OXFORD – When Jeremie Whorff crossed the finish line at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday evening, it was easily the biggest moment of his career.

After failing to qualify the last two years, the Topsham driver had worked harder to prepare for this one than anybody in the region. And it all paid big dividends, as the young hotshot drove to victory in the prestigious TD Banknorth 250.

And to top it all off, Jeremie’s father, Bill, followed him across the line in second place. It was a repeat performance from earlier this month, but this time there was a whole lot more at stake. Former Oxford regular Sam Sessions, who had completely rebuilt his engine the previous night, came home third. PASS regular Scott Mulkern finished fourth, the last car on the lead lap.

“My crew was talking to me on the radio, keeping me calm, and it all just came together for us this time,” said Jeremie Whorff. “Our pit strategy worked well, and we were able to stay out front when it counted. This is unreal, I never really thought this could happen. I hope dad is as tired as I am, because I’m wore out. My crew worked hard to make this happen, and I’m thrilled to win it for them.”

After a caution-plagued first half, the final 90 laps were run under green-flag conditions. Working through lapped traffic presented problems for some, but Whorff made it look easy. His father was thrilled to see his son enjoying the spoils of victory.

“The last couple of years we’ve really struggled in this thing,” said Bill Whorff. “We knew we had good cars, but something always happened. To come here like this and beat the best of the best, it feels fantastic.

“I’m real proud of Jeremie, he has worked hard on his program, and its good to see him succeed. I tried hard to catch Jeremie there in the closing laps, in fact I burnt my right-front tire up some and had to be careful not to lose second place. This is just a perfect way for it to turn out for us tonight.”

The winner led 116 laps in the event, and his payday was a healthy $36,600. The 22-year-old driver held off his 44-year-old father on the night when everybody was watching. A fitting end to a race that saw driver after driver fall by the wayside.

Jim Childs, Larry Emerson, Jeff Merrill and Terry Merrill were also feature winners on the biggest day of the season for the historic western Maine oval.

At the drop of the green flag, polesitter Dale Shaw led the 40-car field into Turn 1, with Jeremie Whorff and two-time race winner Ben Rowe hot on his back bumper. After an early caution, Ben Rowe asserted himself and took over the point with a strong outside move around Shaw. His time at the front was short-lived, however, as he got caught up in a Turn-4 wreck just as he caught up with the tail end of the field. Damage to his machine was severe and his night was over prematurely.

Jeremie Whorff inherited the lead, but Shaw powered by shortly after the restart and continued to set a blistering pace. For Whorff, just being in the event was like a dream come true. After failing to qualify in past years, the young hotshot from Topsham was now battling for the lead against one of New England’s top regional stars.

After a rash of cautions, Shaw started to build a sizable lead, while Whorff, Canadian star Patrick Laperle and defending race winner Mike Rowe gave chase. Eight-time OPS track champion Jeff Taylor turned up the wick a notch at lap 60, powering around the outside of Laprele to take over the third position. His impressive run continued as he drove by Whorff for second, and by lap 75 he had caught Shaw.

Several of the front runners chose to hit pit road at lap 78 when Chuck Lachance spun out in Turn 2. Shaw and defending champion Mike Rowe stayed out, choosing track position over fresh rubber. On the ensuing restart, Shaw took off with Whorff in tow, then Rowe made a power move to the outside and took over the point on the 82nd circuit. Shaw headed for an unscheduled pit stop on lap 86, ending his hopes of winning on this night.

Just as the race approached the halfway mark and it looked like Rowe had the event well under control, the veteran from Turner made contact with Scott Chubbuck in Turn 3 and spun out of contention. As a capacity crowd reacted in disbelief, Chubbuck assumed the lead and prepared for the restart. Chubbuck had won the most recent Pro All-Stars Series (PASS) race at White Mountain Motorsports Park and had momentum on his side.

After his strong run here in 2005, NASCAR star Kyle Busch was serious about winning this time around. The Las Vegas native drove around the outside of Chubbuck to take over the lead on lap 117, bringing the crowd to its feet. Caution flew for the seventh time of the evening on lap 127, and Busch took the opportunity to pit for service. This handed the lead back to Jeremie Whorff, and he was happy to have it.

Chubbuck’s night came to an abrupt end on lap 142 when the engine let go on his machine. Yet again, one of the strong contenders saw his hopes go up in smoke in an instant. Not to be outdone, Taylor saw his hopes go away in a heartbeat just a short time later. OPS veteran Ricky Rolfe, the driver who won the Rookie of the Year and Pro Stock championship here in 2003, slammed the wall coming off Turn 4 and collected the eight-time champion. Running second behind Whorff at the time, you could almost hear Taylor’s sigh of disgust as he climbed out of his battered machine. For a race that was billed as possibly the most competitive in recent years, the attrition rate was starting to get mighty high.

Just after a lap 147 restart, Kyle Busch set his sights on leader Jeremie Whorff. After trying on the bottom for several laps, the NASCAR star finally snuck by and into the lead on lap 156. Just as it had happened to so many before him, the fickle finger of fate pointed its ugly self at Busch just three circuits later – the engine had expired beneath the hood of his SP2-built entry sending him directly to the garage area for good.

When the green flag came back out, Whorff set sail once again – only this time, his father was tucked in behind in second place. Only the lapped car of Trevor Sanborn sat between the father-son team from Topsham. After a dozen caution periods plagued the event, things settled down for a while as the Whorffs tried to run away and hide. At this juncture of the race, only the top five automobiles remained on the lead lap. What was billed as one of the most talented field of drivers in recent years was quickly turning into a crash-fest.

In earlier feature action, Childs picked up his third Mini Stock feature victory this month. The Leeds native and current points leader drove underneath early leader Don Frechette on lap 18 and hung on to post the win. Rookie sensation Adam Polvinen of Minot made a late-race charge but settled for second, while defending champion Danny Morris of Auburn was third. Rounding out the top five was Butch Keene of Turner and Frechette.

Emerson drove to victory in the caution-plagued Strictly Stock B feature. The Durham driver, who has won in just about every division ever raced at Oxford, grabbed the point from early leader Rick Thompson on lap six and set it on cruise control from there. Roy Weymouth snuck by Thompson in the late going for second, while Bobby DiPompo and Jerry Freve finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Jeff Merrill held off and hard-charging Ben Tinker to earn the Strictly Stock A division feature. The Roxbury native led wire-to-wire in one of the cleanest features of the afternoon. Tinker dogged him until the very end but fell just short, while Skip Tripp finished third. Tommy Tompkins of Dixfield and Auburn’s Mike Short completed the top five. Just one caution slowed the pace, that for cleanup of fluid put down by Mike St. Germain’s disabled automobile.

Terry Merrill came out on top of the afternoon’s most hotly-contested feature, a 35-lap affair for the Limited Sportsman division. The Saco driver fought tooth-and-nail for the lead against Saturday night victor Brian McClure. In a race that saw eight lead changes, McClure hung on for second while OPS veteran Shane Green finished third. Early leader David Vaughn faded slightly and came home fourth, while David Tripp was fifth. Only two cautions slowed the pace, neither for serious incidents.

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