As the global pandemic forced track promoters around the country to shuffle their schedules, race teams who already had their entire season calendars filled out had to adapt. After working on their cars all winter, for some at a considerable expense, those plans were about to change.
For 28-year-old Jay native Dave Farrington Jr., those changes included a return to Oxford after winning the 2019 Pro Series championship at Beech Ridge by a single point. It was a long, hard-fought battle, and in the end, he prevailed. Yet this year, despite the change in venue, he still has plenty of speed.
In five starts thus far in 2020, Farrington has three top-five finishes, including the recent 150-lap battle.
“Since we were locked into a heated points battle in Scarborough, we only showed our faces at Oxford on two occasions last year,” Farrington explained. “We ran their 100-lap Open race in July and finished second to Curtis Gerry to lock ourselves into the 250.
“With our luck of the draw in the 250, we were running second with about 55 laps to go. On a late restart with five laps remaining, we got together with some lapped cars and ended up with a tough night. So with just those two races at Oxford last year, we had to get a feel for the place again in 2020.”
It didn't take long for him to get reacquainted with the historic 3/8-mile oval alongside Route 26.
“Since Beech Ridge got such a late start this year, we headed to Oxford like a lot of teams did so we could race,” Farrington said. “We've run two PASS tour races and their first three weekly shows thus far. We've been on the podium three times, but the other two races were not exactly highlights.
“We ran second for a while in the PASS tour race last month, but lost the handle late and faded back to 11th at the finish. In their July 4th event, we had an electrical failure on lap 31 that took us out of contention. As long as the wheels keep turning, the car is definitely where it needs to be right now.”
With an approach to the sport reminiscent of the late Alan Kulwicki, Farrington has come up through the ranks with a laser focus. When he started in Karts, he and his father went at it on a national level.
“We took it about as seriously as anybody possibly could,” he explained. “It was pretty much the NASCAR Cup Series of Karting back in the early-to-mid-2000's; we raced against the likes of Trevor Bayne, Jake Crum, Landon Cassill and several others who went on to active national careers.
“A lot of current stars like Justin Bonsignore came up through Karting, we've known their names for a long time. That was a good training ground and we have some great memories that can't be replaced.”
Even though we've seen some steady growth in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Modified division in 2020, it's the premier Super Late Models attracting much of the attention. With marquee events like the Oxford 250 looming ever closer, the level of competition in New England is increasing rapidly.
“It is absolutely getting harder and harder to win one of these races today,” Farrington added. “When you look at some of the winners this year and where they've started, it makes it difficult to catch them as they check out on the field. I think track position and clean air applies to short track racing, as well.
“We've found what makes our car happy right now, and we need to keep it there. The biggest things you need to be fast is to be able to roll the center of the corner and have good drive off. We have that in our setup now, so at this point it's just a matter of maintaining it and making sure nothing changes.”
When states around the country began issuing stay-at-home orders last Spring, it was clear the sport of short track racing would take a hit. What none of us could predict at the time, however, was how long the shutdown would last. Even as we approach the month of August, Maine fans have yet to see a race.
“We're all looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's hard to see one right now,” Farrington said as he pondered the overall impact. “These are challenging times for everybody, and the racing industry has been hit hard. Yet I know promoters are working hard to get it somewhat back to normal.”
Farrington's career has produced some highly memorable moments. Since the time he first entered a few American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Models shows at Oxford until his Pro Series title in 2019, he's absorbed more knowledge and run more fast laps around New England than many of his rivals.
Yet along with his ample raw talent and years of experience behind the wheel, Farrington also has a few key people working hard behind the scenes keeping his program on track and dialed in properly.
“I need to thank several folks who go the extra mile for me, including my Mom and Dad, Erika Newman, David Newman, Adam Warnock, Curtis McLean and Brandon Lizotte. I appreciate all they do for me and would never be able to do this without them.”
Along with that dedicated team to keep his program moving forward, Farrington also has a fine group of marketing partners that make his sharp-looking No. 23 entry more competitive.
“I am fortunate to have some great companies on board, including Androvise Realty, Renegade Race Fuels & Lubricants, Fourth Generation Logging, Captured Memories Taxidermy, Brian's Autobody and Earnest Performance. We appreciate their support and try to represent them all a professional manner.”
While it doesn't take his focus off doing well behind the wheel, Farrington has also seen growth in his parts business, DMD Racing. He's developed some strong relationships with top-notch vendors, and he says things have been strong in 2020 despite the economic impact created by the spread of COVID-19.
“I've matched my sales numbers from all of last year despite the delayed start to our 2020 season,” Farrington said. “Running this business has allowed me to gain tremendous knowledge on the products out there. I have some great partners at DMD Racing, including Basset Racing Wheel, Strange Oval, Tiger Quick Change, Renegade Race Fuels, Swift Springs, AR Bodies, Longacre Racing Products, Quarter Master, Coleman Racing Products, Performance Friction Brakes and Sunoco Race Fuels. They are all the best.”
As the “big dance” draws ever closer at Oxford Plains, Farrington has one specific goal in mind.
“What would really salvage this strange season is a win at the Oxford 250,” Farrington said. “We feel like we should be able to go in and run in the top three at this point. With the right strategy, a little bit of luck and if things fall our way, I think we could have a legitimate shot at it this year.”
-Story and Photo by Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeast SLM Correspondent