The TD Banknorth Oxford 250 is such a big stock car race that you don't even need to be involved in the stock car part of short track racing to appreciate it.
Case in point - on the night before the 250, there is a 100-lap True Value Modified Racing Series event that helps make up the New England Dodge Dealers Speedweek at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). This race does not award any more points than a standard TVMRS show and the purse isn't any greater. It's not a particularly historic event for the TVMRS - this is only the third year it has taken place. It doesn't come on the series' fastest track or even its shortest one.
But for race winner Jon McKennedy, it meant a lot more than just a typical series victory. McKennedy recognized that being a winner on 250 weekend is something that is very special.
“This is pretty cool,” said McKennedy. “This track has a lot of history, especially on this weekend, and to win is awesome. Especially since it is my first win here, to win on this weekend is just great.”
McKennedy started on the pole of the 100-lap TVMRS feature, but he didn't stay there for very long. Rob Goodenough took over the lead on lap 17 and later on Andy Seuss would go on to lead throughout the middle stages of the event. McKennedy watched this with interest and stayed close to the leaders until making his move to retake the top spot on lap 77, when McKennedy used lapped traffic to lead again and raw speed to pull away to a sizable victory in the Maine-ly Sports 100.
“The first 40 laps, I was just riding,” said McKennedy. “There were a few times that I contended for the lead with Andy. It felt like I was putting too much pressure on early and that I was beating up my tires. So I just had to say to myself, 'slow down and wait another 20 laps or so.' That is what I did and that gave me a good car at the end.”
Well…”good car” might have been a bit of an understatement once McKennedy started talking about it.
“What a racecar!” said McKennedy. “It was almost easy to drive at one point. The guys on my crew worked hard and it was just an awesome car.”
Dwight Jarvis, David, Pinkham, Andy Seuss and Eddie Dachenhausen rounded out the top five finishers.
The victory was McKennedy's third of the TVMRS season in what has been a breakout year for the Massachusetts youngster. He attributes his success to a few factors.
“I think that number one is that we have a brand news chassis, brand new car, for this year. Eddie [Flemke] and Reggie [Ruggiero] from Raceworks built it and it is an awesome car. I've got a few years of experience in the car now too. I think that the biggest thing is now I have a notebook too. We have notes from all of the racetracks over the past year or two, so we can go there and know what we need. There isn't any wasting any practice time trying this or that. We're usually good right off the trailer now.”
McKennedy has slipped under the radar when it comes to attention for his Modified successes so far. He's run on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and is currently leading the points in the True Value Series.
He's run very strong at open shows from All-Star Speedway (NH) to Seekonk Speedway (MA), but he's been very underrated. That isn't something that bothers him too much though.
“I might be underrated, but what can I say? I try the best that I can and we're usually a contender where we race. I've won in everything that I've raced in from stock cars to dirt cars to Supermodifieds to Modifieds. So maybe someday I'll get a little respect, but I'm still young so we'll see.”
One thing that might go a long way towards gaining that attention would be to win the True Value Modified Racing Series championship. McKennedy added to his point lead towards that goal at Oxford. He's not getting ahead of himself yet though when it comes to counting points.
“There might be a little bit of a cushion now, but it's still a long season.”
That long season continues on Thursday night as the True Value Modified Racing Series visits Thompson International Speedway (CT).