OXFORD — He has without argument turned more laps on paved ovals than a majority of drivers now competing in Maine on a weekly basis. It started when he was just a teenager, and he’s still out winning races and having a good time.
Longtime northeastern short-track veteran Dale Shaw outfoxed TJ Brackett on a mid-race restart, survived two more cautions and pulled away to claim the inaugural Pro Late Model feature Sunday afternoon at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Kurt Hewins (Street Stock), Rob Greenleaf (Mini Stock), and Corey Morgan (Outlaw Sportsman) were also feature winners on the first day of competition for Oxford’s weekly Championship Series classes.
Brackett, a second-generation driver from Buckfield, led the first 21 laps after starting on the pole. He chased Shaw to the finish but settled for second, while Oxford veteran Tommy Ricker finished right where he started in third. Two-time Oxford champion Tim Brackett and New Hampshire-based driver Aaron Ricker completed the top five.
“The guys gave me a pretty good car today,” Shaw said. “I had fun out there; it feels like old times with the great history we have here. I really like this new division; the cars have plenty of power and these Hoosiers have great traction. I look forward to racing here every week.”
Shaw has been racing at Oxford since the late 1980s, and won the NASCAR Busch North Series title driving the Skoal Bandit for Quint Boisvert in 1994. These days, Shaw is also known as a top-notch chassis builder and spends a great deal of time assistng his son DJ’s PASS North race program.
Finishing sixth through 10th in the first points race of 2013 were Chris Coolidge, Adam Polvinen, Kevin Douglass, Donnie Wentworth and Bill Penfold. Five cautions slowed the pace, all for minor incidents.
Penfold, another longtime short track veteran with Busch North experience, still knows the fast way around Oxford. With former NASCAR champion Kelly Moore competing in last Sunday’s PASS race, along with Shaw and Penfold in this week’s weekly show, it feels like old times at Oxford.
Oxford newcomer Tommy Stilphen made a solid debut in Pro Late Models Sunday. The 14-year-old from Arundel, and is getting assistance from PASS veteran Trevor Sanborn this season, and it’s already paying dividends with a respectbale 11th-place finish.
In earlier feature action, Hewins, the three-time champion from Leeds, picked up right where he left off in 2012 with a wire-to-wire victory in a 30-lap tussle for the Street Stocks. All eyes were on Matt Williams as he charged through the field to claim second, while Zach Emerson finished third. Ryan Robbins of Dixfield ran a smart race to claim fourth, while Auburn’s Mike Short came home fifth.
“It’s pretty easy when you start up front,” a modest Hewins said in Victory Lane. “I have two great car owners that make this possible, and they bring a host of great sponsors we’re proud to represent. My crew works hard on the car; it drove like a dream today and I’m thrilled to start 2013 with another win.”
Greenleaf is the defending Mini Stock champion and has experience on the Northeast Mini Stock tour. His wire-to-wire victory Sunday wasn’t without challenge, as Oxford veterans Calvin Rose Jr. and Pete McCollett both tried to run him down. The two settled for second and third respectively, while Justin Larsen and Shane Kaherl rounded out the top five. Only one quick caution slowed the pace in 30 laps.
“The car is going good; I like these Hoosiers (ties) a lot better than the Goodyears,” Greenleaf said. “I really like it here, it’s a great place to race with strong competition and loyal fans. It’s a lot of fun.”
Greenleaf hauls from West Bath to compete at Oxford, a lengthy commute for even a racer. Yet he’s made a home at Oxford, forcing his competitors to step up their programs if they hope to prevail.
Morgan won a crash-free 25-lap debut for the new Outlaw Sportsman division. The veteran from Lewiston led every lap and held off a hard-charging Kyle Hewins for top honors, while Auburn’s Kyle Treadwell was solid in third. Mike Haynes and Fred Clavet completed the top five.
“I knew Kyle had a strong car today, so I didn’t waste any time when the green flag waved,” Morgan said. “I wanted to get the best jump possible without drawing a black flag. Once I got out there, it was time to hit my marks and bring it on home. I’m thrilled we could start this new season with a win.”