After a long and snowy winter that lingered into mid-April, race fans in central and western Maine will finally get their much-needed fix this weekend with a rare spring doubleheader.
Winter-like precipitation and temperatures last Sunday are forcing officials at Oxford Plains Speedway to host an unplanned twin-bill, featuring the season opener for weekly Championship Series teams on Saturday and the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150 on Sunday.
Reigning Super Late Model champion Alan Tardiff will begin his title defense Saturday. The Lyman native led the point standings for much of 2017, yet barely edged two-time Pro Late Model champion TJ Brackett of Buckfield in a tie-breaker that came down to the number of second place finishes one each earned.
“We’re planning to go after another championship,” Tardiff said. “There was plenty to do during the offseason; mounting a new body and the maintenance it takes to prepare for a new season. The same crew is intact, the car is ready and I’m anxious to get things started again.”
Once again the schedule will be highlighted by the Oxford 250, with this year’s 45th annual tilt set for Sunday, Aug. 26. As witnessed by the number of entries and level of competition last year, the 250 has returned to its former glory as one of the nation’s premier short track races for Super Late Models.
Other notable events on Oxford’s 2018 schedule include a return of the Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Models.
The touring series founded by the late Tom Curley and now owned by former racer Cris Michaud and business partner Pat Malone rolls back into western Maine on Sunday, May 20, for a doubleheader with PASS North. The ACT warriors will return on Saturday, Aug. 25, for a 100-lap battle the night before the 250.
Former Street Stock regular Bryce Mains will begin an exciting new adventure Saturday. The Bridgton native has moved into the premier Super Late Model class for 2018, driving the No. 77 entry for car owner Rodney Williams.
“This has been coming together since last June,” Mains said. “One of my sponsors had asked about the cost of building a new Street Stock. I told them about this Late Model that Rodney owns, and the decision was made to update that car instead and make the big move.”
Mains knows he has a steep learning curve ahead, yet he also feels he has what it takes to meet the challenge. A loyal group of partners, veteran racers willing to help and the right attitude should ease his stress level this summer.
“We stripped the car down to the bare chassis and rebuilt it completely,” Mains added. “It’s a Jeff Taylor car from Distance Racing, so I know it has potential to be fast. I’ve also got some great people around me to that are willing to offer guidance. I can’t thank all of them enough for that help.
“The basics are all the same, but the number of adjustments you can make and getting the whole package correct is so key. My crew chief and I will work hard to get it figured out. I have the goal of winning Rookie of the Year honors in Super Late Models and feel a top-10 finish in points is within our reach. I know we’re up against tall odds, but we should have a decent shot at it.”
Gabe Brown, the aspiring young driver from Center Conway, New Hampshire, was impressive last summer in a part-time SLM effort at Oxford. In 2018, he’ll be competing full-time. Brown is a student of the sport, studying from his well-known neighbors, the legendary Shaw family.
“Our plan is to race every week at Oxford this year,” Brown said. “We figured racing full-time will give me more valuable seat time, so I’ll now have a better idea of how to handle 250 weekend.
“Last year, it was a major struggle. We just didn’t have the crew we usually have on hand. This year, we’re going into it as prepared as possible with crew members and equipment.”
Having dependable help is huge for any race team, especially in Super Late Models at Oxford.
“I worked hard all winter to get a crew together,” the 15-year-old Brown said. “I’m pretty excited about it. We also purchased a second car, so we now have our weekly car and one for PASS races. I’m really hoping we can earn a couple of victories this year. We are racing for wins in 2018, and nothing else.”
Leading the charge into Sunday’s PASS North race is New Hampshire native Derek Griffith. The rising star from Hudson won the PASS North season opener on April 8 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut.
Griffith also won the Carolina Clash 200 at Dillon Speedway in South Carolina back in February and is leading the current PASS National point standings.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Oxford again,” Griffith said. “The runs we have had already have been impressive to me even. We already have as many PASS wins as we did last year. It’s just such a great feeling. We’re hoping to convert this momentum into a good finish on Sunday.”
Qualifying heats for Saturday’s Championship Series opener roll off at 4 p.m., while preliminary races for Sunday’s PASS North Series Honey Badger 150 are set to begin at 2 p.m.