Staples, Hewins share top honors

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OXFORD – Chris Staples and Kurt Hewins took top honors in their respective divisions Saturday night as Oxford Plains Speedway kicked off a Memorial Day weekend racing doubleheader.

Staples took the lead from from Oxford veteran Dana Grover on lap 28 and survived a late restart to capture his third straight Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Modified division feature, while Hewins drove to victory in the Strictly Stock 100, postponed two weeks earlier by rain. The extra-distance event was part of the 2006 Cole-Man’s Concrete Iron Man Triple Crown Series.

Staples is the only driver to win a PASS Modified event at Oxford, as the Brunswick resident captured both appearances by the open-wheel division in 2005. Grover hung on for second while Jason Taylor of Searsmont finished third. Dale Cullivan, of Palermo, a warrant officer in the United States Army and just back from a stint in Iraq, claimed fourth, while Jeremy McCormick completed the top five.

“That’s the hardest I’ve ever had to work in a race car,” explained Staples. “I didn’t think we were going to get around him. It was a tough fight, but he ran me clean and it sure feels good to have come out on top.”

Finishing sixth through 10th was Dana Reed, Dennis Scribner, Troy Morse, Steve Bennett Jr. of Buckfield and Greg Ellis. Three cautions slowed the pace, none for serious incidents. Grover was disappointed with second place but happy to come away unscathed.

“I thought we were going to pull it off,” he said. “Chris got me on the outside, I got a little loose and just couldn’t hold him off. I love racing at this place, and I’m satisfied with how we ran.”

Hewins pulled off an incredible win as he slid backwards across the start-finish line. Just as the leaders came out of Turn 4, several cars came together and a major collision ensued.

The Farmington resident got spun around into the infield, yet managed to collect his thoughts and cross the line.

“I can’t believe we pulled that one off,” he explained in Victory Lane. “I figured we had a chance when Tommy started smoking and having trouble. To win a second week in a row means a lot, but believe it or not I’m taking next week off.”

Tompkins hung on for second despite his ailing machine, while Turner’s Guy Childs finished third. Zach Emerson successfully dodged all the carnage and drove his way up to fourth, while Jeff Moon completed the top five. Finishing sixth through 10th was Jeff Merrill, early leader Mike Short, Justin Karkos, Ben Tinker and Don Harvey.

Danny Morris, David Vaughn, Shawn Martin and ageless Al Hammond were also feature winners on a beautiful evening for racing at the 3/8 mile oval.

In early action, Morris took the lead for good from Larry Melcher on lap 21 and drove away to an easy victory in the 30-lap Mini Stock feature. The defending champion from Auburn first took over the point from Jim Robbins on lap four and controlled the pace for 11 circuits.

Melcher edged Morris on the restart following the event’s lone caution period and led the next four laps. Jim Childs came from ninth on the grid to finish second, while Melcher faded to third. Last week’s winner Butch Keene and Bill Thibeault completed the top five.

Vaughn held off a hard-charging Kenny Harrison to claim the 35-lap Limited Sportsman feature. The battle of the race was between last week’s winner Terry Merrill and multi-time champion Carey Martin. The Denmark resident (Martin) prevailed in a thrilling battle for third, while David Tripp of Oxford rounded out the top five. Only one caution slowed the pace in this highly-competitive contest.

Martin returned to Victory Lane in the Agren Appliance Late Model Stock feature. The 2004 division champion and Aroostock county native held off another former champion, Dennis Spencer Jr., for top honors. In a race where former title holders reigned supreme, 2003 LMS champion Travis Adams finished third. Turner’s Glen Luce and Jim Duguay of Greene completed the top five. Two cautions slowed the pace, the second of which waved for a pile-up on the frontstretch.

Hammond earned his 81st career victory in an exciting and totally unpredictable Oxford Networks Pro Stock feature.

Former TD Banknorth 250 winner Gary Drew controlled the first 35 laps, then was taken out by a lapped car shortly after. Hammond took over the point and held off a late-race charge from Jeremy Whorff to seal the win.

Scott Moore came from 17th on the grid to claim third, while Scott King fought off Chris Kennison for fourth. Three cautions slowed the pace, none for serious incidents. Hammond has been a fixture at Oxford for four decades, and continues to win in his early 60s.

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