As the rest of the Oxford Plains Speedway’s Super Late Model class stows their racecars away for the long Maine winter, two of its championship drivers are loading up for warmer surroundings this weekend at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), for the Pro All Stars Series Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown.
The most recent Oxford champion Gabe Brown and two-time titlist TJ Brackett are both fond of the grand ole track in their limited appearances there, but both are looking to improve on their results at the checkered flag.
Brackett feels that he had an opportunity one year ago and he wants top capitalize on it in 2018.
“I’ve been there a lot, but last year was actually the first year I drove there and it didn’t go very well. So, I’m going down there this time to try and redeem myself a little bit,” Brackett told Speed51.com. “We did some notes from what we ran there last year, plus I’ve worked with Bond Suss there, and he’s tested quite a bit there, so he’s helped me out quite a bit. We should be a lot better than last year.”
Hickory has been known as a great equalizer between the built-engine teams of PASS South, and the crate-engines fielded by the majority of PASS North crews.
While Brackett largely agrees with this, Hickory is far from being like any Northeast track, especially those in the State of Maine.
“It’s one of the closest, even though it’s not, but we say it’s one of the closest tracks to what there is up here. But, it’s still quite a bit different. We don’t have many tracks with banking, the bumps at Hickory are pretty interesting and fun, since I race Oxford and Beech Ridge which are parking lots, nice and smooth and stuff. So, it’s neat to run on something bumpy with no grip. It’s a great place with the history. It’s just awesome to go there.”
Although he holds his two Oxford titles in high regards, Brackett admits that victory in the MegaMeltdown would be a new career high achievement.
“It would be the biggest thing I’d ever won. I consider it bigger than winning a championship at Oxford. You see all of the people that raced and won there, guys that have gone on to race in the Cup Series, it would be huge to be on that list of winners at Hickory.”
On the other hand, Gabe Brown has limited experience in Super Late Models, moving into the ranks in 2017. Running for Dale Shaw Racecars, Brown has gotten quite the education in the last year, which includes a pair of starts at Hickory. While the end results have not turned out Brown’s way, it has not stopped him from gaining a great appreciation for the 67-year-old racing jewel.
“I’m very excited for this trip, this is my second favorite track. Last year when we went down we were third fastest, then in the spring we were even faster than what we were. Now we just got to go there and figure out the rest to have a great race,” Brown explained.
So much has changed since Brown last ran at Hickory during the Easter Bunny 150 on March 31. His experience level has gone up with the combination of a full schedule at Oxford Plains and a smattering of races in both Granite State Pro Stock Series and PASS North competition, including the Oxford 250. He has also found the consistency that has already produced an Oxford championship.
“I think I’ve grown a lot since the Easter Bunny. I’ve raced with all these great drivers up north a ton. I ran the Oxford 250, and I’ve run a bunch of PASS races. It has been a great opportunity to learn from all these people.”
The 16-year-old up-and-comer is anxious for another shot at the old racing surface, but is also ready for a good time with his team and family.
“It’s one of those tracks where you basically have to stop in the corners, you got the bumps, you beat and bang, and you have to watch out for the wall. It’s a lot of fun for me. Both times I went down, I’ve met someone that’s got a bunch of history there, so that’s cool too. There’s also a lot of people that we see and meet up with and everything. It’s like a family vacation at Hickory Motor Speedway.”
Under the supervision of both DJ and Dale Shaw in 2018, Brown has been behind the wheel of a strong No. 47 Super Late Model, while receiving the necessary training from both mentors. While Brown has been able to bring the team a championship trophy, a race winner’s prize has eluded Brown in 2018. Being able to snag their first big prize in the MegaMeltdown would be the best possible way to close out this amazing year.
“I know we’ve got the car to win. It’s just on me now. If we won at Hickory, it would be amazing, DJ’s only done it a couple of times. Usually when I’ve raced this year, DJ has been my crew chief, but he’s heading up the other car, so I’ve got Dale behind me, and the last race he was with me we finished second at Waterford. So it would be cool. I’d be very happy with myself.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com