OXFORD – Terry Merrill took the lead from David Vaughn on lap eight and drove away to a convincing victory in the Stanley Excavation 100 Saturday night at Oxford Plains Speedway.
The event was Round 1 for the Limited Sportsman portion of the 2006 Cole-Man’s Concrete Iron Man Triple Crown Series.
Kenny Harrison, the man synonymous with success in this division, had nothing for Merrill and finished a distant second. David Tripp battled with Harrison and Steve Bennett Sr. for most of the race and settled for third, while Bennett wound up fourth. OPS veteran Tommy Ricker was never a threat to lead but claimed fifth.
“We finally hit the set-up on this car last week,” explained Merrill. “I really like these 100-lap races; I wish we could run them every week. The car was getting faster and faster as the race wore on. It was a real pleasure to drive out there tonight.”
Finishing sixth through 10th was Carey Martin, Shane Green, Matt Williams, Bruce Helmuth and Vaughn. Only two cautions slowed the pace, and seven cars finished on the lead lap. The race topped off a night that saw the entire program run off in two and one-half hours.
“I probably waited too long to mount a challenge,” said Harrison. “We started in the back and came all the way to second, so I’m happy. The car has all the fenders on it. It ran smoothly and we’ll get ready to try for a win next week.”
Harrison said he skipped a week of racing to enjoy a new boat, but was glad to be back in action.
Dale Verrill, Butch Keene, Kurt Hewins, Chris Coolidge and Jeff Taylor were also feature winners on cool but pleasant night for racing at the storied 3/8 mile oval.
In early action, Verrill got the jump on a lap-37 restart and held off Bill Childs Jr. to win the Agren Appliance Late Model Stock feature. Childs led the first 35 laps under green-flag conditions, building a healthy lead over second place Mike Ferguson of Rangeley.
Verrill battled side-by-side with Jim Duguay for the opening 15 laps. Sebago’s Jon Brill came from seventh on the 18-car grid to finish third, while former champions Travis Adams and Dennis Spencer Jr. rounded out the top five. Duguay faded to eighth at the finish.
Keene held off a hard-charging Larry Melcher to capture the 30-lap Mini Stock feature. The Turner resident took the lead on lap two and outgunned the current points leader to earn top honors. Adam Polvinen, the hottest rookie in 2006, finished third, while Oxford veteran Jim Childs and Dave Mooney completed the top five.
Hewins dominated the caution-free Strictly Stock A feature while OPS veteran Sumner Sessions and Jason Gaboury provided the best side-by-side battle. Gaboury came from 10th on the grid to finish a strong second, while Sessions settled for third. Wilton’s Justin Karkos drove from outside the top 10 to claim fourth, while Mark Bowie was fifth.
Coolidge picked up his first feature win of 2006 in the Strictly Stock A feature. The Norway driver and fan favorite held off a late bid by Roy Weymouth for top honors in a hard-fought battle. Kim Tripp started third on the 18-car grid and held his ground to finish in the same spot, while BJ Chapman was fourth and Ben Tinker of Gray finished fifth. Again the Strictly Stock gang went wire-to-wire without a caution.
Taylor took the lead from former TD Banknorth 250 winner and polesiter Gary Drew on lap 31 and drove away to win the Oxford Networks Pro Stock feature. The eight-time OPS track champion pulled away from Center Conway, New Hampshire’s Andy Shaw in the late going to record his 64th career win at Oxford.
“We didn’t have anything for Jeff tonight, but the car was running great tonight. When that guy gets out front, you run as hard as you can and hope he slips,” said Shaw. “I’m just thrilled to get this car running like it should and nailed down a top five.”
Only six drivers in speedway history have won more features than Taylor. Ricky Rolfe came from deep in the field to finish third while Tommy Tompkins, fresh from his Strictly Stock race, jumped into his Pro Stock and drove to a solid fourth.
Former Late Model Stock regular Ricky Morse completed the top five.