Green flag waves at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday

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OXFORD — Those long months of fidgeting, loading the wood stove and watching races on television are finally over.

Local short track fans will get their much-needed fix of side-by-side competition and rivalry this weekend, as Oxford Plains Speedway opens the gates on its 60th anniversary season.

Sunday’s season opener will feature the Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT), a touring series for Late Model style cars with drivers from across the northeast. Since Oxford made the switch to ACT-legal cars as its premier division in 2007, the ACT stars vs. Oxford regulars rivalry has fueled fan interest and produced some entertaining races.

Among the highlights on Oxford’s 2010 schedule is the 37th annual TD Bank 250 on July 18. Known as one of the most prestigious and richest single-day short track races in the country, the 250 is without argument a race every driver dreams about winning.

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“We’re really hoping for good weather this year,” said speedway owner Bill Ryan. “Last year we had a good month of May, then it rained for most of June and July. That really hurts us when it comes to attendance.”

Along with the showcase 250, Oxford will also host two ACT points races this year, including Sunday’s 150-lap tilt and another battle on June 19. Along with some great stock car racing all summer long, Oxford will also feature four prime-time Motor Mayhem shows which have become a hit among fans for a different sort of entertainment.

Among the local drivers preparing for this weekend’s lid lifter is 2004 Late Model champion Shawn Martin of Turner. A two-time ACT winner, Martin is considered one of the division’s top contenders.

“Our team has been busy during the off season,” Martin said. “We bought a new car from Race Basics and worked non-stop to get it assembled and ready to go. Our main goal for 2010 is to get invited back to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second annual ACT Invitational. To guarantee an invitation, we need to win an ACT race or the points championship at an ACT-affiliated track like Oxford. If we can win an ACT race early in the season, we’ll venture off and try some other ACT events. If we don’t, we’ll stay at Oxford and try to capture the title.”

Jim Childs knows his way around the 3/8-mile oval at Oxford as well as any active driver. The 30-year old from Leeds has 30 Mini Stock wins and two championships in a 14-year career.

“I’ll be working hard to secure my third title in 2010,” Childs said. “I won some races last year, but had some mechanical trouble, as well. The car has been rebuilt and improved during the winter, so I feel fairly confident going into the new season. I’m ready to suit up and get going.”

This will be the 21st ACT race held at Oxford since 1995. Joey Polewarczyk Jr., of Hudson, N.H., is the defending race winner. Polewarczyk, like several other top ACT drivers, will be driving a Ford Fusion this year as the brand expands its presence in short track racing.

Five drivers have two wins each in the previous 20 races, while Vermont veteran Brent Dragon has 11 top-10 finishes in 18 starts. Between 40 and 50 cars are expected to attempt qualifying for the 30-car starting field.

Due to a steady rain last Saturday, the track will host an open practice for all divisions (including ACT teams) tomorrow. Spectator gates open at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the first green flag of 2010 set to wave at 2 p.m. The ACT 150 will take the green flag at approximately 4:30 p.m.

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