OXFORD – If Ricky Craven didn’t know better, he might have been convinced it was the early 1990s again.

As the Newburgh native looked around Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday, he saw names like Dion and Rowe. They were the same ones he saw when he was a young spark plug hooked on motorsports. They were also the same drivers he raced against as he began making his own name on the track.

“It’s amazing,” said Craven. “It’s the same Oxford Plains Speedway. Maybe it’s different for everyone looking (at me), but for me, the view is the same. It’s a very difficult racetrack, but it’s a track that I excelled on because of my driving style. I’ve always enjoyed the track when you tend to slide around. Oxford is more discipline than it is aggression.”

Craven was thrilled to be back, competing in a race he won in 1991. It was the pressure of qualifying for the 250 that helped prepare him for bigger and better things, he says, but Sunday’s race was a chance to pay tribute to his roots.

“I sort of wanted to relive those experiences, but I wanted to give back to the fans and say thanks by coming home and racing,” Craven said. “I actually feel bad. It’s been too long.”

Craven couldn’t help but feel a bit sentimental as he looked around and saw many of the same names that were staples to his introduction to the sport.

“I spent some time with the Dion brothers yesterday,” said Craven. “They’re good guys. They actually helped me a lot without even knowing it.

“And if you’re going to put somebody with the track in terms of being synonymous, it’s Mike Rowe. He just flat out owns Oxford Plains Speedway. He did when I was a kid, which was a long time ago, and he still does. “

Craven said he was just trying to enjoy his appearance Sunday, shaking off any of the pressure he once felt trying to qualify. When asked what his qualifying draw was, Craven said he didn’t know and really didn’t care.

“At 40 years of age, I’ve learned to not worry about things I can’t control,” he said. “So drawing a pill out of a bucket is absolutely nothing that anybody can control. So I prepared myself to be last. So anything else would be an improvement.”

Craven started ninth in the second heat. He spun out John Phippen early in the race, but when he made a move to sneak into the top four, he wiped out along with Dion.

With adjustments made to his steering, Craven was well behind the pack in the first consolation race. He left the track during a caution on the seventh lap. He returned and moved up to eighth but was forced to the last-chance race.

“Maybe it will work against me, but I’m pretty darn relaxed,” said Craven. “I came in to enjoy myself, and I’ve done that.”

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