OPS: Rolfe wins opening-night thriller

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OXFORD — A night of see-you-later gave way to did-you-see-that Friday in the Late Model main event on Oxford Plains Speedway’s opening night.

Leader T.J. Brackett spun in the first turn on the final lap, ending an intense battle with Ricky Rolfe and seven other drivers and handing two-time track champion Rolfe the 40-lap victory.

“T.J. really should have won that race,” Rolfe said. “He was better than I was. I couldn’t keep the car on the bottom. It was too loose.”

Rolfe took the early lead from Brackett but handed it back shortly after the lone restart on lap 21.

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While Rolfe’s car slid sideways several times as the leaders charged out of the fourth corner, Brackett couldn’t muster quite enough speed to pull all the way in front.

That made it a side-by-side battle the rest of the way, with Ben Ashline and Jeff White joining the fray in the outside lane and Martin, Corey Morgan and Dave Farrington Jr. keeping touch down low.

Ashline and Don Wentworth went to the high side and into the dirt to avoid the spinning Brackett, shuffling the finishing order.

Martin moved up to second, followed by White and Morgan. Ashline held onto fifth.

“Fireworks in the pits and good racing out here,” said White. “That’s what we like.”

With no season points abailable to handicap the cars and drivers, all divisions relied on a pre-race draw and heat finishes to set the field.

That made for no close finishes in supporting action. Kurt Hewins, Adam Polvinen, Josh Childs and Guy Childs all cruised to victory.

Hewins, who won 10 of 16 races and the Strictly Stock title last season, dominated his 10-lap heat and 30-lap main.

“It’s easy when you start up front,” Hewins said. “There are a lot of good cars this year. Matt (Williams) was going good.”

Williams won the duel for second with Larry Emerson after Jim Davis Jr. departed with mechanical ills. Skip Tripp was fourth, with Zach Emerson edging rookie Vanna Brackett for fifth.

Two-time division champion Jimmy Childs threatened to put his extended family in victory lane for the third time on the evening, leading the first 13 laps of the 30-lap Mini Stock scramble.

Sparks began to fly from the rear of Childs’ car shortly after a lap 8 restart, however. And while it didn’t slow his car much, the telltale sign was enough to summon the black flag from track officials.

Childs’ departure from the lead pack left new leader Adam Polvinen with nobody in his tire tracks en route to a convincing win.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen after practice,” Polvinen said, “but we got it done.”

The toughest battle was for second, with Calvin Rose Jr. holding a car-length advantage over Darrell Moore before Moore’s car fell off the pace over the final five laps.

“I’m pretty tired. I’m already doing double duty tonight,” said Rose, who is campaigning for rookie of the year in Late Model.

The Childs family’s domination of Outlaw competition ran even deeper than Guy and great-nephew Josh’s feature wins.

Mike Childs led the first seven circuits of the 20-lap opener before Billy Childs Jr. took temporary command.

Caution slowed the field for the second time on the halfway lap, and mechanical issues sent Billy to the garage area. That’s when defending division champion Josh inherited the top spot.

He faced no serious challenges after the ensuing restart, pocketing his 15th feature win at the start of only his third year in  the division.

“It was going good. I saw Billy coming up there,” Josh Childs said. “It’s too bad he couldn’t have stayed out there. We could have gone one-two, maybe.”

Dan Brown and Jerry Freve picked their way from deep in the field to finish second and third, with Thom Bell and Scott Hethcoat in tow.

Guy Childs brings plenty of skill and more than 30 years experience to the track every summer weekend.

He’s happy to benefit from  the luck of the draw when it furnishes itself, too. Childs drew the pole position for the second 20-lap Outlaw segment, won it by a half-lap … and probably scared everyone when he cautioned that the car could have behaved better.

“It was a little loose,” Childs said. “I don’t know if there was stuff on the race track or what. But I guess I did it.”

John Patria withstood late-race pressure from Addison Bowie to run second. Ryan Robbins and Dennis Morang completed the top five in a caution-free sprint.

koakes@sunjournal.com

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