Winning the TD Banknorth Oxford 250 was the biggest moment in Eddie MacDonald's racing career so far.
In fact, it was such a big accomplishment that in the moments after Sunday night's race, “Eddie Mac” didn't even know quite what it meant….yet.
“I think so,” said MacDonald, when asked if this was his biggest victory. “I just hasn't sunk in yet. This is a big race, so to be able to come here in what is my third 250, and win is really cool.”
Well, the 2009 TD Banknorth 250 might be MacDonald's third 250 start. But it isn't merely the third time that he has been to the race.
“I used to come here with him [Eddie's father Red MacDonald] and we would watch Ralph Nason, Mike Rowe, [Larry] Gelinas and those guys on the outside just cranking along. It was quite awhile ago since then.”
Eventually, MacDonald got his chance to try out the tricky Oxford track. At first, he didn't enjoy that very much.
“My first time racing here, I hated it,” admitted MacDonald. “We came up for the Little Guys 100 in a Hobby Stock. It was my first car and it was terrible.”
But MacDonald didn't give up on the track yet. In fact, once he joined up with his current crew chief, Rollie Lachance, he heard plenty of good stories about the joint. Lachance had won races and championships at Oxford as the top wrench for one of the tracks' best drivers ever - Tracy Gordon. He then guided a young Ryan Moore to a podium finish in that youngster's first 250 start. MacDonald and Lachance started running a Late Model at Oxford in some of their free time from the NACSAR Camping World East Series. That resulted in an ACT Late Model victory at the track and the Oxford Late Model Challenge championship in 2008.
One thing was lacking though and that was a 250 victory - something that Lachance never had throughout his career and something that MacDonald gave him on Sunday night.
“He has wanted to win this one for awhile,” said MacDonald. “He's been coming here a lot longer than me and he has had fast cars every year that he has come here. So this is pretty cool for him. To be able to be the one to give him the win is awesome. He's just as excited as I am. We are both just so happy to win this.”
MacDonald might have delivered that victory to Lachance one year earlier if things had worked out a bit differently. The pair put forth one of the quickest racecars in the 2008 running of the 250, but MacDonald lost a lap in that race due to a pit road penalty. MacDonald didn't think he was owed anything though. In fact, he was worried that this year's race could have a similar outcome.
“Racing never owes you one. I was expecting something to break at the end there. You never know. I was just hoping that the caution didn't come out because you never know what will happen.”
If a caution had come out, MacDonald would have had to face the nose of Patrick Laperle in his mirror. Laperle had been gaining on MacDonald over the final laps of the race - until about 10 laps to go, when MacDonald was able to regain a little bit of distance back to second place.
“It was like watching a piece of meat, I wanted it,” said Laperle of chasing MacDonald. “I wanted to pass him, lead some laps and make some money.
“The car was too tight. The car was not that good on top, so I would go down low and make the car free a bit. I'd take a straight line off the corner to try and catch him. He saw me doing it, so he ran my groove. That is why I couldn't catch him. Then the lapped cars were on the bottom and that whole top groove was a problem for me.”
“I was trying to save my tires a little bit, but I also wanted to pull out a little bit so there wasn't any pressure. Whenever you have pressure, you drive it in over your head. At this place, you really need to be laid back and coast it into the corner. You need to drive easy and smooth. There were a couple of times today when I did drive in over my head. So I slowed down and picked up speed. It worked out well. I taught myself a lesson during the race. During a long race, you can do things like that.”
One thing that MacDonald has learned at Oxford is the preferred way to get around the track. In the week before the 250, much attention was paid to pre-race favorite Joey Pole and Ricky Rolfe. Both men were credited as favorites due to their ability to get around the track quickly using a very high line around. MacDonald used this line and then some. In the heat races, he actually avoided the third groove and created a fourth one. That worked out well and MacDonald likes life up there.
“The only thing that you really worry about is someone slamming into you. Other than that, the track has plenty of grip up there. So as long as you don't get in trouble. It's pretty neat to be able to run there.”
MacDonald first learned all about the high line at Oxford, dubbed the “Angel's Expressway” by longtime track announcer Bobby Walker, by watching a master at work one day.
“I didn't make a race here once before and I watched Mike Rowe run on the outside. I said, 'Wow, there really is a high groove here'. Ever since I watched that, I was able to put it to use.”
By winning the TD Banknorth Oxford 250, MacDonald has now placed his name in the record book alongside three guys who have won at the NASCAR Cup Series level - Geoff Bodine, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Craven. MacDonald has also won big on big league NASCAR tracks. Last year, he swept both NASCAR Camping World East Series events at New Hampshire. He obviously has boatloads of talents, but he not gotten any calls to even test in one of NASCAR's big three series. How can that be?
Well, MacDonald has the answer.
“I know what it is,” said MacDonald. “It has a lot to do about money. Especially right now when times are tough. But I just want to go out and keep winning races."
True to his word, MacDonald then trails off about what comes next for him. He isn't even out of the pits at Oxford before he starts thinking about what big races he wants to win next.
“I'll see what happens next. I'd really like to win on a road course. That is one thing that Rollie hasn't done yet. I haven't either. We have a long ways to go before we get there though. I also really like Dover and would like to win there. That place is cool and we've had a lot of fast cars. We just haven't be able to win there yet either.”