Western and central Maine race fans who endured a true old-fashioned winter can finally put away the jackets, wipe out the coolers and grab the grandstand chairs. After a late-season snowfall forced a delay in the first green flag, those fans will at last get their racing fix this weekend.
That delay now means a busy two days of racing alongside Route 26, as Oxford Plains Speedway opens its gates for the 70th consecutive season on Saturday, April 27, with a full card of Championship Series action. George Damon (and his brothers) first opened Oxford as a 1/2-mile dirt oval in 1950.
On Sunday, April 28, a twin-bill featuring the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North Super Late Model tour and Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Models will each run 150-lap features.
The PASS Modifieds, Northeast Mini Stock Tour and Strictly Stock classes are also on the card.
In the spring of 2015, when the late Tom Curley and current PASS/OPS owner Tom Mayberry “buried the hatchet” so to speak, and hosted the first PASS/ACT doubleheader at Oxford, it was a huge hit.
That event provided a much-needed shot in the arm for local short racing, and that wonderful “spirit of cooperation” is alive and well in 2019. To see current ACT owner Cris Michaud and Mr. Mayberry doing this is encouraging, since race fans in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are the clear winners.
Leading the charge into Oxford on the PASS North side of Sunday's exciting twin-bill are reigning and three-time series champion DJ Shaw and Hudson, NH, native Derek Griffith. Shaw claimed the season-opening victory last Sunday at Thompson after a spirited battle with Griffith.
“Winning that race was a great way to start the new season,” Shaw said. “It was no fluke, we had the fastest car there and were able to get it into Victory Lane. Hopefully everything we've applied to this new car works just as well at Oxford.”
Shaw didn't have the best chassis setup for Oxford in 2018, yet feels this new piece from Dale Shaw Race Cars can not only improve his results there, but at every stop along the PASS North schedule.
“Last year, I thought we had a shot to win everywhere except at Oxford and Beech Ridge. I felt we had a top three car, and we were pretty much in the top six at all but one show at those two tracks. We were contenders, but things didn't fall our way. I want to go to Oxford in 2019 and be the dominant car.”
A lot of work was done over the winter months over in Center Conway, New Hampshire. That hard work is about to pay off for both Shaw and his aspiring friend, 2018 Oxford champion Gabe Brown.
“We put a lot of work into my new car, we rebuilt a lot of other customer cars and rebuilt Gabe's car, as well,” Shaw explained. “Hopefully, everything works out and we're all running up front on Sunday. Then we can all just work on getting better going forward.”
Griffith has lots of momentum going into Oxford, but hasn't won a 150-lap race on the 3/8-mile oval.
“We've won a couple of weekly shows up there, but a PASS win has eluded us to this point,” Griffith said. “I really think this new Fury car is going to be the right tool to make us better everywhere we go, including Oxford. It's done very well for us so far, and we haven't even really figured it out.”
In late 2018, Griffith's LCM Racing squad purchased a new Fury chassis from North Carolina, and it started paying dividends last winter. He won a 100-lap race at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) in convincing style.
“I'm looking forward to taking the new car to Oxford. This weekend will help us get the car right for those bigger races to come, like the 250 in late summer. I'm curious to see how this car runs there, it's definitely different than what I'm used to driving. I think it has a ton of potential and am excited to go.”
Last April 22, Griffith finished ninth at Oxford in the Honey Badger 150, completing 149 of 150 laps.
Leading the charge into Oxford on the ACT side is Hudson, New Hampshire driver Joey Polewarczyk Jr., driver of the No. 97 entry. Polewarczyk is fresh off his recent win at the Richmond Raceway at the Commonwealth Classic. The former Oxford 250 winner is anxious to get back at it.
“Oxford will always have a special meaning to me,” Polewarczyk said. “Coming off the win at a place like Richmond just makes me more excited to head north. We won't have the PASS car done in time for Oxford, but we'll have the ACT car. We've had success with the Late Model up there over the years.”
Polewarczyk is confident as race weekend approaches, yet may need some practice before Sunday.
“I haven't run an ACT-style car myself at Oxford since 2015,” he said. “They hosted two ACT races there that year, and we won both of them. I'm pretty pumped about going back, knowing we did well when Mike Ziter and Ryan Olsen ran our cars there. We'll go up and give it our best shot on Sunday.”
Post time for Saturday's Championship Series points season opener is 4 p.m., while qualifying races for Sunday's Twin 150s get under way at 1:30 p.m., with support classes to follow.
-Story by: Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeastern SLM Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com