OXFORD — All season long, Travis Stearns has been working his way closer and closer to the front.

The young driver from Auburn was a solid 10th in last month’s TD Banknorth 250, but a fifth-place run back in May was his best effort in weekly competition.

Stearns ended the long wait Saturday night. He went wire-to-wire to claim the Oxford Networks Late Model feature at Oxford Plains Speedway. He ran the outside line for 40 caution-free laps, just as Joey Polewarczyk Jr. did en route to his American-Canadian tour victory here back on May 17.

“We thought we had the car all figured out last week,” Stearns said.
“We tore it up, then we were junk today. It’s a good thing we started
near the front, because the car wasn’t great. I was able run off and
hide, which really helped.”

Teenage hotshoe Ben Ashline of Pittston finished second, while Tommy Ricker had the fans on their feet with his late-race charge to third. Ricker was hot off his career-first Late Model victory just 48 hours earlier, and his car was almost as fast. Donnie Wentworth and Jeff White completed the top five.

Finishing sixth through 10th in the Late Model trophy dash was Shawn Martin, Timmy Brackett, Shawn Knight, Travis Adams and Gerald Parlin. Fifteen of the 19 starters finished on the lead lap, while Stearns’ margin of victory was nearly two-and-a-half seconds. With no cautions to slow the pace, the feature took just over 11 minutes to complete.

Dottie Patria, Chris Coolidge, Jim Davis Jr., Steve Barker and Skip
Tripp were also feature winners on a beautiful summer evening for
racing in western Maine.

Patria held off Vannah Brackett to record her fourth win of 2009 in the Ladies division. The Turner native took the lead from Christina Spaulding on lap 15 and survived a four-lap dash to the finish after the event’s only caution. Spaulding settled for third behind Brackett, while Missy Morgan and Shannon Wheeler completed the top five.

Coolidge picked up his first victory of 2009 in the first of two 20-lap tussles for the Outlaw division. The veteran from Norway took the lead from Todd Hall on lap four and easily pulled away for top honors. Doug DeGroat held off a hard-charging Jerry Freve to claim second, while Todd Hall and Phil Knowlton completed the top five.

In the Outlaw nightcap, Davis checked out from the start and posted his fourth win of the season. Guy Childs fought his way through heavy traffic to claim second, while Josh Childs nipped John Patria by inches at the line for third. Addison Bowie charged up from deep in the field to round out the top five.

Barker held off a late-race challenge from Jimmy Childs to claim the Mini Stock feature. The Jay-based driver powered around the outside of Ken Daigle Jr. on lap six and never looked back during a 24-lap green-flag run. Justin Karkos came all the way from 15th on the grid to finish third, while defending champion Ashley Marshall was fourth, ahead of Calvin Rose Jr.

“It might have looked like I had an easy run, but those two guys (Childs and Karkos) have been fast all year, and I finally got them,” Barker said. “It feels good to beat the division’s finest, those guys are hard to keep behind you.”

For the second time in three days, Tripp cruised to victory in the Strictly Stock division. The defending champion from Poland fended off a late-race challenge from Auburn’s Mike Short, his primary rival every week. Matt Williams started seventh on the grid and powered his way to a solid third-place finish, while Zach and Larry Emerson claimed fourth and fifth respectively.

“I needed to move up about half a groove there late, but Mike was right there,” Tripp said. “I have to thank Richard and Kelly (car owners), they let me drive this thing, and I love it. They build racing engines, and I think tonight’s run is evidence of how they perform. Everybody that’s a part of this team, all my sponsors, I appreciate their help very much.”

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