Tom Mayberry is walking around the Oxford Plains Speedway complex with red, slightly peeling skin on his forearms, the evidence of hours spent canvassing the grounds aboard a ride-on lawn mower in this past week’s scalding sun.

“I’ve been down south quite a bit this year, and when I got back here, he put me right to work,” the speedway owner said of his 20-year-old son, Mike, general manager of the facility.

Mayberry has devoted more than a decade of his life to promoting major super late model races from Maine to Florida to the state of Washington and countless haunts in between. But likely never has there been the volume of work — and surely never the historical responsibility — of directing an event quite like the 40th annual TD Bank 250.

One major inspiration for Mayberry’s purchase of the 3/8-mile oval from Bill Ryan was to restore the cars and drivers that ardent fans had come to expect in the short track showcase before a controversial format change in 2006.

“I’m excited about it being the top teams, the cream of the crop,” Mayberry said. “I think a lot of the fans still know them as pro stocks. But all the super late model races we’ve had over there have been pretty darn good.”

Mayberry becomes the fourth different promoter of the TD Bank 250 and the first one with a significant driving background.


He qualified for the 250 only once but made the most of it, starting on the front row and finishing eighth in 1997.

Three years later he swapped his helmet for a tour director’s hat, picking up the pieces of what was known as the International Pro Stock Challenge to form the Pro All Stars Series.

It has evolved from its northern roots to include satellite series in the southeast and northwest, as evidenced by Sunday’s entry list. Jay Fogleman of North Carolina and Garrett Evans of Washington are among the short track greats who will attempt to qualify for the PASS National Series event.

Mayberry lauded the loyalty and help of the title sponsor. TD has been with the 250 for more than a decade.

“It takes somebody like that with the commitment long-term and the name recognition. You’re really got to have someone’s involvement like that to do it,” Mayberry said. “I think it’s amazing that Bob Bahre did it as long as he did, and then Michael Liberty picked it up and kept it going, and then Bill Ryan kept it going. It’s a lot of work and a lot of effort, but it all still comes down to the fans and the drivers supporting it, and they do.”

Racer for all seasons


Ben Rowe is two years shy of his 40th birthday, not even close to retirement on the race track or in the real world.

Still, the two-time TD Bank 250 champion from Turner has found the “snowbird” lifestyle to his liking.

Rowe now competes year-round with Richard Moody Racing. The Auburn-based team concentrates on PASS North from April to September. Then, while many of his rivals are dreading the endless fall and winter without live racing in New England, Rowe retreats to Salisbury, N.C., where the team has a sister operation with Vermont native Steven Legendre at the wheel.

“I’ve got December off. We used to stop in late September. Now I don’t stop until after Thanksgiving and we start back up again the first of January,” Rowe said. “The January stuff is Florida and down that way, which makes it good, but it’s a lot of traveling.”

Rowe and Moody returned the annual favor this week, when Legendre made the trek to Maine in hopes of qualifying for his first TD Bank 250.

If that makes it sound like the team is spread a little bit thin, you don’t know the half of it. Rowe’s usual crew chief is T.J. Brackett — yes, the same driver who leads the Pro Late Model point standings at Oxford and is a threat to win the 250 himself.


Based on recent tradition, Brackett’s place atop the points would guarantee him at least a provisional starting spot in the race.

“We’re kind of improvising,” Rowe said. “It’ll work out. We basically have three cars in the stable.”

‘Weather’ or not to practice

More than 10 hours of super late model practice were on the preliminary event schedule for this weekend.

It’s a great format for newcomers, but TD Bank 250 and OPS veterans have openly debated how much, if any of it, will be beneficial in light of the changing weather.

Friday’s temperatures exceeded 90, with track surface temperature likely 30 or 40 degrees hotter than that. Saturday brought more heat and humidity, followed by a round of thunderstorms that are expected to usher in dry, seasonable conditions for Sunday.


That could render any knowledge gained Friday afternoon or Saturday morning moot.

“I really don’t feel like I’m going to try to wear things out too much (in practice),” Tim Brackett of Buckfield said. “I think I know what I’ve got to do in the heat. There should be a little more grip Sunday, but you don’t know. It’s been quite a trying summer as far as getting it right every time.”

“That track’s very temperature-sensitive. In the Late Models you can run 250 laps and never change tires,” Rowe said. “These (SLM tires) will wear out, and when you do change, they’ll pick you up. That’s how I won both my 250s. We pitted late and came back up through the field with fresher tires.”

As always, the change in conditions from 2 p.m. qualifying to the 6:30 p.m. feature also forces teams to make adjustments and educated guesses on the fly.

Other drivers believe that practice makes perfect, no matter how the mercury reads.

“I think if you’re quick Friday, you’ll have a good car in the long run too,” six-time PASS champion Johnny Clark of Hallowell said.


No appetite for seconds

Clark was one of the most vocal drivers to express his displeasure when the TD Bank 250 became a late model race for six summers.

In addition to his passion for the super late models that have been his bread and butter, he had unfinished business. Clark led the 2005 race with less than 10 laps to go when he made a rare mistake, hitting the curb in one of the turns and upsetting the handling of his car just enough for Mike Rowe to sneak past for his third victory.

“You look at the people that have won it. I was there to witness Mike win a couple and Ralph all three of his,” Clark said. “Finishing second is bittersweet. It was so cool to finish second and go up in the press box and be part of all that and see everything that went on and then go over to tech (inspection) for a couple of hours. It’s just a really cool deal.”

Clark has struggled by his own standards on the PASS circuit since winning his sixth title in 2011. He won only twice in 2012 and has yet to see victory lane in six races this season.

His family-owned team brought two cars this weekend — the old, title-winning mount, and the elusive newer one. The jury was still out on which one would enter the race.

“We continued to do what we had been doing for a long time, because we were winning and everyone else had been struggling,” said Clark, who has won 250-lap races at Wiscasset, Unity and in Canada, but never Oxford. “Now there’s some people that are running better, and it spreads. I blame it on (being) stagnant for so long and finally we got beat, and now we’re running around chasing our tail. I just feel like we’re behind.”‘

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