY FOR RICKY ROLFE
Over the past few years, Adams has been one of the Oxford drivers who has defined the Late Model division at the track. The other one is Ricky Rolfe, who won five of the previous six weekly features heading into the 250 this year. But like Adams, Rolfe had his troubles on race day. He finished in the 27th position - three laps down.
In the week leading up to the race, Rolfe said that as long as he qualified for the 250,
he'd be happy whether he finished first or last. To his credit, he stood by those words
after the race was over.
“We still had fun,” said Rolfe. “The crew gets involved, so it was fun for the whole crew.
It was a long race with an ill-handling racecar.”
Throughout the weekend, Rolfe never really got a handle on his racecar with the
changing conditions of a track that would get rubber put down on it, only to have it
washed away during one of the numerous rain delays.
“We never caught up to it,” said Rolfe. “We would be good for 20-30 laps of the race
and then we'd lose the set-up. I'd have to find a different groove. We were fast for a little
bit. After we got down a lap because of a flat, we got back up to 12th, but never could
get any further up than that.”
HARVICK MAKES FRIENDS AT THE TRACK - AND AWAY FROM IT TOO
Let's be honest here. Ever since Tommy Ellis stood in victory lane of the Oxford 250 and had a few choice words trashing the track, the locals that raced there and some of the fans watching as well, in the early 1980's, the loyalists of the TD Banknorth 250 haven't exactly been very open to big names coming into town and waltzing into their favorite race.
who dreams that dream, but he'll have to wait till next year after mechanical issues made in a spectator before halfway in the 2008 version of the 250.
“It was not our night, we had mechanical issues and I think it's something in the ignition. We are tearing it down now and taking a look at it but were done for the night,” said Adams in the infield.
Adams of course is known for his distinctive green car and his winning ways. The three-time track champion always looks forward to the 250. While some drivers complained about the lack of grip Adams offered his opinion.
“The track was in good shape when we had to come in,” added Adams. “The grooves were coming well.”
Adams did return to the race to make a few laps after his problems, he ended up 39th in his third 250 start.
EDDIE MAC EARNS BIG MONEY, BUT MISSES OUT ON THE BIG FINISH
Every year one driver in the 250 usually makes the best of the lap money (every lap led translates to $100 bonus) and comes away with a so-so finish and a big check. This year, that was Eddie MacDonald - who led 120 laps and cashed in for a $15,000 payday. MacDonald ended up eighth in his second 250 start, he was 23rd last year.
“We put on another set of tires and apparently they didn't match right up,” said MacDonald. “We didn't make any adjustments on the car at all and it just went away. It's too bad, I guess we made some decent bucks with the lap money but we really wanted to win this thing. We had the car to do it, we probably would have been better off to leave the old tires on.”
MacDonald was leading at halfway before he slipped back through the field in the final
100 laps. His pay day was bigger then the winners share in the race that MacDonald
competed in on Saturday night in Nashville, TN. In that event MacDonald had ignition
troubles and finished 24th. The washout on Sunday helped cure MacDonald's lack of
“The extra day helped us out because we got to practice,” added MacDonald. “It was
just unfortunate we could not win the race. This would have been awesome and it's
only my second time in it and we would have liked to get this one and Loudon in the
same year. It didn't happen, but it was still fun.”
The race he was referring to in Loudon was a NASCAR Camping World East event in
which he won and took home $13,900, which was still less then his TD Banknorth 250
check. It just shows how big the TD Banknorth 250 is.
NICK SWEET HAS IMPRESSIVE ROOKIE PERFORMANCE
If you have been to Thunder Road Speed Bowl in Barre, VT in the past few years, then chances are you have heard of Nick Sweet. The multi-time Tiger champion came to Oxford with hopes of just making the race. If not for a late race yellow he would have scored a top five finish. Sweet started 19th and moved to the front and made believers out of everyone. At one point he got up to third before he slid back and settled for sixth.
“My crew gave me a great car and I think we ended up sixth,” said Sweet. “I was counting cars pretty good there at the end. We had a lot of fun, it was fun racing Ben Rowe, he's always been a legend here. I got to race against him and it was kind of a dream come true thing.”
Sweet bought his Late Model from Ben Rowe's team. Rowe talked about the young driver after beating him out by a spot.
“That kid is a good racecar driver,” said Rowe. “He bought our best racecar, we built that car in house. We were behind him a long time and he pulled out to go around a lap car and he couldn't get that done, there was no grip out there. They should have yielded for him and he would have finished fourth or fifth.”
Sweet felt they had the car to beat at one point in the race, he was running a different groove then the lead pack.
“I thought we were going to catch those leaders, we were really quick on the bottom and those guys were running up top, added Sweet. “They threw a caution and the car was never the same.”
The climate has warmed slightly since 2004 when a number of NASCAR Cup stars entered the race. But for every Kyle Busch, who raced hard and even worked on the car that he drove, there have been a few guys who have flown in on race morning, went through the motions of the race day and not been particularly warm and fuzzy about it either.
When Kevin Harvick pulled into the pits of the 250 with his big semi-truck hauler, people didn't know what to think of him. When he left with it though, he exited with the respect and admiration of many new friends and fans.
“The people have just been awesome,” said Harvick. “The competitors and the crew members in the garage have been great to hang out with and we had a lot of time to hang out this week with the rain.
“Ricky Rolfe got us in the ballpark on what we needed to be in the ballpark with as far as air pressures, springs and things that we needed to see with the car. We really didn't have a clue on what we had until we got here.”
Harvick didn't even get down about the rain delays and having to stay over an extra day.
“We deal with the rain a lot and there's nothing you can do about it, so there's no reason to get wound up about it. But you run out of things to do at certain points.”
Which could be the explanation for a field trip that Harvick took outside the track. Near the track sits a replica gas station stocked with plenty of antique Shell Gasoline artifacts. The owners of the collection, Chris and Jim Lamb, has recently sent a letter to Harvick's race shop in North Carolina inviting him to stop in for a visit if he was ever in the area. So during 250 weekend, that is exactly what Harvick did.
For those of who haven't figured out the connection yet, Shell is one of Harvick's primary sponsors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“It's finally over,” said Rowe who ran 450 laps in the weekend. “It's Monday night. We were decent early on and we tried to make some adjustment, the car got real tight after the halfway break. We would catch lap traffic and we couldn't get around them on the outside. It was a chess match all night. It's not the tracks fault, we had rain, we raced on a Monday, to get a top five with [car owner] David's [Avery] car is awesome. It caps the weekend off on a good note.”
The finish gives Rowe his fifth career top five run in the 250, his dad Mike has 10 career top five runs. Both the Rowe's know what it takes to be around for the end of the 250.
“It's a long race, 250 green flags laps, it makes you have to be patient,” said Rowe. “You can't put yourself in any stupid situations. If a couple guys chop you off you have to give them room you can't just run all over them unless there is a couple to go and then you can be aggressive. The guys who are use to running these long races prevail. I had to get up on the wheel and be aggressive because the lap cars were holding us up with ten to go.”
PAST CHAMPS HAVE MIXED DAYS AT THE 250
It was one of those nights were former champions were left to ponder what might have been. With only a handful in the field the smart money was on a first time winner, and that line did pay off.
Jeremie Whorff was just happy to be in the race after a heat race wreck nearly took him out of the equation before the big show went green. Extensive repairs got them in just in time to grab the provisional and start at the rear. Things never got better after that. He got tangled up in another wreck early, retired and ended up 34th.
“Luck is pretty much what it's all about and we didn't have any today,” said Whorff. “We haven't seen any this year or last year. We came out today and gave it our best shot. The crew was great we got in a terrible wreck and I can't believe the crew got the car back together.”
Things were looking very good for 2002 champion Scott Robbins who drew the pole
for the first heat race. He won easily and got to start on the pole. The curse of the
pole sitter continued as he led a few laps before losing the handle and finishing 26th
three laps down.
Larry Gelinas was back at the 250 with a low budget team, that didn't stop the 1996
champion from running up front for two-thirds of the race. Gelinas was making his first
250 start since 2004. Along with his win in 1996 he did finish fifth twice in both 2002
and 2003. This year Gelinas ended up 13th.
“I think the second set of tires wasn't as good as the first,” said Gelinas. “This team
and these guys on the crew have never been in a race like this before. I bet they were
pretty excited in the beginning and it just went away on us. I am not sure where we
finished but it was towards the back, the cars was pushing and shoving at the end and
I just couldn't do anymore.”
Don't expect Larry Gelinas to be hanging up the helmet anytime soon.
“It's hard to get away from this is and it's an easy deal because I could just show up and drive it. I don't plan on retiring anytime soon.”
Last year's champion Roger Brown was 22nd while Ben Rowe was the best of the former champs, he was fifth
A LUCE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR
The Story of the Luce brothers was vastly different. At the same time they were very similar. Both Scott Luce and Glenn Luce won their last chance race to advance to the 250. Scott had a slim chance of making the race after a nasty crash in the first heat race. The car was almost destroyed, but the crew worked on the car, got in the race and they came home 23rd.
DOUBLE DUTY CAN'T KEEP BEN ROWE OUT OF TOP FIVE
Last year was a strange year at Oxford as the historic TD Banknorth 250 went off without a Rowe in the field. It was the first time since 1987, that Mike Rowe was not in the starting lineup and it was the first time since 1996 that his son Ben Rowe was not in the line up. Not only did the father and son combination race the 250 in recent memory, they dominated it. Between the two of them they had five wins and 14 top five finishes - including three runner-up finishes.
Both Rowe entered in last year race and had cars to race, but relief drivers could not get them into the field nor could the rules as they did not attempt to qualify in any of the rounds that would make them eligible for the race. Rain kept them away from the track too long as they ran in Canada that same day.
In the race Ben moved up from mid pack and ran with the leaders most of the night. He would then fall back on a late restart only to regain the spots to capture fifth. After the race he talked about his weekend.
