OXFORD — With the approach of this year’s 40th annual TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, race fans around the Northeast are starting to reflect on the rich history Maine’s short track spectacle has built since it was first introduced by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Bahre in 1974.

Yet oval-racing enthusiasts aren’t the only ones getting ready to reflect on the history of their sport. Those who prefer their racing down the eighth-mile or quarter-mile drag strips are also looking back, as Oxford Dragway prepares for its second annual Nostalgia Dragfest on Saturday, July 6.

This celebration of drag racing’s “glory days” is the brainchild of Rich Wilcox and Ray Helger. 

As general manager of Oxford Dragway, Wilcox, like every other track manger in New England, has been fighting persistent rains this season. Yet as Maine finally appears to be emerging from this month-long deluge, his outlook for Dragfest remains optimistic. 

“This was one of most well-received events of the entire 2012 season,” Wilcox said. “We had 60 period-correct cars on hand and one of the biggest crowds this place has enjoyed in quite some time. What has me excited is the fact that word spread quickly among owners of nostalgia drag cars, so we may have close to 100 of them here this weekend. Our second annual event will be something fans of drag racing’s glory days won’t want to miss. We’ll have a day filled with racing and great stories.”

Helger is owner and founder of the Helger Brothers Speed Shop, located in Little Compton, RI. Helger also owns the King & Marshall Top Fuel dragster, a car with a rich history of its own.

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From the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, Jimmy King and Don Marshall fielded some of the most recognized and competitive fuel (nitro) cars on the East coast. While Helger won’t be bringing the K&M fuel dragster to Oxford, he will have three other beauties in its place. King himself will also be on hand Saturday. 

Both King and Marshall are Rhode Island natives, so when Helger bought the car from Sy Sidebotham (a drag racing legend himself), it went home to the state in which it was originally maintained. 

By creating this event, Wilcox and Helger have brought vintage drag racing fans in Maine a real treat. The event will not only showcase some of the best Classic Dragsters, Funny Cars, Altereds and Gassers in the region, but does so at a facility that opened in 1969 and still has a look and feel that is genuinely “old school.”

Gates will open for the second annual Nostalgia Dragfest at 10 a.m. Saturday. Timed runs will begin at 2 p.m., with a special parade of participating teams, VIP guests and Hall of Famers assembling at 5 p.m. Following this photo-friendly parade, fans will get a taste of the evening show with a couple of “cackle” cars. At 6 p.m., the first pair of fuel cars will shoot out of the gate.

“This event is sure to provide a wonderful atmosphere for fans and racers who appreciate their sport’s history,” added Wilcox. “Vintage drag racing and nostalgia shows are becoming wildly popular all over the country. We’re blessed here in the northeast to have so many great examples of these beautiful machines.”

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