Before the 2022 racing season at Oxford Plains Speedway even started, expectations have been high for one of Pro All Stars Series’ hottest young gun racecar drivers, Max Cookson. After winning 6 of 14 races and taking the 2021 season title on the PASS Modified Touring Series, the iRacing standout was ready for his next "real-world" racing challenge, Super Late Models.
Running as a rookie in the weekly 2022 Oxford Championship Series, Cookson surprised everyone in the Maine racing community and beyond; leading the 50-lap season opener flag-to-flag for his first win in start number one. Now, he looks to make his PASS Super Late Model debut in Saturday’s Spencer Group Paving 150.
“We’re pretty pumped up. We went into that race like we do any other race, wanting to win it. Realistically, we just wanted to have a Top 10 day and bring the car home without a mark on it. Then as the race went on, all the stars aligned. To win in our first start against a field of that caliber was pretty unbelievable,” Cookson told Racing America.
It is quite the early payoff after spending the entire offseason transitioning from PASS Modifieds to the Super Late Models.
“I bought the car right after we had sold the Modified at the end of October. So we’ve been just picking away at getting it ready all winter long, and we were able to come into the season feeling that we had done all we needed to do to race at our best.”
Just making the 150-lap feature will be quite a task in itself, with the entry list soaring above the number of available starting spots. Should Cookson make it in, there then lies another task new to him.
“It’s going to be a challenge, I’ve never run a race any longer than 75 laps. That’s the longest race we run with the Modifieds. There’s going to be a lot more to taking care of the tires, as well as myself; kind of stuff that will take time to learn. Plus, there are 40 cars entered this weekend. There will be a lot of competition there, so we’ll have to get it done in the heat race.”
Going up against multi-time PASS champions like Johnny Clark, D.J. Shaw, and Ben Rowe may make some drivers nervous. But Cookson is fully embracing it.
“Since I’ve been a kid, I must’ve watched about a hundred PASS races, and seen all these great drivers compete for wins. I can’t wait to be able to compete in one. Again, we never go into a race wanting to finish second, but we’ll use the same approach. Come home clean, and learn to race against these guys for 150 laps.”
Working towards the 2022 Oxford SLM title is on the docket for the year, but so is competing in that one special race, the Oxford 250 on August 28. With both the OCS and PASS events at Oxford expected to be as rigorous as ever, Cookson believes that he will have as good a shot as any experienced driver come summer’s end.
“I’m working towards it. We want to qualify for the 250, one of the biggest races in the country, and certainly the biggest we’ll run this year. Running weekly at Oxford, and hopefully running all the PASS races there, we’ll have our ducks in a row by the end of the summer.”
-Photo credit: Lauren Roy