OXFORD — The prestige of the AIM Recycling Oxford 250 is such that even the underdogs are masters of their craft.
Take Dave Farrington of Jay, for example. The 23-year-old owns a NASCAR track championship at Beech Ridge, a Coastal 200 victory at Wiscasset, four consecutive successful starts in Oxford’s nationally renowned race, and an engineering degree from the University of Maine.
He’s also one of a select few across the country anointed by the Alan Kulwicki Driver Devlopment Program, launched in memory of another engineer who privateered all the way to racing’s highest level. Yet ask an insider to rattle off the names of 10, 15, even 20 names of potential winners Sunday night, and Farrington might not be one of them.
“Obviously there’s not a lot of people talking about us, so maybe we can be like the Roger Brown (2007) or Jeremie Whorff (2006) who comes here and wins it,” Farrington said. “You’d like to think you could be the Ricky Craven (1991) who uses it a steppingstone to their career.”
Three years ago, Kyle Treadwell of Auburn competed on Oxford 250 weekend for the first time. It was in an Outlaw — the stock division that competes on summer Wednesday nights at the speedway, grooming entry-level and low-budget drivers.
Treadwell’s quantum leap to the elite super late models earned him a 250 starting spot in his first try 13 months ago. Now, trailing only multi-time OPS champion Tim Brackett in the weekly point standings in the top division, he’s one of the local drivers who hope to parlay their combination of speed and familiarity with the finicky track surface into the victory of a lifetime.
“Yeah, I definitely think we’re the underdog, for sure,” Treadwell said. “I think confidence-wise, if you’re running well, it’s an advantage running here weekly. But those tour guys, they run different tracks all the time, so they’re used to constant change and long races.”
Other drivers who compete primarily at one Maine short track and are capable of pulling off a stunner Sunday night, other than Farrington, Treadwell and Tim Brackett, include Shawn Knight, Shawn Martin, T.J. Brackett, Alan Wilson, Scott Robbins, Reid Lanpher and Garrett Hall.
Since Gary Drew, Robbins and Whorff all won the race in a six-year span, all 250 winners have represented a tour, including ACT (Brown and Joey Polewarczyk), PASS (Travis Benjamin twice), NASCAR K&N East (Eddie MacDonald twice) and NASCAR Sprint Cup (Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch).
Farrington fits into the have-car, will-travel mold of MacDonald. While he runs fourth behind Lanpher, Hall and Robbie Harrison in defense of his NASCAR Pro Series title at Beech Ridge, he also runs with ACT and PASS when time allows.
His biggest career long-distance win to date was the 200-lap special at Wiscasset this year on Memorial Day weekend, although even that story exhibits the uphill climb the locals face.
“That was a big deal for us. Really our pit crew guys were some sponsors that we have, guys that really love racing,” Farrington said. “We pulled a group of guys together, and I honestly didn’t know everybody that was on the crew at that point. They did a great job.”
When a caution flag a few laps shy of halfway narrowly prevented Farrington from losing a lap to the leader, that makeshift crew fueled up the car and changed two tires.
The rest of the lead pack pitted later. Once Farrington inherited the lead, nobody could run him down.
“It brought the car right to life,” Farrington said. “It was the difference, I think, in winning that race.”
Farrington’s team hasn’t pitted a car in a pressure situation since that evening, and he said they likely won’t practice before the main event Sunday.
Treadwell’s experience as a driver in feature longer than 50 laps is exactly two races — last year’s 250, and a 150-lap PASS tune-up at his home track Aug. 2.
He and the Brackett family — including his girlfriend, Vanna, third in OPS super late model points — usually share personnel and tools while preparing for a Saturday night show. There will be no such luxury if they all make Sunday’s cut and have to pit at the same time.
“We practiced a little bit (Tuesday) night. Nothing too serious, but we have the same guys coming back that we had last year, so that helps. Last year our pit stop was terrible. We all laughed about it after, but this year we all want to definitely do better. That’s a huge part,” Treadwell said. “My guys help me out so much during the week. When it comes down to a 50-lap race, it’s on me. With the 250, and two pit stops potentially, it comes down to those guys potentially. And they love it. They’re more part of the team.”
Treadwell said that another ticket into the race and a top-10, lead-lap finish would delight him Sunday.
Based on his experience and resume of titles, Farrington’s aspirations are higher. He finished sixth in 2012, the final year in which the 250 was an ACT late model race, and raced in the 2013 and 2014 PASS showcases.
Last year, he overcame a technical infraction that cost him a top-10 starting position to sneak into the field through the last-chance qualifying race.
“We haven’t had the best of luck with that. We got taken out last year by Daniel Hemric, so every time we see him on TV (in the Camping World Truck Series), we boo,” Farrington said with a laugh.
Although he is not mathematically eliminated from the Beech Ridge title chase with two races remaining, Farrington will run his ACT-legal car, which he considers the PASS backup ride, in Scarborough on Saturday.
That freed up the family-owned team to prepare the super late model solely for Sunday, when his car will be equipped with the Sun Journal’s in-car camera. The footage will be available race day on the newspaper’s web site.
“It’s good. I think we’ve got a better plan coming into this year,” Farrington said. “We already know what car we’re going to run coming into Sunday, which is better than we could say last year.”
Treadwell was little bit torn about how much to adjust his car after finishing a strong second behind Chris Coolidge at OPS this past Saturday night.
“Weekly, you might just bolt on one tire, so if you have a bad week you can blame it on the tire, and then the next week you bolt on two rights and you’re fast,” Treadwell said. “(Tour drivers are) used to making changes on the fly, and I’m not really used to that, because I do run here, and if you have a good run here like we did Saturday you don’t want to change anything.”
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