OXFORD, Maine – Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) drivers Cole Butcher and Derek Griffith enter this weekend’s rich and prestigious 45th Annual Clark’s Scrap Metal Oxford 250 looking to rebound from the disappointment they endured in the 2017 edition of the race. Last year’s Pro All Stars Series (PASS) battle at the legendary Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine was mostly forgettable for Butcher and Griffith, who finished 36th and 38th, respectively.
The 2017 Oxford 250 was an exceptionally difficult pill to swallow for Butcher, the hard-charging Porter’s Lake, Nova Scotia driver. In the thick of the battle for another Maritime Pro Stock Tour (MPST) points championship, Butcher was attempting to compete in both the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour race at Petty International Raceway in New Brunswick and the Oxford 250 on the same weekend. (That’s a 366-mile drive, plus clearing U.S. Customs and Border Protection en route.) After Saturday’s race at Petty was postponed until Sunday, the 2016 MPST champ opted to compete at Oxford Plains instead. When the 2017 racing season concluded, Butcher lost the Pro Stock Tour championship to Shawn Turple by a single point (2,467 to 2,466).
“We are headed to Oxford on Wednesday and staying the whole weekend,” offered the 21-year-old speedster, one of the hottest Super Late Model racers in North America. “We have asked Russell Smith, Jr. to race our car in the Pro Stock Tour race at Petty back in New Brunswick. Last year was a bad deal with having one car at Oxford and one at Petty and no sub for the Pro Stock race. We’re putting a lot of effort into the 250 and we are happy to have Russell in the car at Petty. He has been around the sport for a while and we know he’s going to do great.”
As far as goals for the 250, Butcher, currently third in the Kulwicki series points, is going full bore for the checkered flag at Oxford. “We are going over this car with a fine-toothed comb and putting in a fresh motor for the race,” noted Butcher, who currently holds a 103-point lead over Craig Slaunwhite in the 2018 Pro Stock Tour point standings (with three races remaining). “The competition is always so tough there, but we think we will have something for them this time around.”
Griffith, from Hudson, New Hampshire, is hoping to take some mid-season momentum into the biggest super late model show in the Northeast. He was taken out in an early wreck in the 2017 Oxford 250 and is putting in some extra effort to run up front this weekend.
“We tested our Lefthander [Chassis] car last week and we were super happy with it,” said Griffith, also a 21-year-old Super Late Model hotshot. “It’s hard to find enough help to build up our crew from a personnel standpoint, so we’re working on that a lot right now. We’re also trying to get extra sponsorship to help with the big tire bill we’re bound to incur. The driver currently fifth in the 2018 Kulwicki series points has had some success at Oxford, winning a feature there a few years back, but has struggled of late.
“We were really fast in last year’s 250 but never got a chance to show it,” offered Griffith, currently fifth in the 2018 KDDP Kulwicki Cup point standings. “We’re going to come back strong this year, though, and show them what we can do up there.”
“Just making the field for the 250 is an accomplishment to be proud of,” said 2016 KDDP Kulwicki Cup runner-up Dave Farrington Jr. of Jay, Maine. “We’ve made the field in five of our last six trips there. With 60 of the best Super Late Model racers in the nation there, it’ll be a tough field to make. The strategy definitely is to be as prepared as possible and we’ll be taking two cars up there. The first goal is to make the field and then it’s a battle to stay out of trouble for 250 laps. When you have 40 or more cars racing around a three-eighths-mile track like that, it certainly doesn’t leave much room for error. The only way you can win is by finishing all the laps.
“Our best finish to date in the 250 was back in 2012 when we came home sixth,” said Farrington, who finished 18th in last year’s Oxford Plains Speedway racing classic. “We’ve had cars capable of finishing in the top five on several occasions, but got collected up in wrecks that ruined our hopes for great results. We’re really optimistic that we can perform well this weekend there and come home with our best finish ever in the 250.
“The Oxford 250 is always somewhat of an endurance race and survival is so key,” added Farrington. “As always, we’ll just have family and a few volunteers working on our car and the way they handle pit stops is the best for every team there.”
Race teams will once again have the opportunity to make live pit stops and utilize different strategies during the race. Since caution laps will not count, teams can avoid the pressure of having to bring in “specialized” pit crews like some of the other big events mandate.
Super Late Model action at Oxford kicks off with practice on Friday from 1 till 4 p.m. Saturday’s SLM practice is scheduled for 11 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. Sunday’s first of three practice sessions begins at 9 a.m. Heat races begin at 1:30 p.m. with SLM “consi” races and a “last chance” battle also on the docket. The 45th annual Oxford 250 is expected to get the green flag at 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday.
Six different divisions (including the American-Canadian Tour) will be in action on Saturday. The PASS Super Late Models and four other divisions will be battling it out on Sunday. Race fans who can’t make the journey to Maine to will be able to catch all of the action on both days via a live, pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Live video tickets for the race can be purchased now by visiting the site & clicking on the “Watch Live” link.
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com