Eddie Mac Wins The Race….
Eddie MacDonald is no stranger to winning at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). Before this weekend, he had one ACT points race victory and one Oxford 250 win to his name at the track. This past Sunday, MacDonald led 95 of 150 laps to win another race at the famed Maine oval. Afterwards he gave most of the credit to his crew chief Rollie LaChance.
“Rollie gave me a car that was as good as in the 250,” said MacDonald. “At one point, it seemed even better. Except it might have been just a little too free at the end. The car just didn't like the bottom too much, but it sure worked up top.”
The #17 team already might have a winning set-up for Oxford, but that doesn't keep them from trying new things. In their last event at the facility in the fall, the team gambled on a new set-up that didn't quite work out. MacDonald went a lap down in that event and finished back in the pack. Needless to say, that set-up wasn't under the car this time around.
“Definitely not,” said MacDonald. “We definitely screwed that one up.”
During the latest race at Oxford, MacDonald fought off the spirited charges of Tommy Ricker in the final stage of the race. Ricker pursued MacDonald through lapped traffic, trying the inside and the outside to take over the top spot.
“That definitely was fun,” said MacDonald. “He's an awesome driver. He always runs good and I loved to see him have a good finish. He's just as clean as can be.”
Winning wasn't easy. Both MacDonald and Ricker appeared to use their cars up late in the race and were both sliding around the track as they decided who would win.
“It was pretty free near the end there,” said MacDonald. “I just wanted to try and keep it smooth so I wouldn't slide the tires. There were a couple of times where he got sideways and fell back a little bit, so luckily we pulled it off.”
MacDonald only runs a limited schedule of Late Model races around his full-time schedule in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Last season, he won the two biggest Late Model races of all in New England - the Oxford 250 and the ACT invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. While he certainly wants to defend those victories, MacDonald is happy to win just about any race he can.
“It's nice to get a win with this car,” said MacDonald. “I guess that I was bummed out a little bit last year because it seemed like we won a few races and they were all big races, but we never got to win any of the smaller ones. So that was a little frustrating, but I just hope that this year isn't switched. I hope we have good luck in all of the races.”
It's not clear when MacDonald's next Late Model race will be. On Friday, June 11th, there will be an ACT Late Model show at his hometrack of Lee USA Speedway (NH), but MacDonald isn't sure yet if he'll be able to make it or not due to his commitments to the East Series program.
“That is right before Loudon, so that might be tough,” said MacDonald. “We are usually right into the set-up for the Loudon car then, so it might be hard to make it. We're definitely going to the 250 and maybe another one before then. I don't know. Rollie knows the schedule. I just go where he tells me and drive.”
…While Tommy Ricker Nearly Steals The Show
About midway through the ACT 150 at Oxford, track regular Tommy Ricker appeared in the top 10. Soon afterwards, it became apparent that he had one of the quickest cars in the race and he ran down the leaders and eventually battled Eddie MacDonald for the victory. Ricker came just short of passing MacDonald and even crossed the finish line sideways while trying to win.
“Wow. That was great!” said Ricker after the race. “We had the car set up for long runs and we knew that we'd be fine we kept the green flag laps going. We didn't need short runs, we needed long ones. We knew that we were good and that everyone else was dropping off. Travis [Adams] was real good. [Ricker and Adams worked through the field together until Ricker pulled away from Adams late in the going]. The biggest thing was that a couple of them there who were all playing for positions were just holding me up enough. I knew that I had to catch Eddie and [Brian] Hoar. If I could just get by those three or four cars, I knew that I could pick them off one at a time. So when I got to Hoar, I was tickled. My crew chief had told me that the leaders were in front of me, but I already knew.”
Ricker ran down the leaders, who enjoyed a very sizable lead, under green flag conditions. A caution might have helped him make up ground, but a yellow flag was not something that Ricker wanted to see.
“I didn't want a caution,” said Ricker. “Not with Eddie and Hoar there. No way. I wanted it to keep going and I wanted to settle it right the way that we were. I got a little over-excited going after Eddie and I think that I overdrove it. I think if I had been a little more patient and waited for those last six or eight laps, I would have been better off.”
Last season, Ricker broke through and won in the Late Model division at Oxford for the first time in his career. This race, he was sandwiched between the defending Oxford 250 winner (MacDonald) and the defending ACT champion (Hoar) at the finish. Although Ricker wanted to win the race, he was satisfied being in such fast company.
“It was ok. I'll take second place,” said Ricker.
And what about the spectacular finish that saw Ricker putting so much effort into catching MacDonald that he was sideways at the line?
“Well, I think that I get it sideways more than most of them, so I could handle it,” laughed Ricker. “With a little more patience, we'll be fine for the next time. June [The next scheduled ACT race at Oxford] will be an interesting race for us, that's for sure.”
