OXFORD — After a long and often harsh winter, race teams and fans throughout central and western Maine are about to witness a first-of-its-kind doubleheader Saturday at Oxford Plains Speedway.

While most thought racing of any kind (other than with snowmobiles) would be impossible in mid-April this year, the 2015 season gets under way with 150-lap features for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North Super Late Models and the Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Model series.

When officials from the two sanctioning bodies announced plans last fall to bury the hatchet and work together for 2015, it created an almost instant buzz among race fans.

The two groups were competing for teams and spectators in recent years, and whether intentional or not, it was hurting short track racing in the northeast.

ACT and PASS North teams will join forces in three of these exciting twinbills in 2015. While Oxford is set to begin its weekly Championship Series program on Saturday, May 9, this weekend’s lid-lifter will see several weekly teams in action as they shake down their cars in preparation for a new season.

Along with the excitement of ACT teams returning to Oxford this year, another change that has fans talking is a return to Super Late Models as the premier class for the first time since 2006. In the first two seasons of the Tom Mayberry era, Pro Late Models (not quite as advanced) headlined the show.

T.J. Brackett of Buckfield won his second straight Pro Late Model championship last year after a down-to-the-wire battle with veteran and two-time champion Shawn Martin. He also finished fifth in the famed Oxford 250. Brackett, who works on race cars for a living, is gearing up to compete in Saturday’s PASS North season opener.

“We’re hoping for a win, but our main goal this weekend is to get the car dialed in for a new season of points racing,” Brackett said. “I think it was a good move to Super Late Models this year on Saturday nights. There wasn’t really that much difference between Pro Late Models and what we’re running now, and keeping the rules the same as PASS should keep our weekly car count high. A third title is the ultimate goal, but a PASS win is definitely on my bucket list.” 

Martin, of Turner, has experience in just about every configuration of Late Model that has run at Oxford. With two ACT wins and several strong Super Late Model finishes on his resume, his skills behind the wheel make him a local favorite when the PASS North teams roll into town. 

“Our team has been very busy this off season updating our BRP Recreational Products Chevy Impala,” Martin said. “With so many updates to the car, we really won’t know what we have until we unload it at the race track this weekend. Our hopes are to get the car dialed in fairly quickly. It’s been a long winter and all of us on the team are excited to get back into the racing groove.”   

Highlighting the 2015 schedule is the AIM Recycling Oxford 250 presented by Kenny U-Pull, which for the first time since its inception in 1974, moves from its time-honored slot in mid July to Sunday, Aug. 30. With ACT and PASS now working in harmony, there will not be a major ACT race this year on 250 weekend. This move is expected to draw more teams and fans to the big race, billed as the richest one-day short-track race in the country.

More teams from the Maritimes are also expected to compete as the date no longer conflicts with the famed IWK 250 at Riverside Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. 

There are 14 points-paying races on the schedule for Oxford’s Championship series teams this year. The entry-level Acceleration Series kicks off its 2015 weekly program on Wednesday, June 10. 

Travis Benjamin, of Morrill, won the 2014 PASS North opener at Oxford, while DJ Shaw, of Center Conway, New Hampshire, went on to claim the championship. Ben Ashline of Pittston won the last ACT race on the tricky 3/8-mile oval on May 20, 2012.  

ACT was scheduled to open its 2015 campaign at the Lee Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire, on April 12, but wet grounds from a lingering winter forced postponement of that race until April 26. 

Defending ACT champion Joey Polewarczyk Jr., of Hudson, N.H., and Auburn native Travis Stearns will be doing double duty Saturday, competing in both 150-lap events.  

Qualifying heats for the ACT and PASS North Twin 150s get under way at 2 p.m. Saturday. Gates will open at 12 p.m. for fans eager to get a good seat. The ACT 150-lap feature is expected to roll off at approximately 3:30 p.m., while the PASS North 150 will follow. 

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