OXFORD — After a long and snowy winter that lingered into early April, race fans in central and western Maine will finally return to the oval Sunday as Oxford Plains Speedway opens its 68th consecutive season with the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Speedway Homes 150.
Due to a late-season snow storm, the PASS North drivers opened their 2017 campaign a week later than originally scheduled on Sunday, April 9, during the 43rd annual Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway.
Two-time Oxford 250 winner Eddie MacDonald won the opener after a spirited battle with defending series champion DJ Shaw and 14-year-old sensation Eddie Fatscher of East Northport, New York.
Among the highlights on Oxford’s 2017 schedule are five races for PASS North, highlighted by the 44th annual Oxford 250 on Sunday, Aug. 27. Along with Sunday’s 150-lap tilt, other PASS North race dates include July 2 (The Open, no points), July 30, and the finale on October 14.
Oxford’s weekly Championship Series program gets under way on Sunday, May 7. Buckfield native Tim Brackett will seek a third consecutive and fifth career title in Super Late Models after earning the crown in 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2016. His son TJ, a two-time points champion (2013-14) will also return this season.
“It will be tough to pull off three in a row, but that is the goal,” Brackett said. “You have to be not only fast but consistent each week and take the best finish possible, which isn’t always easy.
“This year, the competition will be pretty fierce. TJ hit on something late last year and will be fast again, and young guys like Kyle (Treadwell) and Shawn (Knight) are always fast. All of those guys in our class are quick today.”
Brackett will attempt to qualify for Sunday’s PASS 150 along with TJ. Planning for the bigger races takes a different approach, one the weekly specialist sees as a challenge.
“We’re putting a little extra effort into preparing for the PASS races,” he said. “Getting the car to stay free and handle well until the finish is the goal, and tires are everything. It’s all about finding the right balance and keeping it all race long.”
Oxford’s premier Super Late Model division highlights weekly action. Those looking to challenge Brackett in 2017 include Treadwell, Knight, two-time track champion Shawn Martin, 2016 Street Stock champion Calvin Rose, Jr., who steps up to the big cars, and Travis Dunbar (in the No. 6 Autism Awareness entry).
Among those to watch in the highly-competitive Street Stock class is Matt Dufault, of Turner. The veteran driver with mechanical skills to match won seven (one was a Northeast Street Stock Tour show) races in 2016 and has his sights on the title.
“There will be a lot of good cars in our class this season,” Dufault said. “The Kings have built a new car, Kyle Hewins has a rebuilt car, and of course Matt Williams is always strong. Those guys say they are running part-time, but we’ll have to see. I think Billy Childs Jr. is the one you’ll have to go through for the crown.”
Zach Emerson is one veteran ready for the challenge, as are Lisbon’s Richard Spaulding, Jordan Russell and a host of others.
In the entry-level Bandit class, reigning champion Jamie Heath of Waterford will cut back to a partial schedule as he goes after the Northeast Mini Stock Tour (NEMST) crown in 2017. Other drivers busy preparing for a new season include Addie McDaniel and Chachy Hall.
With the retirement of multi-time champion Jon Lizotte, the door is wide open for a new King to take command in the Figure 8 class.
Two drivers with the skills and equipment to win races and contend for the crown are Kyle Kilgore and Eric Hodgkins. Both gave Lizotte all he could handle on several occasions in 2016.
Oxford’s weekly Acceleration Series program kicks off on Wednesday, June 14. In the headline Outlaw class, George Haskell and Dean Hanscom are among the many who’ll return to compete. Haskell got the monkey off his back with a victory last summer and could contend for the points crown in 2017.
Along with Shaw, other favorites in Saturday’s PASS North field are Ben Rowe (who finished second to Preston Peltier by .117 seconds in last Saturday’s Easter Bunny 150 in Hickory, North Carolina) Jay’s Dave Farrington Jr., (who is also running in PASS South with Woodman Racing this year), New Hampshire natives Derek Griffith and Joey Polewarczyk Jr., and Turner’s Glen Luce, Travis Benjamin and Joey Doiron.
Qualifying races for the Speedway Homes 150 get under way Sunday at 2 p.m.