Kodie Conner drives the No. 45 Super Late Model. On Sunday, August 26 he will attempt to qualify for the 45th Annual Oxford 250. With the numbers aligning perfectly, the Salisbury, North Carolina native is hoping for a special day when he makes the trip to Oxford Plains Speedway a third consecutive year.
Now 17 years of age, Conner has become a normal contender in PASS South competition, finishing runner-up in the championship standings the past two seasons. In the midst of those two seasons, Conner and his No. 45 team have made a tradition of making the long drive north to Oxford, Maine, and he’s excited to make trip number three next week.
“I’m pretty excited. It’s the 45th annual Oxford 250 and my car number is 45, so I’ve got a good feeling about it this time,” Conner told Speed51.com.
Conner’s first two appearances at the Oxford 250 have served as learning experiences. Although he’s been able to take the green flag in both of his attempts, he only has finishes of 28th and 31st to show for it.
After leaving Oxford with a few battle scars, Conner admits that the race is a lot different than what he originally expected.
“The race as a whole is eventful,” Conner stated. “The first time I went there it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing on the north guys or anything, but they’re driving style is rougher than the south guys. That was something I was not used to, and there was a little bit more leaning on each other than what I was expecting.”
Like all the other big Super Late Model races throughout North America, qualifying is paramount with a hefty car count once again expected for 2018. However, Oxford has a unique toughness to it: a first round of heat racing, a second round of consolation races and then a final 50-lap last chance event, also known as the “Hooligan Race.”
In his first two tries, Conner is two-for-two on making it to the big dance, but he has yet to transfer through the first round of heat races. Being able to do that is the first major goal that he has in mind for 2018.
“I’ve made it into the race the last two years, but if you can make it into the race without having to do the consolation or last chance races, you don’t have to worry about all that wear and tear on the tires,” he explained. “The tires are going to play a big role in where you’re going to finish and be at on the track.”
Qualifying through heat races is a task made tougher by Conner’s southern upbringing, where time trials normally rule the land.
“The heat races are a lot different than (time trial) qualifying. As a driver, I personally like qualifying a little bit more, but I also like the heat races more for different reasons,” he stated. “The heat races are good because you have more laps racing around other cars, so you can get an idea of how they drive the track, compared to how you drive the track.”
While the family team is trucking north with a thick notebook from the past two years, Conner knows that he will be spending much of the two practice days just picking up where he left off at Oxford last year. With its long turns, short straightaways, and notorious off-camber frontstretch, there is no equivalent to the 3/8-mile oval in the Southeast.
“Oxford Plains Speedway is an interesting track,” Conner began. “As a driver going down the frontstretch having the banking the way it is, it’s opposite of what you’re used to. You got to hit it just right for your car to set going down the straightaway. That’s something I’m not used to and it’s rough going there once a year. But with this being our third year, it’ll be a little better.”
All those goals are the building blocks for the main goals of the big race itself: finish all 250 laps and have a chance to compete for the big trophy.
“Just to have those two previous years of experience, going into this year I think I have a more enhanced game plan. There’s been a lot of hours spent on the car to get it ready for Oxford, it’s a long race, 250 laps. It’s one of the biggest races I’ve ever been in and I have yet to be able to finish the whole race, and that’s my main goal for this year. But you have to be on your toes and keep your eyes open.”
Race fans who can’t make the trip north to Maine to watch Kodie Conner will be able to catch all of the action via a live, pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Live video tickets for the race can be purchased now by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photo