With only two races remaining on the 2018 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North Super Late Model tour schedule, all eyes will be on Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) this Saturday for a 150-lap contest.
Two-time series champion DJ Shaw is seeking his third title on the northeast's most competitive full-fendered tour. Shaw, of Center Conway, N.H., carries a 26-point advantage over points rival and fellow two-time champion Travis Benjamin, of Belfast.
The gap between the two SLM touring titans has fluctuated after the last few races, going from a fairly comfortable 51-point margin at one point down to the current narrow spread. Yet fans at Oxford will be keeping their eyes on more than just the intense championship battle on Saturday.
They'll also be watching a number of drivers who've yet to win a race in PASS North this year try and salvage their seasons with a victory in familiar territory. Not all teams will go to the finale at Seekonk Speedway (MA); for some, this Saturday is the last hurrah of 2018.
Turner veteran Glen Luce is one of those drivers looking to grab the checkered flag on Saturday. The 2015 Oxford 250 winner had a smaller budget for 2018 and thus ran fewer races. Currently eighth in points with 11 starts and three top-10 finishes to his credit, Luce says he's hoping for a solid run.
“We've got our new Clattenburg car that only has three runs on it, and they didn't go well,” Luce said. “I don't want to put the car away for the winter on that note. We've got all the right ingredients for a strong run on Saturday. This hasn't been a great year for us, but we're hoping to end it on a high note.”
Scarborough native Garrett Hall is another driver used to winning races who's yet to stand in Victory Lane in 2018. Hall turned heads in 2016 with wins at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) and Speedway 95 (ME). He won at Beech Ridge last September and could still win this year. He sits fourth in points after 16 starts with four top-five finishes.
“We had a few issues with the car during the first half of the season,” Hall said. “That hurt our finishes, but we figured some things out and have found the speed we lost. We had a good car at Thunder Road and again at Beech Ridge. We should be fast at Oxford on Saturday and are striving to hit the podium.”
Mike Hopkins is a man accustomed to running up front. The veteran from Hermon won a PASS race at Star Speedway back on May 21, 2016, and knows his way around Oxford's tricky 3/8-mile oval.
Hopkins has nine starts thus far in 2018, with three top-five performances (third at BRMS on Apr. 28; second at Speedway 95 on June 17; and fifth at Spud Speedway on July 3) to his credit.
“I really don't like Oxford all that much, but we're going down to give it another shot,” Hopkins said. “I've struggled there, and the 250 didn't pan out liked we had hoped it would. It's actually going to be a busy weekend for me; after the PASS race on Saturday I'll be competing at Speedway 95 on Sunday.”
This weekend is also the annual Paul Bunyan 250 at the 1/3-mile oval just outside of Bangor. Sunday's races include the Ikey Dorr Memorial 100 for Street Stocks and the Darlings.com 150 for Late Models.
“My season in PASS hasn't been the best, but we've had a fast car at most places. I love Speedway 95, and feel we'll have a good shot to win up there on Sunday. But first we've got to get ready for 150 laps at Oxford, regardless of how I feel about the place. We'll give it our best and strive for a decent finish.”
Saturday's program at Oxford will also feature the final points-paying race for the PASS Modifieds. Defending division champion Ben Tinker holds an 18-point advantage over Gary Shackford going into the finale. The program will also include the Bandits (Triple Crown) and a 50-lap tilt for Street Stocks.
While it may not be the actual season finale for PASS North, Saturday's program is sure to close out another exciting and competitive year of short track racing alongside Route 26 in dramatic fashion.
Story by: Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeast SLM Correspondent
Photo credit: Speed51.com / Phil Whipple