Anticipation and excitement for Sunday's 46th Annual Oxford 250 reached a fever pitch on Wednesday, as speedway officials held their annual media day gathering at the Honey Badger Bar and Grill located next to Oxford Plains Speedway (ME).
On hand to discuss the track's marquee event were speedway owner Tom Mayberry, his son, Mike, who serves as general manager at Oxford and plays an integral role in event planning, three-time 250 winner Mike Rowe, 2018 PASS National champion Derek Griffith, 2017 250 winner Curtis Gerry, multi-time Pro All Stars Series (PASS) race winner Garrett Hall, two-time 250 winner Ben Rowe and three-time PASS North champion DJ Shaw.
Mayberry kicked things off with an overview of how things are shaping up at the speedway as we approach his biggest weekend of the season.
“We're coming along pretty well with getting everything in order for the three days,” he said. “Advance ticket sales are strong, and we already have about 100 more campers on site than we did last year at this time. Right now, we have 57 entries for the 250 and I think we'll top out at about 60.
“That's a good number, and I think what hits me most this time around is the quality of the field. You look at the fact that Bubba Pollard is coming back, and you look at how well a lot of these guys in our tour are running. I think you'll have a couple dozen guys that could win it, and that's all we can ask.”
One of the annual traditions of Oxford 250 media gatherings in the past is the polling of drivers on hand to give their picks as to who could win it on Sunday night if their own car isn't in Victory Lane.
“I'd have to go with Ben Rowe, or possibly even Nick Sweet, based on how they've been running here in recent races,” heavy pre-race favorite Gerry said. “Ben has really improved his setup here the last few races, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him up front in the closing laps.”
Turner's Mike Rowe, the all-time King of Oxford with 151 career wins on the tricky 3/8-mile oval, has his eyes on the youngster from central Vermont, as well.
“I think Nick Sweet has the best car for this place now,” Rowe said. “He's shown it all year here every time we've run. If he doesn't get into trouble and gets clear of traffic, I think he's the one to beat.”
Griffith has struggled the past two seasons at Oxford but is now getting his new Fury car much closer to being fast. He's known for his prowess in long races, yet he feels a certain veteran has the edge.
“I really think Ben Rowe will be one we all have to contend with this weekend,” Griffith said. “He's been making great gains on his new car, and he certainly knows how to win this race. We've made some big progress on our car up here, and we can't win it, I think Ben will be the one we're chasing.”
Shaw, much like Griffith, has also come a long way on his car's setup at Oxford in recent attempts. He says the No. 60 ride is ready to go for Sunday, yet his pick was different than that of his rivals.
“I think these guys are probably right to keep their eyes on Nick Sweet and Curt Gerry, but I think Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. could be a factor on Sunday night. He's always good here, he doesn't come up before the big race but I know he'll be prepared when he gets here for the 250. He's won it before and has made good progress on his Super Late Model program. We want to win it, but Joey will be right there.”
Hall has already won a PASS race at Oxford this season (April 28) and says his No. 94 entry is ready for battle come Sunday. While he wants the coveted trophy and big check, his other choice was clear.
“I think DJ Shaw could be a factor when all is said and done on Sunday evening,” Hall said. “He is always good on long runs, his car doesn't fall off and he is getting better at this place all the time. If we can't pull our car into Victory Lane on Sunday night, I'd say DJ has a great shot to get it done.”
Qualifying races for the 46th annual Oxford 250 begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
If you can’t make it to Oxford, Maine this weekend be sure to watch all the coverage from Saturday and Sunday via Speed51.com’s pay-per-view coverage. Discounted two-day video tickets can be purchased today by clicking here.
-Story by Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeast SLM Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com