“Shane and I have won 17 or 18 races together in 2006 and 2007. This is kind of the first time that we were back together since 2007. We're good friends and our wives are good friends. He's from this area and wanted to come here and do good. He spent a lot of time up here with this car. He built a shop at his house just for this car. He's got his own surface plate and everything. He spent a lot of time with this.”
Dialing the #29 in throughout the weekend was a challenge, but by the closing laps of the 250, Harvick and company obviously found what they needed.
“We were ok and then we struggled, then we were ok and then we struggled. This morning, we kind of figured out that we had one set of tires that wasn't quite right. We ran the heat race on those and started [the feature] on a second pair of right side tires. Then we had those two left if we had trouble. That made the car better, but it was still too tight. Then we put that last set on and the thing was awesome.”
LAPERLE HAS HIS NIGHT END EARLY
Not since the mid-90's has a driver who hails from north of the border tasted victory in
the TD Banknorth 250. That run of three straight Canadian winners sits in the mind
of all those who come south for the big race. Patrick Laperle was looking take the
trophy back to Quebec, however an up and down night left him waiting for next year.
“The car got so tight I had to run in the third groove,” said Laperle who started seventh.
“We came in the pits and because we could not change the tires my crew played with
the air pressure. We went back out and we were passing cars in the third and fourth
groove sometimes then someone got into us and we broke a spindle and I didn't want
to tear the car up so we parked it.”
Laperle was ninth in 2004 in his second start. He will be back and hopes to run better
next year in search of a win.
MARTIN IS TOP FINISHING OXFORD REGULAR
Each year, one topic of conversation is who will be the highest finishing Oxford regular. This time, Shawn Martin took the honors one year after he won the pole. Martin's night was anything but easy as he started 25th.
“It was an unbelievable run,” explained Martin. “I didn't know if we were ever going to get going there with all the rain. We got caught up in an early wreck and I looked in the mirror and I saw there were only two cars behind me and I though man I had better start peddling now.”
Martin came through the field to post a fourth place finish, a career best in four 250 starts. He never cracked the top ten until the final 100 laps.
“We were pretty tickled because we had a lot of people here from other teams trying to help us get it fixed,” said Scott Luce. “When I got pulled in with the wrecker I didn't think there was anyway we were going to be in the race. I was wondering how we were going to load it. We are just really proud of what we accomplished today.”
Things got better after the race when Scott found out his brother had finished second in the 250.
“I am real proud of Glen, that's great for him. This has always been a family tradition for us here at Oxford, my Mom and Dad had their first date here.”
RAMSTROM IS STRONG IN HIS FIRST 250
Derek Ramstrom took a break from running his Super Late Model to come and race in the 250. The rookie admitted that it took him a few laps to get thing situated. After making the show in his heat race he quickly moved to the top ten where he ran most of the night.
“We were racing up front when we got spun out,” said Ramstrom. “We had to go to the back and had to work our way back to the front. It was a pretty long night. The car ran good, but it was loose then tight then back to loose. It's a huge difference, with the eight-inch tread you can't send it in there as deep, you can't get on the throttle as fast.”
Ramstrom ended up 16th on the lead lap.
WILSON AND PORT CITY PUT FORTH A GOOD CAR FOR HARVICK
Usually, when a Cup driver goes to the 250, arrangements are made to put him in another team's car. A deal is struck and borrowed equipment is used for the weekend.
Kevin Harvick didn't go that route though. With the help of friend and former Busch Series crew chief Shane Wilson, Harvick had a car built from scratch for the race. Wilson, who is from Vermont and is no stranger to wrenching 250 entries, got the wheels turning to make the project a successfully one. The car got its start as a Port City chassis and then Wilson worked his magic with it.
“I have to thank those guys at Port City,” said Harvick. “Harley spent a lot of time building the chassis, the body and the suspension pieces. Then Shane Wilson took it and did all of the finish work on it. Finally, we put the seat in at my shop. We spent a lot of time on it. We started this project in January and have been building it since then.
“Shane Wilson does a lot of the R&D work at RCR. He's from Vermont and has come here [to the 250] and he wanted to come back. We had one too many beers at the house one night and were looking for a race to come to.
Scott Luce gets his #07 turned into the wall (Top - Leif Tilotson Photo), where it got pretty torn up (Middle - Jamie Williams Photo). But with some help form the other teams in the 250 pits, the car got fixed up almost as good as new for Monday's race. (Bottom - 51 Photo)
Ricky Rolfe and Kevin Harvick discuss things after the race. (Top - OPS / JAR Racing Photography / Trudy Marshall Photo). Harvick also got the chance to check out the Shell collection of the Lambs while in Oxford. (Speed Zone Marketing Photo)
Ricky Rolfe's #51 (Leif Tilotson Photo)
Eddie MacDonald's #17 comes in for its pit stop. (51 Photo)
Ben Rowe's #10 (51 Photo)
Former 250 Winners Roger Brown (#24) and Larry Gelinas (#37) run together. (51 Photo)
Patrick Laperle's #91. (51 Photo)