Leighton Dominates the 250, But Doesn't Win
Brad Leighton led 189 laps of this year's TD Bank Oxford 250. But he didn't lead the final one.
“We just couldn't put the cap on it,” said Leighton.
Leighton was leading with less than 50 laps to go when a tire went flat. He spun in turn two, got going before the pace car lapped him and ended up salvaging a fifth-place finish. The tire that went down gave Leighton very little warning on what it was going to do.
“It didn't,” said Leighton. “For three laps, it was slowing a little bit and I only knew that because they had a stopwatch on me for my lap times. Then, it just kind of gave up.“
Before that point, Leighton was wheeling a rocketship.
“It was awesome,” said Leighton of his car, "It was awesome all weekend and that's because the guys worked their butts off on Saturday. It was hot as hell here and we made more laps than anybody in practice. We were good.
“I think that I gave better information back to the guys [than ever before]. I just complained about it turning all day Saturday and they got it so it would turn. I don't think that there is a lot of grip in this track anyways, so we kind of gave up on the back end. I think that paid dividends for us.”
“We had some adjustability in the car. We really didn't touch it when we pitted. We thought that the new set of tires was going to be freer, but it wasn't. The car tightened up a little bit, but I think that we were in pretty good shape. Eddie Mac closed up a little bit, but we could get some distances.”
Leighton has taken many laps in his career around the Oxford track, but this car was by far the best one he's ever had there.
“No [I've never had a car this good here],” said Leighton “And I'm not a fan of this place. I guess that I am now.”
Second Race, Second Place for Brian Hoar
This year marked Brian Hoar's second career start in the Oxford 250 - and he came away with a strong second place finish.
“We had a good car and overall it was a good weekend,” said Hoar. “We came here to win, but we came up a little short. We had a lot of fun. Saturday was a pretty relaxing day. The car went pretty well and we didn't chase our tails. The car was good and we let the track come back to us. We had a fast car and it showed.”
Having a race with a long green run hurt Hoar's chances of a 250 victory.
“Our pit strategy was going to be a little bit different than the others, so we were trying to save the rubber on it in the early going,” said Hoar. “ We came up a little bit short in that strategy, but if the cautions came out a different way, maybe we would look like heroes instead of semi-zeroes.”
The three biggest players in the 2010 Oxford 250 all shared a common background. Hoar, winner Eddie MacDonald and Brad Leighton all used to compete against each other in what is now called the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, but was formerly the NASCAR Busch North Series. Hoar only saw that as a coincidence and didn't think that experience was way those three drivers dominated this year's 250.
“No, Eddie's been great all along and Brad's a great racer,” said Hoar. “We've got a great race team…but then there's Patrick Laperle - he's not a Busch racer, but he is a fabulous Late Model racer. There are a ton of guys who had circumstances come up and would have been there too. I don't think that running Busch cars has anything to do with it. It's having great racecars and great drivers and good crew to put them together. It doesn't matter if it is a Busch car or Late Model, the cream always rises to the top. “
And there is no question at Oxford who is on top after Eddie MacDonald won the 250 for the second straight year.
“We know who the target is on,” said Hoar.
Morgan Carries His Home Track With a Podium Finish
Oxford Late Model regular Corey Morgan was nearly speechless after finishing third in the 250.
“This is very awesome,” said Morgan. ”It won't sink in until tomorrow when I read the write-ups. But right now, it hasn't.”
Morgan got down a lap early as Brad Leighton set a blistering pace, but then he was able to make up that lost lap and up to third at the finish.
“I didn't know how the car was for awhile,” said Morgan. “It was discouraging to go down a lap. I didn't really figure that I would get back to the lead lap much less here. We were surprised and excited.”
A Wild Turn of Events Leaves Sweet in Sixth Place
Things got a little bit crazy in the final moments of the 250, and even after the race was over, for Vermont's Nick Sweet. On the final lap, Sweet's rear end broke in half while he was running in the top five. His car couldn't continue and Sweet never completed that final lap. At first, he was credited with a fifth-place finish, but after review he was moved back to sixth. Still, it wasn't a bad result after a long weekend.
“I don't know where I finished!” said Sweet right after the race. “[The apparent finish of fifth] is not the finish I expect, but I'll take it any day. We kind of drew terrible this morning and then we had a phenomenal heat race. I think I passed five cars in one straightaway. We drove right through. In the feature, we were very, very good. We just didn't have track position.”
Like many others, Sweet got caught a lap down by Brad Leighton's blistering pace, but unlike most of the other drivers, Sweet was able to make up that lap.
“We kept figuring for that lap back. We knew that we were going to get it. It was just a matter of time.”
Even when he was a lap down, Sweet kept his head up.
“I wasn't discouraged. This race just has so many twist and turns. It's such a long race. We got our lap back and we raced for it back. We didn't get it because people pitted. We just had a good car.”
The top five cars were brought to the fronstretch for fans to see after the race and Sweet's was towed there on the back of a wrecker - an odd sight, but one he was fine with.
“This isn't the way I want to see my car come off the racetrack, but I'll take it,” said Sweet. “This was one of those 250s that was wild.”
