Two of Oxford Plains Speedway’s top Super Late Model racers are hitting the road and traveling south to Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) this weekend. TJ Brackett of Buckfield, ME and Dennis Spencer, Jr. of Oxford, ME have loaded up their cars for Saturday’s $15,000-to-win Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown at the “Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars.”
Brackett, who lost the 2017 Oxford Plains track championship as a result of a tiebreaker, makes his way to North Carolina hoping to shake off the gremlins that slowed his progress during the second half of the season.
“With as bad as we’ve run at the end of the year, I figured we needed to go try something to get ready for next year. We’ve been terrible since the (Oxford) 250 on. I was like, well we’ve got to go do something; we can’t just let it sit all winter,” Brackett told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “This race being in November, I’ve always wanted run the Easter Bunny and I’ve always wanted to run Hickory, but you can’t take a chance on wrecking because you usually have the Oxford opener the following week. This race is just a lot easier for us to get to because there’s nothing else after this.”
Spencer, the fifth-place finisher in Oxford’s 2017 Super Late Model point standings, is making the trip south after a few jokes with his car owners, Mitch and Judy Green of Crazy Horse Racing, turned into reality.
“I’ve been down a few times with Ben Rowe helping him the last couple years,” Spencer began. “Mitch and Judy own the car and we kind of joked about going. Mitch said, ‘Seriously, you want to go?’ It was kind of Mitch’s idea to go down and try it.”
Both drivers have traveled to Hickory in recent years, but neither driver has ever driven a single lap around the 3/8-mile speedway. The chance to do so this year has them excited to compete at one of the nation’s most prestigious short tracks.
“It’s really cool because it’s something that I never thought I’d get to do,” Brackett stated. “For Tom (Mayberry) and PASS to be able to book these cool, historic race tracks and we get a chance to race at them, it’s honestly pretty cool and I’m pretty excited. Who knows how we’ll do, but hopefully we’re not terrible. But it’s pretty cool to say you’ve ran at Hickory.”
“It’s pretty cool just going there, but going there to race will be even better,” Spencer commented.
Brackett and Spencer will both lean on some of the stuff they’ve learned as crew members at Hickory as they gear up for their first laps around the race track. In addition to Spencer working with four-time PASS National champion Ben Rowe, Brackett has worked at the track with drivers Kyle Desouza and Christopher Bell.
“Being there with Ben and hearing his feedback on how the car was going and kind of knowing the setup a little bit helps,” Spencer began. “I was there a couple years ago when he won the Easter Bunny and then he ran good down there this spring. Just being there and seeing the car and having an idea what the setup is like will help you.”
For a pair of northern drivers, time trialing is an unusual task that lies ahead. On a weekly basis, both Brackett and Spencer compete in qualifying heat races prior to their feature races. Brackett remembers participating in time trials over 10 years ago with PASS North, while Spencer doesn’t believe he’s ever participated in that form of qualifying.
“The time trialing thing will be different; I’ve never really time trialed before so that will be something different,” Spencer admitted.
Although the weekly warriors may be at a slight disadvantage when it comes to time trials, both drivers believe the similarities between their home track and Hickory Motor Speedway will help them adjust rather quickly. Both tracks are 3/8-mile in distance and both are known for having a lack of grip.
“With running the crate motor, we can’t go running Dillon and places like that. Hickory being smaller, the crate may be an advantage at the end of it,” Brackett said. “It’s really one of the only ones that’s feasible for us to go down to.”
As the two Oxford Plains Speedway regulars make the haul south, they do so with similar goals and expectations.
“We really want to time trial in the top 20 and not have to go to a consi or B-feature. If we can get out of there with a top 10 and be competitive, that would be great,” Brackett said. “But then in the same sense, you see Travis Stearns finish fifth there, Jeremy Davis has finished fifth, DJ has won it, Ben has won it. I’d be really happy with a top 10 but obviously, we want more than that.”
“I’d like to time trial in the top 20. That would be a really good goal of ours,” Spencer stated. “I’d like to be competitive and run top 10. As long as we’re competitive and keep it in one piece, I’d be happy.”
Race fans unable to make the trip south to Hickory Motor Speedway will be able to watch Saturday’s racing via a live video broadcast on Speed51.com. Video tickets can be purchased today for $24.99 by clicking here.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos