For someone who has never raced a 250 at Oxford Plans Speedway, Travis Adams has already earned status as a contender for Sunday’s 34th Annual TD Banknorth event.
At Wednesday’s pre-race media event, Adams garnered quite a bit of attention. When drivers were asked to pick a favorite to win the race – other than themselves – many picked Adams.
“It was pretty overwhelming to have both the Rowes pick you as a favorite,” said Adams, who offered up a noncommittal “A Rowe” as his prediction. “Benji was there at the July race and watched me race. It was very flattering. We do have a fast race car, and we’re very much looking forward to this race.”
Adams, of Canton, has been one of the hottest racers at OPS this summer. In 10 races, he has five wins and hasn’t finished worse than third in the others. With the 250 moving to the Late Model cars, it has opened the door for Adams to compete. He enters with some high expectations, but that suits him just fine.
“It’s actually good,” said Adams. “It doesn’t bother me. When we ran go-carts, we were very competitive and won a lot of races. Now that we’ve got this Late Model figured out and been very consistent on a week in and week out basis, it’s great that we’re considered to be one of the threats to win.”
Taking some down time in the state of Maine is nothing new for Nextel Cup veteran Kevin Lepage. Enjoying a vacation with family in Old Orchard Beach has been an annual occurrence for the Vermont native. This vacation, however, won’t be without a little work thrown in.
Lepage’s time off from the Nextel Cup circuit and his week in Maine just so happens to coincide with the T.D. Banknorth 250. After enjoying five hours on the beach Tuesday, Lepage was at the pre-race press conference Wednesday, mixing a little business with pleasure. Lepage raced in the 250 three times in the 1980s and in 1993.
“We just started our vacation,” said Lepage. “It just happens that it was the same week we were coming to Maine anyway. It was a perfect week for us to do it.”
Lepage lived in Maine in the mid 1980s and visited often as a kid. His wife, Donna, has family in the Old Orchard area. After skipping the Nextel Race in Chicago, Lepage stopped by in Vermont to visit his mother and picked up the rest of the family and headed for Maine. He expects to have nearly 45 family members gathered by the weekend. Many of them expect to make the trip to Oxford Plans Speedway to watch Lepage race.
“We enjoyed Maine even when I was a kid,” said Lepage, a veteran of 200 NASCAR Cup starts. “We used to come here on vacation. We’ve done that forever. I had the weekend off, and there was some racing going on. So I might as well do it.”
Ticket to ride
Tickets are still available for Sunday’s 250, but they’re going fast, says track owner Bill Ryan.
“We’ve got four women in the office answering the phones selling tickets,” said Ryan. “No line. No waiting.”
Exact figures were not available, and Ryan wasn’t sure how many tickets remained. He said ticket sales have been similar to recent years. Tickets are $30 for general admission and $30-$50 for reserved seats. Pit passes are also available and range from $70 to $85.
“It’s about the same, but we have a lot of interest in places we didn’t have interest before, which is kind of interesting,” said Ryan.
Going to the Late Model cars has allowed for more competitors from Canada and all over New England. That has been evident in the ticket sales as fans from outside the state plan to flock north.
“It has impacted it really good,” said Ryan. “I think we’ll see the place filled up, and it will be really good.”
Never too late for Late Models
Among the new competitors whose ticket to the 250 came with the switch to the Late Models is Poland’s Tommy Ricker.
“We’re real excited because this is my one shot to get into the 250 that I never thought I’d have,” Ricker said. “I think the Late Model move is a great move. It’s a thing that you can have from Florida to Canada, and that’s why I think we’re seeing the entries that we’re seeing. It’s going to make qualifying real interesting, that’s for sure.” The rookie hasn’t been on the track for a 250 before, but he’s watched a lot of them from the stands. He thinks Sunday’s race will be a learning experience for fans and drivers.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of close racing. I certainly hope it doesn’t turn into a choo-choo train, which I don’t think it will,” Ricker said. “I think what’s going to happen is after 50 or 60 laps, that’s when you’re going to really find out who’s set up for the long-distance run.”
“That’s what’s going to make it hard for a few of us, myself included,” he added. “I’ve only run 100-lap races with my car, so I’m not really sure what’s going to happen after a hundred laps. It’s going to be real hard to figure out how to do the pit stops, when to do the pit stops and not hurt yourself.”