Before that event though comes this Saturday night's regular season opener for the Late Models at Oxford - it is a race that Ricker is looking forward to.
“We're real excited for the year,” said Ricker. “We really think that Saturday night, we'll be really competitive. There are a lot of guys and a lot of new chassis. Everyone is going real quick. Travis Sterns will be good. Shawn Martin struggled today, but I'm sure he's going to be real tough. A lot of guys are going to be good, so it will be tough. 40 laps are a lot different than 150, so the first few races will be interesting.”
Brackett Family Bash Results in Three Top Ten Finishes
Sunday was a pretty good day for the Brackett family at Oxford. Tim Brackett finished fifth in the ACT race while he watched his daughter Vanna win the Ladies feature and son T.J. finish tenth in the ACT main event. Both Tim and T.J. ran solidly in the top five together for parts of the ACT event as well.
“My sister won, my Dad ended up fifth and I was in the top ten,” said T.J. Brackett. “For us all to finish in the top ten on one day isn't bad.”
“Vanna whipped us on us all, but other than that we were all good,” said Tim Brackett. “I'll tell you, when T.J. got up to second, there wasn't anyone prouder that I was. I was cheering him from behind.”
“It was a pretty great day,” said Vanna. “It would have been even better if they got on the podium too.”
Tim was a very proud father after the day's races were all finished. He seemed to be happier about their good races than his own top five finish.
“I'm probably more proud of my kids,” said Tim. “That was great.”
So did the children learn everything they know from their Dad then?
“I don't know about that,” said Tim.
Tim Brackett was a Pro Stock (Super Late Model) long-timer at Oxford, but now he has found a home in the Late Model division that is now tops at the Maine track. He likes where he's at these days too, as the regular season Is set to begin at the track.
“It was a great race,” said Tim. “These cars are actually a lot of fun once you get past the stigma. These are the top class at Oxford and they're good.”
At various times in the year, Tim will get to race his son in the Late Model division - but it won't happen every week either.
“I still don't know how much I'll be racing weekly at Oxford,” said T.J. “I don't have a clue. It all depends what conflicts with ACT and PASS and all of that.”
“He will run all that he can,” said Tim. “He's got some commitments on the ACT Tour with Joey Laquerre, but other than that he'll be right here. T.J. has really excelled at putting these cars together and he did a really nice job today.”
Although T.J. posted a fine top ten finish, he ran as high as second in the race and afterwards, he still wished for a little bit better of a result.
“I think that I just used it up too quick,” said T.J. “I felt that I was riding there at the beginning, but I probably used it up. It's pretty good though. I'm happy for it being the first time with a brand new car. I ended up either ninth or tenth. I don't know. It kind of sounds depressing when you say ninth or tenth today though.”
Meanwhile, Vanna had the most exciting finish of the day. In the Ladies feature, she crossed the finish line banging doors and fenders with Cathy Manchester. Manchester had led most of the race, but Brackett passed her on the final lap. After the checkered flag, the two even beat into each other on the cool-down lap.
“I tried to make it exciting and she just wanted to wreck me,” said Vanna.
Another Podium Finish for Hoar
While Tommy Ricker crossed the finish line sideways in second-place, Brian Hoar outdid that move for finishing third and then spinning across the finish line into the infield. He didn't hit anything though and was able to joke about the incident after the race.
“I was making a point to the crew chief and car owner [Rick Paya],” said Hoar. “He thought that I was just out there having fun and riding around. He didn't think I was working hard, so I told him that I was working hard and he'd see in just a second.”
The 150-lap feature was an interesting one for Hoar. He started second and led early in the race. He then stayed in the top five and eventually finished third.
“I was trying to save,” said Hoar. “Starting on the front row always sucks. I hate it. You get suckered into running hard. I did my thing just hard enough to stay in the lead and stay near the front for a long time.”
“I was running the bottom. I'm still learning this place and that wasn't working for me. I lost three or four spots, so finally I moved up to the high side and started following those guys.”
Before Hoar switched lanes on the racetrack, he sampled the top groove a few times - including once when he was battling with the #57 of rookie Austin Theriault for the lead.
“I tried it twice,” said Hoar. “I moved up in front of the #57 to try it and I didn't give it much of a chance. I only ran two or maybe three laps up there. I didn't think it was working. So I moved down to the bottom. The #57, he's inexperienced, so I let him go on by and I knew he wasn't going to be there at the 100-lap mark…and he wasn't…but, then I saw Eddie and the #60 coming. They went by my on the high side and I watched those cars very closely. I also knew what I was doing and I said, 'shit! I've been wrong for 35 or 40 laps now. I should have been up there.' But that's the way it is on a given day. The next time we are here, the bottom might be the place to be. It kind of flip-flops like that.”
