Two drivers with impressive resumes throughout the Northeast in both American-Canadian Tour (ACT) style Late Models and PASS Super Late Models are going after a rare feat in the 46th annual Oxford 250.
Had it not been for the storied past of the race Bob Bahre created back in 1974 and the evolution of cars in which drivers have gone after its rich purse and prestige, this challenge wouldn't even be on our radars. Yet since the Oxford 250 was a Late Model event from 2007 to 2012, it creates a unique possibility.
Joey Polewarczyk Jr., of Hudson, New Hampshire (2012), and Eddie MacDonald, of Rowley, Mass. (2009-10), each won the 250 during the Late Model years. On August 25, they will try to become the first to win it as a Super Late Model event, as well.
Roger Brown (2007), Kevin Harvick (2008) and Kyle Busch (2011) were the event's other Late Model winners, none of which are entered in 2019. Former track owner Bill Ryan Jr. paid big money to select NASCAR stars during the Late Model years to boost attendance, knowing he'd lost some of the well-known drivers from New England.
“I've been going to Oxford since about 2005, when I got my first podium finish in the Little Guys 100s,” Polewarczyk said. “If you look at all the places that we've run, you could say we've had more success at Oxford than at any other track. We just took to Oxford really well since the start.
“Winning the 250 in 2012 was incredible. It was by far the biggest win of my career. I think we led 205 laps, and the $45,500 payday was huge for our race team. For the rest of my life, I'll be able to cherish the memory of that night. We were close last year in the SLM (second), so hopefully we can pull it off.”
Since Polewarczyk was a poster boy for the late Tom Curley as he promoted a youth movement in his Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT), he became a household name by 2012. After a while, he fell off most people's radar screens as ACT stars like Brian Hoar and Wayne Helliwell, Jr. either retired or switched over to PASS racing.
Today, he's back among the favorites whenever he races, whether it's an ACT race or a PASS event. His Super Late Model program has progressed to the point where he can contend for a 250 win, as shown in 2018.
“That race is one of the toughest races any driver will ever run,” Polewarczyk added. “Just to make the show is tough, but to actually do well and win the thing is monumental. We really want to be the only ones to say we won it as a Late Model race and as a Super Late Model race. That would be big for us.”
In 2018, the team took a serious approach to the big dance. This year, it will be more of the same.
“Last year, we rented the track before the 250,” Polewarczyk explained. “We worked hard to get our car just right. Every year, the 250 is circled on our list. It's the focal point of our SLM season, and if we are able to achieve this feat we'll be beyond proud. My family, team and friends would be beaming.”
Thus far in 2019, Polewarczyk has enjoyed a great deal of success. He has two wins in an ACT Late Model, including the inaugural race at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) in March, and he tasted victory in the Granite State Pro Stock Series' Gate City Classic at his home track of Hudson Speedway.
“We've been having a great season thanks to the hard work of everybody on this team,” Polewarczyk said. “From Richmond last spring throughout the summer, it's been amazing. Now, we attack the 250.”
MacDonald has also enjoyed a strong season in 2019. His lone win thus far was a big one, as he edged Mike Hopkins by inches at the line to claim the PASS portion of the third annual New England Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on June 23.
The two-time Oxford 250 winner says claiming the 250 in a PASS car would be a dream come true.
“The Oxford 250 has always been an important race to me,” MacDonald said. “I used to come up with my father back in the day to watch guys like Ralph Nason do their thing. To be able to go there and win the 250 twice with the ACT car was incredible.
“Now we're just trying to get our Super Late Model fast enough so that we can have a chance to win it in this format.”
MacDonald and New Gloucester, Maine based Crew Chief Rollie Lachance finished fifth in the final tuneup for the 250, a 150-lap affair on August 11 at Oxford.
“It would really be a neat deal to pull off a 250 win in the PASS format,” MacDonald added. “My car owners Rollie and Laura Lachance always make a huge effort for this race; it's in their back yard and is obviously the biggest race in New England. I'd love to win it for them, myself and this entire team.”
No matter what type of race car he's in, it seems as if when Lachance calls the shots, E-Mac is fast.
“Rollie is still very much the driving force behind the success of this race team. We haven't been in quite as many races this year as in the past, but we've been running a few PASS shows at Oxford. We have a new Dale Shaw car this year, and we're learning what it needs. We'll keep working away at it.”
Lachance and MacDonald have made quite a mark together on the New England short track scene.
“Rollie and I have had a lot of fun together, and have won a lot of big races,” MacDonald said. “I know it would mean a lot to him to be able to get a Super Late Model win at Oxford. He's been going there forever, and if we could put ourselves into Victory Lane together in the 250, that would be awesome.”
Race fans unable to make it to Oxford, ME on Sunday, August 25 will be able to watch all of the action via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Live video tickets for one of the biggest events in short track racing can be purchased today by clicking here.
-Story & Photos by Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeast SLM Correspondent