OXFORD – Ask any race car driver what he’d like when his birthday rolls around, and he’ll most likely tell you a victory on the track. For Groveton, N.H.’s Randy Potter, that birthday wish came true in a big way.

Potter, a multi-time track champion at Groveton’s Riverside Speedway, earned the biggest payday of his career Saturday afternoon as he dominated the American Canadian Tour (ACT) New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Potter celebrated his 40th birthday in style with a wire-to-wire victory. Six-time and defending ACT champion Jean Paul Cyr came from 19th on the 33-car grid to finish second, while rising star Joey Polewarczyk powered his way from 24th to third at the finish. Doug Coombs, of Livermore, was the highest finishing Oxford regular with a solid fourth-place run, while North Woodstock, N.H.’s David Avery rounded out the top five.

Tommy Tompkins and Adam Polvinen were also feature winners on opening day at the historic 3/8-mile paved oval. Despite a forecast of showers, the entire card was completed without delay.

Potter had not raced at OPS since 1995, and this was his first career ACT victory.

“I’ve never won a race here at Oxford,” said an elated Potter, “but I’ve always loved the place. This is a brand-new Race Basics chassis, and the car was just flawless. My crew deserves all the credit today. I didn’t do a nut-and-bolt check before I loaded the car, and they found several things that needed tightening. In fact, the drive shaft was ready to come out after qualifying. I made that pass on Eric (polesitter Williams) going into Turn 1, and it was pretty much smooth sailing from there. Track position means everything here.”

The win didn’t come without its scary moments, though. Potter narrowly avoided a spinning Glen Luce in the mid-stages of the event, but never lost his momentum. In these 150-lap contests, lapped traffic is always a factor, and it was no different for Potter.

“I’m not really a patient man, but they kept telling me on the radio to take it easy going through traffic and not to take any foolish risks,” said Potter. “That was hard for me, but it sures paid off to follow their advice. This means so much to me, I can’t thank my team enough for making it all possible.”

Cyr was gracious in defeat, and maintains that he isn’t comfortable at Oxford despite the success he has enjoyed here.

“I didn’t need that last caution, the car tightened up there at the end. I’m happy for Randy, and I’m happy for Rick, my new car owner,” Cyr said. “I wish I could have given him a win, but we were certainly competitive. My goal was to come out of here with a top 10 and have the car in one piece. I guess with second place and a clean car, we made out better than expected.”

Polewarczyk, the young man many feel has a bright future in this sport, came on strong in late 2006 and picked up right where he left off last fall with another solid run.

“It’s good to carry the momentum into this year,” he explained. “I had a new car here today, too, but it’s a Distance car built by Jeff Taylor. We had a little bit of trouble with it earlier, but once we got it back, it ran like a Swiss watch. It’s lighter and more maneuverable than my old car, so it came through traffic pretty easily. It’s just a fantastic way to kick off the new season.”

Finishing sixth through 10th were Cris Michaud, Mike Rowe, Travis Adams, Roger Brown and Ryan Nolin. Fourteen cars finished on the lead lap, and only two cautions slowed the pace. In fact, the entire feature was run in just over 54 minutes, an indication of just how well the ACT and Oxford teams can compete together.

In earlier feature action, sophomore sensation Polvinen went wire-to-wire in the 30-lap Mini Stock tilt. The Oxford resident turned heads in 2006, putting in several strong performances but falling short of a earned victory. Defending champion Jim Childs started dead last on the field, then steadily picked his way to second at the finish. Jay’s Justin Karkos finished third, while Jeff Prindall and Bob Guptill rounded out the top five.

“I needed a win pretty bad,” said Polvinen. “Last year, I ran up front in a lot of races but only picked up a win through another driver’s disqualification. That really didn’t cut it for me, so it feels great to start the year off like this.”

Childs was fortunate to even race on this day, given the mechanical problems that plagued his team.

“We’ve been struggling all day. We had an oil pan leak and just finished repairing it in time,” Childs explained. “It was still leaking a little when we rolled out, I figured I’d be lucky to make four or five laps before they showed me the black flag.

“My oil pressure never dropped, and the car made it to the end. It’s pretty good since I wasn’t even sure we could race.”

Tompkins kicked off his 2007 campaign in fine fashion, surviving a green, white, checkered finish to claim the 30-lap Strictly Stock feature. The Mexico native will also compete in the Late Model division this season, but chose to focus on his Strictly Stock on opening day. Oxford veteran Sumner Sessions had his machine well-tuned, running up front the entire distance and coming home second. Multi-time race winner Larry Emerson finished third, while Auburn’s Mike Short and Rick Thompson completed the top five.

“This is the way it’s supposed to go,” said Tompkins. “Starting out front was definitely an advantage, but the car had to be fast enough to hold them off, too.

“That late restart was a little scary, but it turned out good for us. We’ll take it with pride and get set for next week.”

Sessions made a few minor changes during the off-season, most notably a change to black from the familiar green fans have become used to seeing on the No. 0 machine.

“I don’t think the new paint helped me any, but the car sure did run well. I didn’t know what to expect, we put some tires on it for practice and it about jumped around sideways on me. We changed one tire for the feature, and it was still better but still loose. If somebody like Tommy (Tompkins) is running fast and starts up front, you aren’t going to catch him.”

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