Pro All Stars Series
Gabe Brown Paces Saturday Opening Practice at Oxford 250
Aug 26, 2023
Derek Griffith set fast time in the final Oxford 250 practice of Saturday, while Cole Butcher's team is changing engines following an issue early in the practice session.
PASS Super Late Models took part in a 40-minute practice session on Saturday, the eve of the 50th Annual Spencer Group Paving Oxford 250. Here are final practice results, as well as storylines and notes from Saturday’s on-track activity at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Griffith Fastest in Second Practice: Former PASS National Champion Derek Griffith was fastest in the final practice session, clocking in at 15.481 seconds around Oxford Plains Speedway.
Griffith has twice finished on the podium in the Oxford 250. He was runner-up to Travis Benjamin in 2019 and third behind Cassius Clark and Curtis Gerry in 2022.
Travis Stearns was second fastest, followed by D.J. Shaw, Ryan Kuhn and Mike Hopkins.
Engine Woes for Last Year’s Winner: 2022 Oxford 250 winner Cole Butcher’s attempt to defend his title in the event suffered a setback during the second round of practice Saturday.
In the opening minutes of the practice session, smoke followed behind Butcher’s No. 53 and he immediately returned to the pit area. An engine failure has forced his team to swap engines on Saturday afternoon ahead of Sunday’s race.
While it is certainly an obstacle to overcome for the team, the news is not all bad for Butcher. There will be Super Late Model practice sessions on Sunday morning, which means he and his team will be able to shake down the car ahead of his heat race on Sunday.
Also, Butcher has been in a similar scenario at Oxford before. Last year, Butcher changed engines twice before a PASS event and went on to take the win.
Cookson Confident Entering Sunday With Pollard As Teammate: Max Cookson has not finished outside the top five in any of his PASS appearances at Oxford Plains Speedway this year, and leads the Oxford Championship Series Super Late Model points. Thus, he has plenty of reason to carry excitement into Sunday’s crown jewel race.
His team also has two fast cars on the property for the weekend, with the second entry awaiting Bubba Pollard's arrival Sunday morning. The 2018 Oxford 250 winner worked out a deal with Cookson earlier in the week.
“We put a deal together earlier this week for him to come up and run," explained Cookson. "We talked to those guys a few times. He’s going to fly in Sunday morning and just bring some stuff on the airplane. They’re pretty excited, and they’ve got a really, really good race car.
“Bubba is all of our short track hero. He’s one of the best in the country in my book. It’s definitely going to be super cool to talk to him, and hopefully I can learn a little bit.”
Cookson focused on his own Oxford 250 car today, but had the opportunity to prepare in both his No. 39 and Pollard's No. 26 on Thursday to ensure Pollard would have a competitive piece when he arrives tomorrow.
“Thursday, the track was really gripped up," said Cookson. "We made a couple of runs in each of the cars and shook them both down. I was really happy with both of them. We pretty much mirrored lap times with both of them, so I was super happy.
“Today, we went out, put on a set of tires, and got up to about 12th on the speed charts [in the first practice]. We’re pretty happy with my car at the moment."
Bubba is all of our short track hero. He’s one of the best in the country in my book. It’s definitely going to be super cool to talk to him, and hopefully I can learn a little bit.
Theriault Enjoying Return to Racing, Oxford: After nearly four years away from racing, Austin Theriault is returning at this year's Oxford 250. For the Maine native, this event is special for a number of reasons.
“I like this track. It’s one of my favorite tracks," said Theriault. "I think the [Oxford] 250, in general, is probably one of the biggest events of the year. Yeah, there’s your Snowball Derby, but this is definitely up there, especially because it’s here in Maine. Being from here and having a lot of experience traveling around New England and to a bunch of the different tracks around here, it’s home.
“It’s been about four or five years since I’ve been in the 250. I don’t really think much has changed. I feel like we’re decent. We’re not fast on the leaderboard, but it really doesn’t matter here because there’s not time trials like there would be down south. As long as your car drives okay, you’ll be fine."
Theriault is working with D.J. Shaw on this Oxford 250 effort, a full-circle moment of sorts for two drivers who were once pitted against each other on a regular basis. More importantly for Theriault, the team is raising awareness for the Travis Mills Foundation, which supports post-911 recalibrated veterans and their families.
“D.J. and I used to be pretty fierce competitors back in the day when we were racing together. It’s really cool to be working together now.
“The thing that’s really special is being able to raise money for the Travis Mills Foundation and all of the partnerships we’ve put together this weekend with Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do the fundraiser with Travis. A lot of good things came together in a short time and it’s really humbling to be here.”
Ben Rowe Looking to Tie His Father This Weekend: Ben Rowe is on a short list of drivers who have won two Oxford 250s. His father, Mike Rowe, is on the even shorter list of three-time winners.
Both father and son are taking part in this year's Oxford 250, and both are coming off wins at Oxford Plains Speedway earlier this month. Mike Rowe won an Oxford Championship Series event on Saturday, August 5, and Ben Rowe won one day later with the PASS Super Late Models.
That's given the younger Rowe a solid foundation and plenty of optimism entering this weekend.
"We were pretty happy with the car. We haven't changed a whole lot since two weeks ago when we were here," said Rowe. "Tomorrow's going to be a lot like it was two weeks ago. We'll get this hot weather out of here and tomorrow will be a different day."
On Sunday, Ben Rowe hopes to earn that third Oxford 250 win, joining his father as well as Travis Benjamin, Ralph Nason and Dave Dion on the list of three-time winners.
"The Oxford 250 is the biggest race by far around here. To win it twice, back-to-back, was cool, but I want to win just as much as my dad. I want to get three. It'd be cool. It'd be fun. It's my own car now with a good bunch of guys. We're having a blast. There's no reason why we can't. We're just as good as anyone else here. As long as we do our homework, we'll be all set."
He's also honoring his father with a throwback to Mike Rowe's cars from the 1980s, a red and gold machine that stands out on the track.
Ben Rowe is honoring his father with a throwback scheme at this year's Oxford 250. (Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America)
"This is back in 1980. My dad had this number and this kind of color. I wanted the wrap and wanted the gold number so everyone who knew, knew, you know? Connor McDougal, he updated it a little bit and got a little white in it. It's a half-throwback deal to him, he owns it. We're having fun with it."
Of course, consider Mike Rowe went to victory lane just a few weekends ago, Ben knows tying his father's benchmark might require racing him for the win.
"It's cool. 73 years old, he's right there and competitive as ever, you know what I mean? If it comes down to the two of us at the end, you know he's not going to give me an inch just like anyone else. It's a pretty good time."
-Featured photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America
Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.