It's "250 Season" at Oxford Plains Speedway by Mike Twist
35th Running at a Classic Race Is On Tap For This Weekend
But the 250 isn't run on paper, it's run on the track at Oxford and through the years just about anything can happen on that track.
“I'd trade 'em all in for winning the 250,” said Rolfe of his victories this season. “My dream every spring is just to qualify for this race. Whether I end up last or first, to get in it is a big accomplishment.”
Rolfe will be saved the drama of having to qualify this season since he is the current point leader at the track and is eligible for a provisional start if he needs one.
On Saturday night, Rolfe ended his evening in victory lane at Oxford. Since then, he hasn't exactly gone through the car looking to improve on what is already tried and true.
“The car is still in the trailer from last week,” said Rolfe early this week.
Kurt Hewins is the only driver other than Rolfe to win a Late Model event at Oxford
recently. He beat Rolfe to the line in one feature on the Independence Day weekend
and also ran in the top five of last year's race in an unsponsored and underfunded
machine. This year, he'll be driving for car owner Conrad Childs and looks to try and
beat Rolfe, along with 80…90…100…or more other competitors on a bigger stage.
“I think that we've got something figured out and we'll have something for him,” said
Eddie MacDonald, who will compete in Saturday's NASCAR Camping World East
Series race at Nashville's Music City Motorplex and then fly North for the 250 is looking
at Rolfe as his toughest competitor as well.
“We're just going to try and be there for the end,” said MacDonald. “And then we'll try
to beat him then.”
Before drivers can worry about the end though, they'll have to worry about the infamous 250 heat races. A blind draw set the field for a number of qualifying events (last year, there were eight) which funnels into consis and a last chance race. Only four drivers from each heat advance, a bad draw can leave even the best driver at a disadvantage.
Just look at some of the non qualifiers from last year's 250 to see what that translates to. Patrick Laperle, Joey Pole, Jeff Taylor, Glen Luce, Alan Tardiff, Phil Scott, Jamie Fisher, Bobby Gahan, Dave Whitcomb, Mario Gosselin, Kip Stockwell, Dave Pembroke, Brian Hoar, DJ Shaw, Scott Dragon, Bobby Dragon, Donald Theetge, Robbie Crouch and Joey Becker all failed to make the race.
So having luck on your side is big when it comes to the heat race draw, and that can lead to some strange rituals.
“I always draw pretty good for the heat races, so Scott Robbins has asked me to draw for him this year,” said Rolfe.
“My Mom draws for me and I've dug out my four-leaf clover for her,” said track regular Travis Sterns. “She'll be carrying that.”
There were Late Models all over the track at Oxford. (Eric LaFleche/VLF Racing Photos)
There are several different seasons in Maine, but they aren't necessarily described in the standards terms of winter, spring, summer and fall.
There is “fair season,” which is the time of the year when the leaves change colors and the county fairs start to take place. Sometimes, this is also known as “leaf season” due to the influx of weekend vacationers who come from places like Boston and New York to see the fall foliage or “hunting season” due to the deer and moose that can become dinner.
There's “snowmobile season” which is the time of winter when the white stuff piles up and the sledding is good. Next, there is “mud season” when all of that snow melts and leads to muddy ground that makes walking or driving through any unpaved surface challenging at best.
Summer can mean “tourist” season (although this is debatable since many Mainers are quick to point out that it isn't really a “season” if you can't hunt the tourists). It can also mean “beach season” for obvious reasons or “250 season” in tribute to the biggest race of the year in Maine - the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.
This year marks the 35th running of the 250, which features rules consistent with the track's weekly Late Model division and the ACT Late Model tour. That opens up the event for cars from many area tracks including Lee, Thunder Road, White Mountain, Seekonk, Waterford and Wiscasset.
That fact will attract plenty of diverse entries including Oxford hometown heroes like Dale Verrill, who finished second in last year's 250 and last year's track champion Travis Adams. ACT regulars like Jean Paul Cyr, Scott Payea and Joey Pole will be there as well. As will drivers who primarily race on other series, but are attracted to the prestige and purse of the 250. That group includes Ben Rowe, Eddie MacDonald, Alan Tardiff and Derek Ramstrom. The Canadians will be coming too - led by Patrick Laperle and Donald Theetge.
And if the pre-race buzz is correct, just about everyone knows who they'll be chasing this year. That would be Oxford regular Ricky Rolfe.
On paper, Rolfe might be unbeatable. He's won five of the last six weekly features at Oxford. He placed second in the 250 back in 2004. He led laps in last year's race. He won the ACT race at Oxford to start out his season in 2008.
Many ACT regulars like Scott Payea (Above - #89) enter the 250, while Oxford regulars like Tommy Ricker (Bottom - #61) can't wait for the show either.
“I draw for myself,” said Shawn Martin. “I don't want anyone else to have to face that kind of pressure. It's like playing cards though. You are dealt a hand and then you have to play that hand.”
Some guys are better at playing those hands than others and a bad draw isn't necessarily the kiss of death. Just ask last year's TD Banknorth 250 winner Roger Brown.
“Last year, we drew last for our heat race,” remembered Brown. “If you have a good car and you're smart though, you'll still get into the race. If you have bad luck, it doesn't matter what you draw, you'll still have a bad day.”
Speed51.com will be on hand to bring you Trackside Now coverage of the TD Banknorth 250 this weekend live from Oxford Plains Speedway.
Ricky Wolfe seems to be the pre-race favorite for the 250 this year. (Jamie Williams Photo)