PORTLAND – Call it what you will, but this weekend’s race at Oxford Plains Speedway truly is the dawn of a new day.

For the first time in the modern era, the Late Model Stock is the top machine at the historic 3/8-mile oval.

Gone are the high-priced Pro Stock machines, along with the Limited Sportsman division. What spectators will see on a typical Saturday night at Oxford are qualifying heats (they’re back) and features from three weekly divisions (Oxford Networks Late Model, Strictly Stock, Mini Stock), along with a feature race from one of the entry-level Wednesday night divisions.

“We think this will be an exciting season for a number of reasons,” Oxford President Bill Ryan said. “The changes we’ve made were designed to save teams money, and thus make it easier for them to race. While the Pro Stocks certainly were fast and exciting, they were also becoming very expensive to race. A Late Model is a much more affordable machine, but the speeds and excitement level are very similar. Fans can expect the same thrills they’ve always enjoyed at Oxford, and more drivers now have a chance to win.”

Oxford will kick off the season Saturday afternoon with the New England Dodge Dealers 150. The race is sanctioned by the Vermont-based American Canadian Tour (ACT), bringing touring teams into Oxford to take on the local drivers who compete there every week. Qualifying races begin at 2 p.m.

Seven drivers were on hand at media day to discuss the upcoming season. Tommy Tompkins, Ben Rowe, Shane Green, Dennis Spencer Jr., Travis Adams, Jim Childs and Zach Emerson all weighed in on the changes, and discussed their goals for the new racing season.

Also on hand was ACT President Tom Curley, along with six-time and defending ACT champion Jean Paul Cyr of Milton, Vt. Cyr is a legend in Vermont racing circles, yet says, when he unloads at Oxford this Saturday, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

“Of all the places we run, I think Oxford has the toughest weekly drivers,” Cyr said. “Oxford is a very unique track, so the guys that run it every week have quite an advantage. Yet we’re pretty good at adapting to different layouts and track conditions, so it should be interesting.”

Adams, like Spencer, is a two-time Late Model champion at Oxford and is equally excited about having the Late Models as the top division. The Canton native says the changes for 2007 will make for some great racing, especially for the TD Banknorth 250.

“The Late Models have produced some terrific side-by-side racing in recent years,” he said. “Now, you’ll see some former Pro Stock drivers competing, and maybe some Vermont teams looking to prepare for the 250. Our weekly program will be enhanced, and I’m just thrilled to think I can attempt the Banknorth 250 in the car I run every week.

“This levels the field to where teams with big money should no longer have the advantage, it will come down to driver skill and chassis setup. It’s all in the driver and crew chief’s hands now, and I can’t wait.”

Among the season highlights are the return of the lightning-fast Super Modified machines Saturday, Aug. 18. As for other touring divisions, ACT will also run a 150-lap race in October.

After this weekend’s ACT 150, which is not a points race for local teams, the regular schedule kicks off Saturday, May 5, when the speedway returns to the standard 6:30 p.m. start.

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