Any event that survives and thrives for 50 years is bound to be something special. In August of this year, one of the biggest short track races in the country, the Oxford 250, will crown a 50th champion of the famed race which started as a 200 lap open back in 1974. In any given year, Super Late Model teams up and down the Eastern Seaboard circle this event on the calendar, and this year’s 50th edition milestone is making it even more enticing.
Fifty-Seven Drivers have already filed their entry for the landmark 50th race. With a history of winners that boasts drivers like Ricky Craven, Mike Rowe, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Chuck Bown and more recently short track aces like Bubba Pollard, Cassius Clark, and Cole Butcher, it’s no wonder every successful driver would like nothing more than to etch their name in the record books as the 50th winner.
One such driver who hopes to score his first 250 win is 19-year-old Kulwicki Development Driver Program (KDDP) candidate Max Cookson. As a rookie, the Palmyra youngster beat out all the veterans to score a Super Late Model championship in the highly competitive Oxford championship series in 2022. Cookson also ran near the front of the 49th annual 250, leading nearly 50 laps before coming home in fifth in his maiden voyage in the late summer classic. Cookson parlayed that experience into a late-season PASS victory, and currently leads the way in PASS and Oxford Points through the middle of June.
“The Oxford 250 is the one race everyone dreams about winning up here in the Northeast. We had a really good car last year and gained a lot of experience. We have gotten off to a great start this year and hope we can use those experiences to run near the front again. If we can be there with a shot at the end, that’s all we can ask for,” Said Cookson.
Predicting a winner of the annual August race is akin to picking the correct lottery numbers. The tricky 3/8 mile speed plant in Oxford is known to demand top-notch preparation from crews, a driver capable of modulating the right foot, a crew that can react to changing conditions, and just a little bit of luck. Deep fields of talent, high-quality equipment, and in some cases deep pockets battle with some of the best smaller budget-minded teams in the business. History, however, shows that money, experience, and preparation do not necessarily pave the way to victory lane. Sometimes it’s still the dark horse that prevails
This year’s first entrant, Jeremie Whorff, was exactly that back in 2006 when he beat none other than his own father to log his first, and to date only, 250 triumph. Of the nearly 70 cars in attendance that day, Jeremie was not on many lists as a potential winner, but at the end of the day his #00 was first across the line.
Reading through the entrants as of June 23rd is like reading a who’s who of Super Late Model racing in the northeast and beyond. 2018 Oxford 250 champion Bubba Pollard is slated to make his 6th attempt at scoring another 250. Pollard, unusually, won his 250 in his first start. The tricky Oxford pavement is known to stump even the best drivers and crews in their maiden voyage. Pollard’s victory was not without luck, however, as the Georgia driver struggled to find the needed grip until he switched cars halfway through the weekend. From there, he was able to utilize his long distance race experience to patiently work his way to the front at the end of 250 green flag laps.
Pollard owns one of the 17 titles on the current entry list. A few winners entered are defending champion Cole Butcher, father and son combo Mike and Ben Rowe, Cassius Clark, two-time winner Eddie MacDonald, Glen Luce, Gary Drew, Curtis Gerry, and 2020 winner Johnny Clark among others.
Asked what it would mean to score another victory in the 50th edition, Hallowell, ME native Johnny Clark said, “When I won it in 2020 it was definitely a special time, especially after I had tried for so many years. But it was only in front of a few fans (Covid restrictions). Winning the 50th would easily be the crowning win of my career and certainly would rank right up there with my 7 PASS championships."
Always a top 5 contender, Clark felt a lot of lows participating in the 250 over 20 years before scoring that elusive victory. "One year we led about half the race and had a very fast car but got caught up in a crash not of our doing that took us out. Another year we were leading with less than a 20 to go when a late race yellow gave Mike Rowe a chance to restart behind me on fresh tires and I just couldn't hold him off." In 2020, fate smiled on Clark as he battled with Jeff Taylor when a pit stop miscue put the nine-time Oxford weekly series champion behind enough so that laps ran out before he had a chance to make his way back to battle for the lead.
One list many very accomplished drivers hope to remove themselves from is the non-winners list. Glancing through that side of the chart shows some drivers with
resumes that list multiple championships, big wins, and perennial contenders. DJ Shaw, Tim Brackett, the aforementioned Jeff Taylor, Derrick Griffith, Joey Doiron, and Dave Farrington Jr. are all drivers who have been at the top of the game for many years but are still chasing that first 250 triumph.
“We are looking forward to the 50th Spencer Group Paving Oxford 250,” said PASS President Tom Mayberry. “This is a pretty special race in any season, but to be involved with the 50th is something even more special. Interest is at an all-time high from competitors, fans, and sponsors, and we think everyone is going to want to be a part of the biggest race in Oxford 250 history in some way. We definitely expect everyone is going to bring their A-game to try to win the 50th Oxford 250. We have a few more things in the works that will also help make this a memorable event.”
One such special event is the $100 lap leader program has been extended for some laps to $150 per lap. Under this celebration format, the lap leader will still receive the traditional $100 per lap led, but for the selected laps, position 2 will pay $30, and position 3 will pay $20.
Spencer Group Paving, LLC (SGP) was recently announced as the title sponsor for the 50th annual race. SGP President Dennis Spencer Jr. is also a competitor who has won a PASS race at OPS and consistently runs at the front. "Well, obviously winning the 250 would be the ultimate achievement. I've run pretty well in a few of them, but the cards haven't fallen my way. Hopefully 2023 is the year."
Every driver wants to end the day on August 27th holding that trophy high as the 50th all time winner of the Spencer Group Paving Oxford 250.
"The caliber of entries we have so far is just unbelievable. Just when I think the roster of drivers can’t get any better, it does. I think this could be the most competitive 250 yet," said Mayberry.
For more information on Oxford Plains Speedway or tickets call the speedway office at 207-539-8865.
For the most up to date information oxfordplains.com or facebook.com/Official-Page-of-Oxford-Plains-Speedway.
For marketing opportunities as a part of the 250 or others please call 207-577-1836 or inquire at [email protected].
-Oxford Plains Speedway Release
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America