OXFORD — Even a few late-summer rain showers did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for Maine’s biggest stock car race.
As campers from around the country continued to descend on Oxford Plains Speedway, drivers gathered at the Honey Badger Bar & Grill adjacent to the track Wednesday to discuss their chances in Sunday’s 45th annual Clark’s Scrap Metals Oxford 250.
Nine drivers from both the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) and Oxford’s weekly Championship series joined track owner Tom Mayberry as he hosted the annual media day function.
“I think the depth of talent in this year’s race is greater than it’s been the last several years,” Mayberry said. “When you take a look at the gentlemen seated next to me today, you’ll find that most have the potential to win on Sunday. The weather forecast looks great for all three days, and we’re all ready.”
Joining Mayberry to talk about the 250 were six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark, of Farmingdale; four-time Oxford track champion Tim Brackett, of Buckfield; rising star Derek Griffith, of Hudson, New Hampshire; two-time 250 winner Travis Benjamin; former PASS champion DJ Shaw; Garrett Hall, of Scarborough; three-time 250 winner Mike Rowe; current Oxford SLM point leader Gabe Brown and defending 250 race winner Curtis Gerry, of Waterboro.
Rowe, now 68 years old, spoke about his performance this season and said he’s ready to go after a record fourth victory in one of the nation’s most prestigious short-track spectacles. The Hall of Famer from Turner is one of only three drivers to claim the mid-summer classic on three occasions.
“Our car has been running real good here, our win last Saturday proved we’re pretty close,” Rowe said. “I feel good about our chances, but for the first time in a while you’ve got 20 cars or more that can win it. I know Bubba Pollard will be strong when he gets here, and I hope Ben (Rowe, Mike’s son) does well, too.”
Griffith opened the PASS South season with a win in February in South Carolina before going on a hot streak here in New England. His luck at Oxford isn’t always the best, but he’s got a secret weapon.
“We’ve gone back to the car that has run many races for us,” Griffith said. “We put in some time with it here last week, and it felt pretty good. We’ll have plenty of practice time, so we’ll make few tweaks to improve our handling. I just hope for a good draw and a clean heat so we can get into the show easily.”
Gerry is and has been the hot topic among Super Late Model racers and fans since he won last year’s Oxford 250. Since that time, the second-generation driver has won four consecutive 150-lap PASS races at Oxford, and seems to always have extra speed in reserve during the closing stages of a race.
“It feels pretty good to be the guy everybody is talking about,” Gerry said. “The car has been running strong again this year, but we know everybody else is working hard to catch us. It’s a big weight on my shoulders to be the heavy favorite. It puts a lot of pressure on us, but we’ll block that out on Sunday.
“It won’t be easy to repeat,” Gerry added. “With close to 70 cars looking to qualify and so many solid teams with years of experience, we’ll have our work cut out. If we can get a decent draw and transfer into the 250 with ease in the first round, our day should go pretty well. It’s going to be a very competitive race this year.”
Qualifying for Sunday’s 45th annual Oxford 250 is set to begin at 1:30 p.m.