Joey Pole Takes The High Road to Oxford ACT Victory Lane by Mike Twist
Eddie Mac Does What Looked Impossible to Finish Second
There were Late Models all over the track at Oxford. (Eric LaFleche/VLF Racing Photos)
'what?' The car really needed a yellow to let the tires cool down and we finally got one. After that restart, I found the 'way' outside lane. The car just took to it.
“I had been on the inside and the car was pretty good, but when I went to the outside, the car really woke up.
“The biggest thing tonight was keeping up with the track. What really helped me determine that was in the first race here. We had a good car, but in the race it went away. I was driving on the bottom, but knew that the leaders were running high. So I tried it and the car got better. I tried to do the same thing tonight. Instead of fighting the car to the bottom, I moved up. This track changes.”
Not only did the track change, but the complexion of the race changed a few times
Scott Payea and Jean Paul Cyr battled for the lead early on, but neither driver finished
the night in the top five. Payea ended up seventh and Cyr placed ninth at the
conclusion of 150 green flag laps.
Rolfe had been the man on fire early in the race. He started 17th after having to
advance through a consi to earn a starting spot and by halfway he was up in third-place.
To get there, he sometimes ran three-wide. But Rolfe's march to the front might have
been a little too brisk.
“I was probably too good at the beginning of the race,” said Rolfe. “I burned up the
right front tire and it got tighter, tighter and tighter. Oh well. I couldn't slow down.
Once I got to the #97 (Pole), I couldn't do anything with him. Those last 50 laps, I
was just surviving. I had nothing for him.”
Meanwhile, Eddie MacDonald might have had something for Pole if he could have only gotten a chance to reach him. On the night's final restart, with only 12 laps to go, MacDonald rocketed to the outside past five racecars in one lap to catch the lead battle. The fans stood and watched in amazement as MacDonald actually went four-wide at one point. Nobody knew if that move would work…nobody but MacDonald that was.
Getting there, with “there” being a top finishing position, was more than half of the fun when it came to Saturday night's Dunkin Donuts 150 ACT Late Model race at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME).
Race winner Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., who is more commonly known simply as “Joey Pole” throughout New England, started seventh and ended up winning the race. The three racers who finished behind him - Eddie MacDonald, Ricky Rolfe and Patrick Laperle - all started 10th or worse.
Their collective secret came in where they ran their racecars during the race. Just like groups of commuters who scoot to work quickly in the carpool lane, these guys found a piece of real estate that worked noticeably better when it came to passing lots of cars. That was the outside groove of the 3/8th mile Oxford oval.
Actually the outside groove is a little misleading. What really worked well was the “way” outside groove according to the race winner, who took over the top spot on lap 53 and barreled right on from there to victory lane.
“When I got the lead, the car started to go away on me,” said Pole. “I was hoping for a yellow because I knew that there were a lot of lapped cars between us. Then I looked in my mirror and saw the #51 [of third-place finisher Ricky Rolfe] there. I was like
“I thought that I had a big cushion with all of the lapped cars,” said Pole. “Then all of a sudden, he was right there. He was coming and I was driving as hard as I could. The whole race, I barely hit the rev limiter. Those last 20 laps, I was hitting it every lap. I was just driving it in as deep as I could.
And while MacDonald might have turned the most heads in the closing laps with his wild ride up high, 150 laps just weren't enough for him to seriously challenge Pole.
“I think that we could have,” said MacDonald when he was asked if he could have passed Pole with a few more laps. “At least we could have given him a run up there. But it's 150 laps and that's all we get.”
Rolfe, Patrick Laperle and Glen Luce rounded out the top five.
EDDIE MAC PACES HIMSELF
Eddie MacDonald might had the fastest car late in the race, but the same couldn't be
said for the early going. MacDonald made steady progress from his starting position
of 18th, but wasn't turning everyone's head while doing it either.
“At the beginning I was trying to save the car and for awhile, I couldn't find any cars to
race,” said MacDonald. “I got blocked in early in the race, so finally we decided to get
by and start charging to the front before we ran out of laps.”
A TORRID EARLY PACE
Over the course of the 150-lap race at Oxford, there were only two caution periods. The
first time that the yellow flag waved wasn't until lap 95, when Scott Payea went sailing off turn two.
Before that though, there were several drivers who gave their best shot at bringing out a caution. Randy Potter power slid his #02 off turns three and four and slid through the dirt, but somehow managed to keep pointed straight ahead. Pete Potvin, III spin low in turn one, but kept going and Travis Sterns also spun his #86 down the frontstretch, but refired his car and kept the race going clean and green.
SWEET DRIVES BLIND
Nick Sweet could have really used an early caution period. He had his hood fly up on the second lap and attempted to ride that problem out, despite having very limited visibility. Sweet actually ran fairly competitively with his hood in his eyes. But on lap 15, without the benefit of a caution, he pitted and lost three laps for repairs. Sweet ended up finishing in the 30th position.
LEPARLE IS ALL OVER THE MAP
Patrick Laperle finished fourth, but didn't quite know how to describe the handling of his #91 after the race.
“It was tight then loose then loose then tight,” said Laperle. “We had a good run. On the inside, the car was pretty good. Fourth place was okay. It was good for points, but it's not good for me. I wish that we could have brought back another trophy.”
Still, the race was a learning experience for the Quebec driver and lessons that can be applied to next month's TD Banknorth Oxford 250 were learned during the race.
“The outside was really working good with our car,” said MacDonald. “We asked [Tour Director] Tom [Curley] at the beginning of the night if we could go to the outside as soon as the green came out. So I knew that we could do that and I waited for the green to come out. I went on the outside and went for it. I didn't know we would get so many cars, but there were a lot of lapped cars there.
“We were running the outside the whole time anyways. The car liked it up there. We just needed a little more track sometimes.”
MacDonald battled with Rolfe over the closing laps to take the second position. He was able to gain the spot by running, where else, but high on the track.
“I think he was tight and I was tight too,” said Rolfe. “I tried running the bottom and I had to slow it down, so I wouldn't run up into him.”
Meanwhile, Pole was driving his heart out up front.
“We found something today, but we need to work some more for the 250.”
POLE BREAKS THOUGH AT OXFORD
Joey Pole has always loved racing at Oxford and his experiences there have been a mixed bag. He's raced hard and clean with track legend Mike Rowe for a top finishing position and he's also had bad enough luck to keep him from qualifying for the Oxford 250. The teenager's victory in Saturday night's race was easily though his favorite moment at the historic Maine track.
“Oxford has always been a thorn in my side,” said Pole. “I've always liked coming here, but it's tough to do well.”
Part of why it is tough to excel at Oxford comes from the strength of the tracks' weekly Late Model competitors. Both Ricky Rolfe and Travis Adams have recently won ACT events there and a number of other track regulars put up good fights as well.
“Ricky Rolfe and those guys - they know the track like the back of their hands,” said Pole. “So to beat those guys is just awesome.”
Joey Pole in victory lane
Eddie MacDonald came back from this heat race wreck with Randy Potter's #02 to finish the feature in second place.
Joey Pole (C), Eddie MacDonald (R) and Ricky Rolfe (L) on the Oxford podium.