51 Leftovers: ACT Late Models at Oxford Plains Speedway
Three-Wide Racing, Looking Ahead to the 250 and Much More
By Mike Twist
Joey Poel crosses the finish line first at Oxford.   (Leif Tillotson Photo)
POLE SHOWS WISDOM BEYOND HIS YEARS WITH OXFORD VICTORY

By the way that Joey Pole raced in the ACT Late Model feature at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME), you could likely make two assumptions about the driver of the #97 car - that he was a racing veteran and that he was a native driver to the tricky Oxford track.

Neither fact is the case though - which made the moves that the teen racer showed off at Oxford even more impressive.  His three-wide moves and choice to run the extreme high line of the track came not from years of experience, but sheer talent…and a little bit of experience.

“I've been doing this longer now and I'm learning,” said Pole.  “A year ago, I probably would have stuck it in harder and drove off the track.  But I was just trying to be patient.  I knew that we had a good car and I knew that the way things go, other people would probably have their stuff wear out.  If I could save mine, we would be there at the end.”

Pole's biggest competition during the event likely came from Ricky Rolfe.  Pole shadowed the former OPS track champion for many laps midway through the race before getting by him with just over 50 laps to go.
“He was running the line that I wanted to run and the way that he was running would have made it tough for me to pass him.  My car wasn't that good on the inside.  But as I was behind him, I saw he get loose off the corner a few times, so I said, 'keep doing that.  That's what I want.”

“Then we had that restart and I knew that he was just like me and not that good on the inside, so it was my shot to get him.”

Pole's rapidly expanding knowledge of Oxford is making the track one of his favorite places to race.

“I just really like this place,” said Pole.  “The outside line suits me.  I love running the outside line.  I just drive it in there and let it drift up there.  That is kind of my style.  It just love this track.”

Now, Pole is looking ahead to the track's classic race - July's TD Banknorth Oxford 250.

“When the time comes, we'll be more prepared for it.  It is definitely on our minds and on our goal list.  To win the Oxford 250…who doesn't want to do that?  After running like this, we have a lot of confidence.”

What Pole also has after the latest Oxford race is a guaranteed start in the September ACT Late Model invitational race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

“This feels good,” said Pole.  “Getting into Loudon is a big relief to everyone.  We've were close at Lee, so to finally get the win is awesome.”

ROLFE'S HOPES RUN OUT OF GAS

Ricky Rolfe looked like he might have been the biggest threat to Joey Pole during the running of the ACT race at Oxford.  But when Rolfe restarted the race on the outside of the front row with just over 50 laps to go, something went badly wrong with the #51.  Rolfe backed up through the field and instead of challenging for the lead, he was now clinging to a top 15 run.  Rolfe eventually would finish 17th in the race.

“The carburetor bobbled just a little bit,” said Rolfe of his problems.  “By the time, I got it settled down and I could get back into a racing groove, it was too late.”

Before his troubles, Rolfe was involved with a three-wide battle for the lead between himself, Joey Pole and John Donahue.  The three ran side-by-side for nearly two laps - all the way around the track in tight formation.

“Oh yeah.  We had [three] good guys running together.  That was fun.  You get nervous because you don't want to wreck anybody.  When you get by them - that is when you can relax a little bit. 

DONAHUE TAKES DOWN RUNNER-UP FINISH

ACT Late Model regular John Donahue has won at Oxford before, but this time he had to settle for a strong second place finish.

“We had a really good car, it was just a little bit loose off.  I tried to run up there and I stayed with him a little bit.  But I just didn't have the bite.  He pulled away and I was happy with second and the car being in one piece.”

Donahue credits help from a short track ace, who helped set up his #26 car, for the strong run.

“Dale Shaw was a big help today.  I've got to thank his wife for dragging him up here because he made the car what it was here today.  I don't know what he did to the car, he just threw a bunch of stuff at it and it worked.  So my hat is off to him today.  He's the one who got us this.”

BRACKETT COMES BACK TO A PODIUM FINISH

Tim Brackett has been a mainstay at Oxford Plains Speedway for years.  He's won 42 career features there, sits in the top 15 of the all-time win list there and has even raised two children, T.J. and Vanna, who have turned into winning racecar drivers themselves.

But in 2008, he only ran a handful of races.  He finished back in the 17th position of the OPS point standings.  This year, he's hoping to run the entire schedule again and got things started off right with a third-place finish in the ACT race.

“It isn't quite what we were looking for, but we'll take it,” said Brackett.

Brackett watched race winner Joey Pole ran the high line in the race, but there wasn't much that he could do to get him up there.

“He was really strong on the outside.  I guess that he practiced there all day and I was a bottom-feeder.  I tried to make it work, but we had a little tire issue.  But I'm really happy and looking forward to Saturday nights.”

A KNIGHT WITH A SHINING FINISH

Shawn Knight scored one for the weekly racers at Oxford by placing fourth in the ACT Late Model event there.

“It was a real good day for us.  We have a new crew and a new set-up.  So it was a big race for us.  We tried new stuff and that worked really well.  I think that I waited just a touch too long there though.  I got stuck in lapped traffic and used my stuff up getting to the top three.  After that, I just slid my tires.”

Knight plans to run the entire Oxford Late Model schedule this year - and a good finish in the ACT race is a big boost to him and his team.

“Fourth isn't bad for opening day,” said Knight.  “When you can go home, clean the car and only have to make a couple of adjustments, that is real good.

“I think that we are going to be a top five car many times this year and that we will definitely be a contender for the championship.  We had a good car last year and as a rookie, we were fifth in points.”

The biggest race of the season for Knight, and his weekly competitors, is the July TD Banknorth Oxford 250.  Is it too early to start thinking about that event?

“Not at all, we're always thinking ahead.  We wanted to see today what the tires would do with our set-up on a long run.  I think if the car was a little tighter, the tires would hold up in the 250.”

ADAMS RACES WITH A HEAVY HEART

Travis Adams was back at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) for opening day, but it was a tough race for the team to get to.  Their crew chief, and Adams' father, Don Adams passed away over the off-season.  The elder Adams was always one of the friendliest and most colorful personalities at Oxford week in and week out.  Travis Adams returned to the track though with his familiar lime green #03E though and finished sixth in the race.

One thing that wasn't quite as familiar was the fact that Adams' racecar was towed to the track in a white enclosed trailer - just like countless other racecars.  Don Adams' always towed to the track with a converted lime green school bus that matched his son's racecar.  After his passing, the team retired the bus and placed a remembrance to their fallen leader, complete with bus photo, on the hood of the #03E.










Joey Pole in victory lane at Oxford.  (Eirc Lefleche / VLF Racing Photo)
Ricky Rolfe's #51  (51 Photo)
Joey Pole (#97), Ricky Rolfe (#51) and John Donahue (#26) race three-wide for the lead at Oxford.  (Top - Leif Tillotson Photo, Bottom - Eric Lefleche / VLF Racing Photo)
Tim Brackett (#60) runs with Joey Pole (#97) while battling for the lead.  (Leif Tillotson Photo)
Shawn Knight's #25.  (51 Photo)
Travis Adams' trailer.   (51 Photo)