'I just go there to win' — Veteran drivers undeterred in continuous pursuit of Oxford 250 win

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Cassius Clark remembers being in the stands at Oxford Plains Speedway as a young child, watching his father, Billy, racing in the Oxford 250.

Clark never got to see his dad win the big race, though he did come close in 1987.

Now Clark, who has put together quite a racing career himself, has a son of his own who watches him race. Clark doesn’t want his son to have that void of not seeing his father win the 250, nor does Clark want the void in his well-filled trophy case of not having that missing Oxford 250 winner’s trophy.

“I just go there to win. I mean, that’s a race that either you win or you don’t,” Clark, a Farmington native, said. “We finished third last year, and it’s a decent finish, it was a decent pay day, but other than that it’s not a thing that really makes you feel good, for me personally. It’s something that I’ve wanted to win ever since I started racing, so it’s basically win or die. You know, that’s kind of the attitude I got looking at it.”

Clark is far from the only driver to win everything but the 250, and his number of try-but-fails isn’t the longest one, either.

Buckfield native Tim Brackett has been trying to reel in the big one since 1989, he estimates. He’s won track championships and numerous races, but never the 250.

“Every year you learn that it’s probably a little harder than — you don’t really luck into it, that’s for sure,” Brackett said. “It’s real tough, because I ain’t never done it.”

Like Clark, Brackett has been close before.

“I was fourth in ’99, I believe, or 2000. I’ve been in the top 10 a bunch of times. I think I’ve been in the top five twice, and that’s still a — it’s disappointing, but you feel like you’ve done something,” Brackett said.

Shawn Martin, of Turner, another driver who’s compiled a growing number of 250 starts without a victory, has also tried to find the good in not winning.

“You know, just running that race and having a good finish is spectacular,” Martin said. “I mean, we’ve finished in the top five twice, and that’s just been amazing, getting a chance to race with some really good guys. The first 250 I ran I raced side by side with Dave Dion most of the race, and that was definitely one of the highlights, outside of winning the 250, for me.”

Martin, much like Billy Clark, had one that got away.

“Probably the most frustrating year was the first year that they switched over to late models,” Martin said. “We had a very, very good car, and we led quite a bit of laps that day, and we were coming back through after our pit stop and things were working in our favor, and our ignition wire — we had some zip ties holding our ignition wire, and that melted off, and the ignition wire landed on the header and shut the car down. When stuff like that happens, that’s frustrating.

“That was one of the best cars we’ve ever had in that race.”

Though the trio of Western Maine drivers has yet to put their name in the 250 record books, they all have high hopes for this year.

“I’d say probably more optimistic than I have been in the last few (years),” Brackett said. “A brand-new car. I think we’ve run it, oh, five times now, and we’ve been pretty good three of the times and been out to lunch a couple times, and figured out what the car doesn’t like, I hope.”

Martin is also bringing a new car to Oxford.

“We’ve been trying to figure out what the car needs and what it likes, and what adjustments we need to make. I feel we’re pretty close. Hopefully we get a little closer over the weekend,” Martin said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a car that’s going to rip off one of those fastest laps in practice, but as long as it’s fast on the long run that’s our goal, that’s what we’re after. So as long as we get the car right, and the guys pull off good pit stops, and a little bit of luck, you never know.”

While luck has a place in the 250 — mainly through the draw for heat race starting positions — skill and preparation are equally as important. Clark has been working on both since last year.

“I’ve been champing at the bit after last year’s one in anticipation for this year, and here we are, and I feel like we’re in the position where it’s probably one of the best chances that I’ve had in the number of years that I’ve been racing to pull it off,” Clark said. “So looking forward to it, for sure. I felt like, as a team, we’re really well-prepared, and clicking really well.”

Clark doesn’t want to let another opportunity slip away. There’s been enough of those in the family.

“It would mean as much seeing (my dad) able to see me win it, for sure,” Clark said. “That would be pretty awesome.”

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Farmington native Cassius Clark drives off Turn 4 at Oxford Plains Speedway last season. (Phil Whipple/Sun Journal)Cassius Clark zips down the back stretch below an American flag waving in the breeze during a heat race at the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday. Clark won the heat race and earned the pole position for the main event. (Sun Journal file photo)Tim Brackett of Buckfield in 2013. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)Tim Brackett talks with his daughter, Vanna, in the pits during a race in 2013. The Brackett family took the top three spots in the 2013 Pro Late Model championship. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)Buckfield native Tim Brackett at Oxford 250 media day in 2016. (Wil Kramlich/Sun Journal)Four-time champion Tim Brackett of Buckfield powers off Turn 4 at Oxford Plains Speedway in 2017. (Sun Journal file photo)Shawn Martin powers off Turn 4 at Oxford Plains Speedway in 2017. (Sun Journal file photo)

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