MacDonald claims season opener at Oxford


OXFORD – After his performance in the 2009 TD Bank 250, you knew he had the place pretty well figured out.

Veteran short-track driver Eddie MacDonald took the lead from rising star Austin Theriault on lap 55 and hung on to win the WJAB 150 in the American-Canadian Tour on Sunday afternoon on opening day at Oxford Plains Speedway.

MacDonald started fifth on the 33-car grid and never ran outside the top five. Oxford veteran Tommy Ricker had the fans on their feet with a terrific late-race charge to second, his best ever ACT finish. Defending ACT champion Brian Hoar was third, while John Donahue and Timmy Brackett completed the top five.

“Tommy is one heck of a racer, and I knew he was there,” MacDonald said. “I tried to save the car early, but when it was time to go, the car ran great. I thought we had engine trouble at one point, maybe a plug wire off or something. But it held up all day, and we’re here in Victory Lane at Oxford again. It’s a great way to start our ACT season.”

Ricker is a fan favorite at Oxford, running on a limited budget, but with strong skills and a big smile. After winning a pair of weekly features in 2009, this was just the start he needed in 2010.

“We’ve never even been able to finish a 100-lap feature here in the past,” Ricker said. “My crew chief found something on this car that really helped. To run second and finish ahead of guys like Brian Hoar and Scott Payea is pretty special. I’m proud of my team and thrilled with this finish. I hope it’s an omen for how we’ll run all year.”

Hoar is a guy that loves to win, but hasn’t always had the best of luck at Oxford over the years. On this occasion, he seemed pretty content to be on the podium.

“We were pretty loose there for a while,” Hoar said. “I think we finished fourth here once last year. This afternoon we are in the top three and who knows, when we come back next month (June 19) we might be a contender to win. Overall, we’re improving the way we run at Oxford and that is satisfying. Now we’ll get ready for Thunder Road and Round 3.”

Finishing sixth through 10th in the ACT race were Travis Adams, Scott Payea, Brent Dragon and T.J. Brackett. Fifteen of the 33 starters finished on the lead lap, while 29 were still running at the conclusion.

Only one caution slowed the pace, coming out on lap 54 for the smoking car of Mark Hayward.

In the ongoing rivalry between ACT drivers and Oxford regulars, it was a 50-50 split in the top five at two apiece. Race winner MacDonald is not an ACT regular.

Heat winners were Scott Luce, Travis Adams, Jay Laquerre, Rickly Rolfe and Tim Brackett.

Fifty-three cars attempted to qualify for 30 starting positions. Three provisional starting spots were awarded, two for ACT drivers and one for the highest non-qualified Oxford regular. The list of notable drivers who failed to qualify for the 150 included defending race winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr., seven-time ACT champion Jean-Paul Cyr, 1994 Oxford 250 winner Derek Lynch and Thunder Road veteran Jamie Fisher. Seventeen of the 33 starters were Maine natives.

In earlier support division action, Skipp Tripp (Strictly Stock); Jimmy Childs (Mini Stock); Jamie Heath (Renegade), Vannah Brackett (Ladies), Corey Williams (Truck); David Childs (Outlaw) and Troy Jordan (Runnin’ Rebels) started their 2010 seasons with feature wins.

Oxford’s three Championship Series classes (Late Model, Strictly Stock and Mini Stock) and two Wednesday night Acceleration Series divisions will be back in action next Saturday on fan appreciation night.