Lapped Laperle Battles to a Seventh Place Finish
One of the shocking storylines in the 250 this year was to see one of the pre-race favorites, Patrick Laperle, getting a lap down. Laperle fought hard to make up that lap, but was only able to do so briefly, before he settled in among the one0lap down cars and fought his way to a seventh-place finish.
Racing to unlap himself was not something Laperle was used to doing.
“I think that's the first time,” said Laperle. “I've never had to fight much to get back on the lead lap.”
A combination of a bad set of tires and a long green flag run through the first half of the race conspired to knock Laperle off the lead lap.
“The first set of tires were bad. I knew that we had to save the good ones for the end, but we should have probably pitted before we did for those other tires. We though we would get a chance to pit [under caution] sooner. At the 250 we usually have more yellows but the first yellow didn't come until pretty late.”
Also adding to the headaches of 250 weekend was the fact that Laperle and his #91 team were working to figure out a relatively new racecar that they first rolled out late last year in the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“This is the third time we've run this car and we have some work to do. It's not perfect. Maybe we should have brought the other one, because that's like an old pair of shoes. When you get new ones, they don't always feel so good at first. Someday, it will be good though, so we'll see.”
Another 250, Another Top Finish for Dragon
Brent Dragon finishes fourth in this year's Oxford 250. He has still yet to finish outside of the top 10 in his career at the prestigious race.
“I wish that they were all 250 laps that we do,” said Dragon after the race.
Knowing when to Pace himself, and knowing when to hit the gas, was the key to Dragon's top finish.
“We fought early to get up there and get far enough ahead so we didn't get lapped because I thought that might happen,” said Dragon. “We were lucky that the caution came out when it did because we were only a half straightaway ahead of the leader and we were third or fourth at the time.
“We pitted and then we had a lot of lapped cars in between us. We really had to battle. There were so many cars down one lap, that they didn't want to give up their spots. So we worked really hard to get back up there but by then the tires were gone again.”
Pole Gets Bit by Bad Luck Again
After finishing on the podium for the 2008 Oxford 250, Joey Pole's luck in the race has gone downhill. Last year, he was the pre-race favorite to win the race but got caught having trouble. This year, he was quietly working his way towards a good finish when trouble surfaced again. Pole ended up with a 29th place finish.
“When I got up to fourth, I was really excited." said Pole. “I really thought we had a car that could win the race. Then as good as it was, as quick as it was, just as quick it just wouldn't turn.
“We need to investigate a little bit more. I just couldn't turn the car, and I think suspension-wise something let go.
Kneeland Misses Out on 250 Start After Contact With Keselowski
Another disappointed driver on Sunday night was Derek Kneeland. The former Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) regular came up from his new home in North Carolina to attempt to run his first 250 this year. Kneeland was well on the way to doing that too after dominating the final Last Chance Qualifier event. But a late race caution bunched up the field and that's where things started to go bad.
NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski, who already had a provisional available to get into the field, made contact with Kneeland after a restart. Kneeland got shuffled back through the field in a race where only the winner would advance. Eventually, Keselowski needed that provisional too - after Dale Verrill won the qualifier.
Afterward, Kneeland was disappointed with both the outcome of the race and the way that Keselowski treated him.
“I'm just very upset,” said Kneeland. “If this had been with a regular weekly driver, I could maybe understand better. But he came up here with enough talent and experience where he shouldn't have had to run over me like that. I'm going home early now while he gets to race and it's not fair.”
- Ben Lynch had all kinds of trouble in his qualifying events, dropping back and spinning a few times. The cause for his troubles turned out to be a broken track bar. The White Mountain Late Model regular hopes to come back next year to attempt the 250 again.
- On the night before the 250, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards were involved in a highly publicized tussle in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway (IL). Ironically, when Keselowski raced in the 250 on Sunday, the John Donahue team car that he was driving was partially sponsored by Subway - one of Edwards' most visible sponsors.
- The list of drivers not making it into this year's TD Bank Oxford 250 was a long one. Those not making the race in 2010 were: Steve Knowlton (who replaced Mark Anzalone in the #1 car), Joey Becker, Gary Chiasson , JR Robinson , Dave Paya, Jimmy Childs, Shawn Knight, James Linardy, Mark Lucas, John Donahue, Bobby Baillageron, Billy Whorff, Jr., Dave Farrington, Sr., Nick Reno, TJ Watson, Austin Theirault, Steven Legendre, Carey Martin, Eric Giguirre, Jeremie Whorff, Justin Holton, Al Hammond, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Danny Smart, Ajay Picard, Matt Sanborn, Dave Farrington, Jr., Nick Brown, Larry Gelinas, Yvon Bedard, Derek Kneeland, Chris Riendeau, Matt White, Gerald Parlin, Joey Laquerre, Ben Lynch, JT Turlow, Donald Theetge and Jamie Aube (who took over for Dustin Delaney midway through the qualifying races).
- Over 100 photos from this year's Oxford 250 weekend can be seen be checking out Speed51.com's Photo Gallery from the race on the Speed51.com Facebook page.