Whether you’re reading the Bible or the Baseball Encyclopedia, human lore is littered with talk of generational curses and luckless cities that couldn’t seem to get out of their own way long enough to embrace prosperity.

Yes, it’s even true in auto racing. Cassius Clark can’t help but acknowledge that he might be battling forces bigger than himself Sunday when he attempts to win the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Clark, 31, is the latest in a parade of drivers to emerge from Farmington or one of its neighboring communities as a co-favorite heading into the nationally renowned short-track showdown. He doesn’t need to be reminded what became of the others.

There was his dad, Billy, the famed “Farmington Flyer.” Clark the elder dominated the 1987 edition, only to have the win evaporate in a late pit stop. Four years later, Billy won the pole before NASCAR black-flagged him for jumping the initial start. Ricky Craven went on to the victory and an eventual Sprint Cup career.

Jeff Taylor has led literally hundreds of laps in the 250, his nights often ending in heartbreak and never victory. And years after he had a car capable of lapping the field, Strong’s Tracy Gordon talked openly of the faulty wire he nailed to the wall of his race shop, a reminder of the short circuiting part that stopped him from sipping the champagne.

“Seeing those guys come so close and fall short, it’s pretty heartbreaking, really, when there’s a lot of guys from my area who have been favored,” Clark said. “Taylor was favored it seemed like every year and Tracy was favored to win it. I don’t know if my dad was favored to win it, but he should have won it in ’87.”


He paused, recalling another regional “curse” that once reigned for decades.

“Babe Ruth’s hanging around town somewhere, I guess,” Clark quipped. “We’ll see if we can fix that hopefully.”

Don’t look now, but with his early-season Pro All Stars Series triumphs at OPS and at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Clark and his Hight Motorsports outfit have to be considered close to the top of any mythical power rankings headed into the 40th annual summer classic.

Throw in his wins for a second car owner, Rollie MacDonald, at a pair of 250-lap races in the Canadian Maritimes a year ago and Clark’s stock soars even higher.

He’s trying to keep those expectations to a dull roar, if only because even he has been around long enough to be victimized by the Franklin County curse, himself.

Clark qualified for five consecutive 250s from 2002 to 2006 before the transition to late models kept him out of the loop for six years. His best finish: Eleventh, in 2003.


His rookie season he held off three-time 250 winner Ralph Nason and PASS champion Sam Sessions, among others, to win his heat race.

“That was only my fifth or sixth pro stock race ever, coming out of the Legends. It’s also probably the best draw we’ve ever had for the race,” Clark said. He finished 24th.

More prominent on the list of races Clark would like to have back are 2005 and 2006.

The first year, he was running third on the white flag lap when he tangled with Canada’s Patrick Laperle.

“Completely my fault,” he said. “I was a young driver and I got impatient. I’m not one who’s interested in the top five. I go to win.”

In his most recent bid before the previous format change, Clark qualified in the top 10, only to have the engine expire.


And yes, that same year Taylor crashed while leading the race with under 100 laps to go, propelling Jeremie Whorff to the win.

“That was the one where everyone with a car to beat either blew up or wrecked,” he said.

Now the super late models are back and so is Clark, who grew both on and off the racetrack in that time.

He lived and raced in North Carolina for two years, returning home for good in 2011 and purchasing Nichols Trailers from his uncle, Bob.

Clark also reestablished his family’s name at Oxford when PASS returned as part of the TD Bank weekend for 150-lap races in 2011 and 2012. He was runner-up to NASCAR’s Kyle Busch in a car owned by Dick Woodman, then went to victory lane with Hight in his second try.

“I love Maine and I love the Oxford 250,” Clark said. “I’m really looking forward to getting back racing in it rather than watching it. I like the longer races. I think they fit my driving style a little bit. I can kind of mellow out and let things unfold.”


And to be fair, the Farmington area’s history in the 250 is one of close calls as much as catastrophes.

Taylor and Gordon have been runner-up a combined five times. Taylor ran second to Joey Polewarczyk a year ago. He was fastest for much of the 2011 version before Busch drove away in the final 25 laps. Taylor faded to sixth.

Clark’s cousin, Nick Nichols, finished third in the 2005 race to earn another podium finish for the 04938.

If there’s any department in which Clark’s Zip code is an advantage, it’s the knowledge of the tricky 3/8-mile oval that being an Oxford lifer affords.

“Oxford is really a tough track to get a handle on, especially for these new guys coming up. They’re going to be scratching their heads for sure,” Clark said. “There’s flat tracks and then there’s Oxford. It’s like setting up a bunch of cones in a parking lot and racing around in a circle. We’ve been used to it. We’ve been racing there all our lives and watching my dad and all that.”

Clark even takes some comfort from his struggles in the most recent PASS 150 at Oxford.


He finished sixth on July 12 but figures that his team narrowly missed on the set-up and maybe, just maybe, gave that annual flood of Franklin misfortune a chance to dissipate.

His crew chief, Brian Burgess, has been to the 250 winner’s circle twice with Ben Rowe.

“For as far off as we were the other night, we feel real optimistic that we could still see the leaders. So there’s still room for improvement there, and I feel like we know the right direction to go in,” Clark said. “And then obviously I have a great crew. I feel like I have a real good shot at it.”

Curses? They might be limited to the ones muttered behind helmets from rivals trying to chase down Clark and the No. 77 on Sunday night.


Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: