As we close in on the 42nd annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, we figured it would be nice to take a look back at the history of this historic event. There have been a lot laps, heartbreak and upsets along the way. Here is a year-by-year recap.
1974 – The first Oxford 250 was actually a 200-lap race. Joey Kourafas won the race driving a Chevelle. He started 19th and charged to the front to score the win. John Rosati was second and George Summers was on the podium in third. Mike Rowe ran the race and finished 36th as a total of 38 cars started the race.
1975– Dave Dion became the first driver from the Granite State to win the race ad it was just the beginning of his success. He would win it twice more, and in 1975 he also won the Milk Bowl which is a feat that would not be duplicated for another 20 years. Dion started on the pole and won as George Summers was second backing up his podium finish from a year ago. L.D. Ottinger from Tennessee was third.
1976 – Southern driver Butch Lindley came north and made out like a bandit taking the top prize and the trophy back south. A scoring dispute left Ralph Nason in second when many thought he actually won the race. Nason would get his revenge several years later and Lindley would never again taste the victory in seven more future trips to the 250. The 1974 winner Joey Kourafas was third. 1975 winner Dave Dion sat on the pole and posted a fifth-place finish.
1977 – Don Biederman scored what many would consider the most unlikely win in Oxford 250 history. There were three different sets of tires to choice from in the pits that day and the combination and strategy led Biederman to victory over southern stars Butch Lindley, Bob Pressley and Harry Gant.
1978 – Revenge came for Bob Pressley who had dominated the 250 the year before only to finish third. Pressley started inside the top five and stayed there all night. Virginia driver Bill Dennis was second as Butch Lindley was on the podium for the third year in-a-row. Pole sitter Morgan Sheppard finished fifth.
1979 – Tom Rosati got his payback from finishing second in the first Oxford race in 1974. Rosati beat out Maine driver Harvey Sprague for the win. 1978 winner Bob Pressley came home third. Mark Malcuit dominated the early stages of the event and led over 100 laps before finishing fifth. It would be his only trip to Oxford.
1980 – Butch Lindley and Geoff Bodine were the only two cars on the lead lap at the end of the day. However for Lindley he would run out of gas on the final lap handing the win to Bodine. The two drivers led all but three laps in front of a standing room only crowd. Morgan Sheppard would finish third behind the two drivers who dominated the show. Former winner Dave Dion would go from 30th to fifth in a race that saw only 35 laps of caution.
1981 – Geoff Bodine returned to do what no other driver had done to date and that’s win the Oxford 250 more than once. Not only did he do it, but he did it in back-to-back years. Bodine was spun out of the top spot on two different occasions. Robbie Crouch had a career-best finish of second in 81. Jeff Stevens would finish third.
1982 – The run for three in straight at Oxford for Geoff Bodine was a non-factor, but he did manage to post another top-five run. Vermont driver Mike Berry was left holding the flag at the end of the race as he topped Butch Lindley who just missed another 250 win again. Future 250 winner Dick McCabe was third.
1983 – Tommy Ellis was one who never made many friends at Oxford and 1983 was no different. After winning the race he told the fans it was a tough night and he was tired of driving around the local junk. Ellis beat out a local driver that in Dick McCabe who led 138 laps. The comments from Ellis sparked a fire under the Maine drivers and the first hometown guy would win the race the following year.
1984 – Mike Rowe used V6 power to outlast the other drivers and become the first Pine Tree state driver to take the Oxford 250. Geoff Bodine and Dick McCabe led the race, but it was second-place finisher Robbie Crouch who led the most with 77 laps. Butch Lindley was third for his sixth and final podium at OPS. That record has never been matched.
1985 – The final lap of the 1985 Oxford 250 was a heroic effort for one and an awful defeat for another. With the aid of a lap car Dave Dion passed 1974 winner Joey Kourafas in the final set of corners in a three-wide dust up that had the crowd on their feet. For Dion it was his second win in the 250. The dominator this year was a new face. Chuck Bown led 114 laps, but had to settle for fourth. However there were bigger things to come for the Portland, Oregon driver. Dick McCabe found the podium again as he finished third.
1986 – Dale Jarrett sat on the pole, but it was Chuck Bown standing in victory lane after leading the most laps the year before. Robbie Crouch finished second for the third time in his career in the 250. He would never be on the podium again. Dave Dion spun late, but managed to get third.
