One of the best racing trips of the year for me is the trip to Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine for the TD Banknorth 250 each July. There is no better feeling then driving up Route 26 on Friday afternoon of the 250 weekend. My buddies and I have been doing it for years and everything has become a tradition from the trips to Wal-Mart to the crazy stories that we create each year.
One of those funny random stories was about a card table that flew off my Jeep just 800 feet down the road from our starting point back in 2007. Perhaps the funniest part of the story is that someone picked up the table, chased after us to return it. The table didn’t serve much use with two broken legs, but it had us laughing our butts off all the way to Oxford.
The Oxford 250 is something you really have to experience firsthand. Many times people have come with our group having never seen a race. After the first two heat races on Sunday they’re hooked. Can you blame them? Where else can you see 80 cars trying to qualify for a race that pays $25,000 to win? Only a few places come to mind, but Oxford does it all in a day. There is racing action all weekend and hours of practice, but on Sunday the Late Models take center stage.
There are no time trials. A blind draw to decide heat race lineups plays as much in the hand in a driver fate for the weekend as anything. That aspect makes the drivers’ race hard in the heat races and that makes it all the more entertaining for the fans.
To me, few things can top the 2pm green flag for the first heat race at Oxford. It has been described as the “Snowball Derby of the North”. I have seen both races and I would agree with that statement.
I myself am a Mainer who now hails from the Tar Heal state, the center of the racing world. Still, a summer would not be complete without a trip to the TD Banknorth 250.
Stat Boy’s Preview of the 250
It’s hard to sit back and preview a race that has such unpredictability. There are so many big names to watch and their luck can turn at the drop of a hat. We can tell you that some big names will go home, some big names will have problems and every year someone unexpected sneaks into the top three or top five and creates the feel good story of the year.
We’ll start with the Oxford regulars. We know local drivers like Travis Adams, Shawn Martin, Tim Bracket and others will be tough. 2002 champion Scott Robbins is also always a factor, along with a dozen other guys who run the track regular.
The ACT crowd brings in some power with the likes of Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Scott Payea, Brian Hoar and Randy Porter. Glen Luce was the runner-up in 2008 250 while Eric Williams and Cris Michaud are some of the other headliners.
The Canadian connection brings with it a solid force this year as Patrick Laperle, Donald Theetge and Jean-Francois Dery are some of the heavy hitters that will look to end Canada’s 14-year drought.
The “ringers” are a group of guys who don’t normally run with the Late Models in the north. Big name drivers like Kenny Wallace and his nephew and former Snowball Derby Champion Steven Wallace headline this group. Local fans might have more of an interest in the Rowes. Mike and his son Ben have won five Oxford 250s and they have nine top three finishes among each other. Mike has been absent from recent 250s, but rumor has it he has planed to enter this event. Mike always plays his cards close to the vest, so until the pits open for the Late Models on Saturday morning, we won’t know is there will be one Rowe or two on hand this weekend.
Other ringers include BDI racing driver Michael Pope, who will be racing as a teammate for Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Brad Leighton who doesn’t run full time with these Late Models, but is still a serious contender. Leighton has already won a pair of ACT races this season as a part-timer.
Stat Boy’s Memories
My first memory of the Oxford 250 was in 1999, I can remember the moment the cars rolled out on the track at 2pm for the first heat race. The thing that makes it special is that you have to put up or shut up when it comes time for heat races. Good cars do go home every year and the racing for spots in the race makes it all the more memorable.
Another great memory for me was the first 250 that I covered for ABC-7 in Bangor. I shot the race from the infield as Ben Rowe held off Gary Drew and Steve Knowlton in a three-wide finish to win his first Oxford 250. I have seen Ben win a lot of races over the years, but that first 250 was extra special for him.
In 2007, Roger Brown won the Oxford 250, not too many people remember who finished second. It was journeyman driver Dale Verrill. The one thing that makes this stick out in my mind was the fact that the Verrill crew was almost more excited the finish second at the 250 then to win it. Even if you don’t win the races, it means a lot to finish in the top three.
I was only 10 years old when Ricky Craven won the 250 - paving his way down south to eventually become a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner. The media really blew out the race that year with coverage and it’s never decreased since.
In 2004, the race was sold out as NASCAR drivers Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch made the trip to Oxford to run the historic event. To this day, my best memory of that day was the crowd. The pits were at capacity as was the frontstretch grandstand.
Stat Boy’s Look at the Numbers
0 – Number of drivers from Georgia who have made the race. Dublin, Georgia’s Michael Pope will look be the first this Sunday at the 250.
03e -The number of Travis Adams, the most recent winner in a Late Model prior to the 250. The locals always do well at the 250 and we’ll have an eye on him this weekend. What is with the “E” on the end of the #03 anyways? That is because Adams’ late father Don was a Dale Earnhardt fan – along with most of the Adams’ crew.
1 – The number that everyone wants to draw in the drivers meeting before the Oxford 250.
2pm – The time when it all goes down. I still get goose bumps as they roll the cars out on the track for the first heat race of the day.
9 – Number of former Cup Champions who have raced in the 250.
97 – Some kid named Joey Pole drives the 97 car and he is going to be a favorite to win this years running of the 250. He finished third in the race one year ago.
$100 – The amount of money you get for every lap you lead in the TD Banknorth 250. Drivers have taken home some big paychecks thanks to it.
250 – The number of green flag laps. Caution laps count, but the race it’s self is 250 green flag laps.
2005 – The year Mike Rowe won the race after qualifying in from the last chance race. He started 37th showing that it can be done from the back of the pack.
$25,000 – The base check for winning the TD Banknorth 250, still one of the biggest prizes in all of Late Model racing. Lap money is added to that figure.