“Overall, it was a great day and a great weekend. We were running good in every practice. We qualified the long way through the consi though and that adds up to extra laps on the tires. But it is what it is, we had a good car and it was a lot of fun.”
Hoar now holds a 29-point lead in the ACT standings only two races into the 2010 season.
“This is a great start to the season. We finished second at T-Road and then came here and finished third. We kept learning more about the track and that's good because we've got some big races coming up here. I'm starting to like coming here.”
Rolfe Is Just Glad To Be Here
Ricky Rolfe ran his first race of 2010 Sunday at Oxford. The former track champion switched to full-time ACT racing in 2009, but re-evaluated his plans for this year in the off-season as he underwent cancer treatments. Rolfe won his heat race on Sunday and finished 22nd in the feature - but he was just happy to be there - all things considered.
“We have a long day tomorrow,” said Rolfe. “I have chemo starting tomorrow, so we wanted to get this race in. Our plan is to be back here next weekend and to start running for the championship.”
Rolfe did get to learn something in Sunday's race though.
“Yes - this set-up here doesn't work.,” said Rolfe. “It works good for a short run, but on long runs it doesn't.”
While the set-up of the #51ME might not have worked well on the long run, its driver wasn't worn out after all those laps - even despite his cancer treatments.
“I'm fine. I'm not different than on any other day.”
Rolfe was approached throughout the race weekend at Oxford by a number of well-wishers and that meant a lot to him.
“Yes, it does,” said Rolfe. “It was pretty emotional to have everyone come up and ask me how I was. That makes you feel that everyone cares about you.”
Solid Day for Rookie Babb
Bradley Babb's second race of his rookie season in ACT Late Models resulted in a 12th-place finish. It was a solid result for the young Mainer.
“We ended up 12th,” said Babb. “That was pretty good. We just ran out of time because we were going really good at the end.
“I didn't really learn a whole lot today, but I passed a lot of cars and it was a pretty decent day. I wish that we hadn't had that caution in the middle there because we were starting to go good and then we had to start all over again. But I'm pretty happy.”
A Long Day for Dragon Ends Up With a Top Ten Finish
Brent Dragon didn't have an easy road to an eighth place finish at Oxford. He had to run the heat races and a consi just to get into the show. After all of that, he started in the 27th position and had a lot of ground to make up in 150 laps.
“We needed to start up in about 15th, and (then) we probably could have had a pretty decent finish out of it,” said Dragon, who moved up to the third position in points thanks to his finish. “It was a good points day for us, and that's what we needed. A lot of guys didn't make the race, and that's how you get ahead of them. On days they have bad days, we've just got to have a good, average, clean finish and take all you can get from it.”
Tommy Ricker: The Full Nickname
During the Trackside Now coverage of the ACT race at Oxford, we tried to get Tommy Ricker's full nickname transcribed during his victory lane interview, but we didn't quite get it right. Tommy was just so enthusiastic and his nickname is such a mouthful, that we aren't going to even try and get it all correct. Instead, we just asked Ricker himself to set the record straight and that's exactly what he did after technical inspection was completed.
“It's Two Lap…Two Steppin'…TV…Tommy Ricker!” said a very happy Tommy Ricker.
- John Donahue started 31st in the ACT feature after needing a provisional to just get into the race. The former Oxford ACT race winner redeemed his day though by charging through the field and finishing fourth in the feature. This moved him into a tie for fifth in the ACT Late Model point standings despite not qualifying for the season-opening race at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT).
- Just two races into the 2010 ACT Late Model season, only eight drivers have qualified for each event on the schedule. Those drivers are Brian Hoar, Scott Payea, Brent Dragon, Mark Lamberton, Mark Hayward, Randy Potter, Glen Luce and TJ Watson.
- One of the first Maine drivers to follow the current incarnation of the ACT Late Model Tour, Ron Henry, is now back in the series. Henry's former car owner decided to park the #05 Late Model a few years ago, but now Henry is back to run the car on his own in all of the ACT events at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) this year. Henry was one of 20 drivers who did not qualify for Sunday's race.
- Henry was in good company when it came to those who did not make the race. Joey Pole, Jean Paul Cyr, Aaron Ricker, Joey Laquerre, Pete Potvin, Eric Chase, Eric Giguere, AJ Begin, Craig Bushey, Derek Lynch, Jeff Zudiema, Chip Grenier, Tyler Cahoon, Wayne Helliwell, Dave Farrington, Nathan Swallow, Mark Hudson, Jamie Fisher and James Linardy were the other non-qualifiers.