1987 – Jamie Aube was the pre-race pick to win the race by former two-time winner Dave Dion and when that became a reality he looked really smart. Dion himself was second behind Aube when it was all said and done. Billy Clark sat on the pole and led 90 laps before finishing sixth.
1988 – The infamous post race cigar is a sight for many Maine racing fans when they think about Dick McCabe’s Oxford 250 win in 1988. He led 101 laps to the 150 by second-place runner Kelly Moore. Future NASCAR star Randy LaJoie was third.
1989 – Jamie Aube returned to back up his performance of the 1987 race as he charged from 10th to win the 1989 show after leading 101 laps. Mike Rowe, Joey Kourafas, and Bobby Dragon all led laps, but were not factors at the finish. Dick McCabe was second a year after winning.
1990 – Chuck Bown joined the two timers club after he led 255 of the 306 scored laps in the 250. Brown held off Tommy Houston and Joey Kourafaus who took his fifth and final podium. Jamie Aube finished sixth after winning two of the last three races.
1991 – The timing was right and the up and coming Maine star used the Oxford 250 as a stepping stone to the next level. Ricky Craven won the Oxford 250 that included the likes of Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, David Green, Joe Nemechek, Butch Miller and Ward Burton. Craven started sixth and out lasted Tommy Houston and Todd Bodine. Mainer Billy Clark sat on the pole for this race.
1992 – Dave Dion became the first driver to win the race for a third time after he and Bobby Dragon dominated the show. Dion started 20th and worked his way forward. Dale Shaw came home second which was his best finish in the 250. Babe Branscombe, Mike Rowe and Mike Weeden made up the top five.
1993 – Canada came in like a storm in 1993 and the best of the best from north of the border started a three year run of dominance. Junior Hanley was top dog leading 150 laps from his fourth starting spot to take his only Oxford 250 win. Brad Leighton would come home second.
1994 – Hanley was back to defend his crown, but it was Derek Lynch who went from the outside of the front row to the winner circle. Greg Stewart in his only trip to the 250 was second with Mike Maietta taking third. Mike Rowe pocketed a fifth-place run.
1995 – Dave Whitlock took the honors in 1995 after leading 63 laps. Multi-time track champion Jeff Taylor dominated and finished second after leading 163 laps. Tracy Gordon was third as Junior Hanley went from 37th to finish fifth in the 250.
1996 – The drama that surrounded the 1996 Oxford 250 is still being talked about today. A young second-generation driver named Ben Rowe would find himself leading the race late, very late. In fact Rowe hit the line as the leader with three laps left before running out of gas. That left Larry Gelinas as the leader and the winner after two more circuits. Some claim that Dennis Demers was the winner and Gelinas was a lap down, but he’d have to settle for second.
1997 – Mike Rowe takes his second win in the Oxford 250 after a rash of yellow flags plagued the event. Jeff Taylor started from the pole and finished ninth. Rowe came from 26th to hold off Tracy Gordon. Gary Drew finished on the podium in third.
1998 – Ralph Nason had run well in the Oxford 250, but in 1998 he left no doubt as he dominated the main event and led 214 laps to score the win. For the victory he pocketed $ 46,400 for the win. Tracy Gordon was second again and Mike Rowe took third.
1999 – Ralph Nason recovered from a spin to win the race for a second time. Nason led 177 laps during the event making his two year total 391. Tracy Gordon was a contender before ending up crashed out in turn four. Ben Rowe was second and Canadian Scott Fraser was third.
2000 – The quest for three was complete as Nason didn’t have it easy having to come from the 24th starting spot. In the end he held off Ben Rowe for the second year in a row to take the historic win. Andy Shaw was third and Mike Rowe took yet another top five.
2001 – Gary Drew was good and lucky as he dethroned the Oxford 250 king Ralph Nason who could only muster up a third-place finish after recovering from a spin. Scott Robbins posted a second-place run as bigger things were to come next year for him. Drew won the race from the pole and led 102 laps.
2002 – Scott Robbins led 118 laps from the eighth starting spot to win the 2002 Oxford 250. He was the only driver who started in the top 10 to finish in the top 10 that day. Mike Rowe was second and Ryan Moore finished third. Scott Fraser led 89 laps, but was not around at the finish and came in 35th.
2003 – It was an all Rowe front row as Ben Rowe captured the first heat and his dad took the second. The father-son combination would lead the field to green. Mike Rowe would lead the opening 40 laps of this one. Ben Rowe would win after a green-white checkered finish which saw the top three come across the line almost three abreast for the win. Former winners finished third, fourth and fifth in the likes of the elder Rowe, Gary Drew and Larry Gelinas who went from 37th to fifth.
2004 – It was one the year of the heartbreak. First pole sitter Johnny Clark led the opening 119 laps only to get messed up with a lap car in the late stages. From there the lead went to Dale Shaw who was spun out by Scott Chubbuck. The black flag would come out for Chubbuck handing the lead to track regular Alan Wilson. Wilson led until 11 to go when he slid off the track giving Ben Rowe the top spot. Rowe would hang on and get the win over Ricky Rolfe and Matt Kenseth who drove from 41st to third. Mike Rowe finished fourth for the second year in a row.
2005 – Veteran Stan Meserve led the field for 76 laps from the point, but it was Kyle Busch’s race to lose. Ben Rowe was chasing three in a row, but he was never a factor and fell out before the finish. Busch led up until the last stop when a lug nut got hung up in the wheel and it forced him back to pit road. He would charge back to sixth. Mike Rowe had to come from the last chance race to make the show and he took the lead with 10 to go and hung on for the win which was his third in the 250 and his 150th career win at the track.
2006 – Zero was the number as all the heavy hitters had trouble and a good starting spot turned into good fortune as Jeremie Whorff shocked the racing world by winning the Oxford 250. Whorff drove the No. 00 to victory lane over his dad, Bill Whorff, in the No. 0 and Sam Sessions in the No. 0X.
2007 – The Super Late Models were out and the ACT Late Models were in and an unknown Roger Brown led the late stages to win the 250 from the 30th starting spot. Some 90 plus cars were trying to make the show and 49 went home. Dale Verrill was second and Scott Payea was third.
2008 – Rain moved the race to a Monday and a wet pit area forced a halfway break on the field which led to total domination by NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick. He led 123 laps to hold off Glen Luce for the win. Eddie MacDonald led 120 laps, but was eighth at the end. More would come for MacDonald in the later years.
2009 – Payback was the story as Eddie MacDonald returned to the 250 and led 103 laps and scored the win over Patrick Laperle. Pole sitter Brent Dragon led 81 laps and finished sixth. Track regular Shawn Martin charged from 29th to post a top five finish.
2010 – Brad Leighton’s bad day turned into Eddie MacDonald’s payday as the Massachusetts driver went back-to-back in the 250. Leighton had a tire problem after leading 189 laps. He would rebound to post a fifth, but the big money went to MacDonald who held off Brian Hoar for the win.
2011 -Kyle Busch return to finish some business as he won both the Saturday night Super Late Model race and the Sunday main event. Busch used track position to top Nick Sweet. The race had a Cinderella flavor as Jeff Taylor had a solid run much like years ago. Despite leading 60 laps he finished sixth.
2012 – The final year of the ACT type Late Models saw Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. dominate the main event by leading 205 laps to best Jeff Taylor. Joey Pole had a few close calls in recent years, but there was no doubt in 2012. Austin Theriault finished third for the second year in a row.
2013 – A familiar name topped the lap leaders chart as Ben Rowe was out front for over 100 laps. The end result was Travis Benjamin breaking through with a win in the Oxford 250 in the return of the Super Late Models to OPS for the 250. Joey Dorion was second and North Carolina driver Jay Fogleman was third.
2014 – The story was the same in 2014 as Austin Theriault ran well, but came home second for his third podium finish. Travis Benjamin hung around and kept his nose clean and passed Richie Dearborn for the lead with 24 laps to go. Benjamin then raced into history by winning the race a second time setting up his shot for three in 2015.
2015 – ???
Head on out to Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday, August 30 to find out who wins the 42nd edition of the prestigious race or, if you can’t make it to the track , watch the live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com by clicking here.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Information from various sources including TrueRacing.com – The Oxford 250 Fansite
-Photo credit: Peter Taylor