OXFORD — In April 2015, the first-ever Twin 150s featuring the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) and the Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Models drew the largest opening-day crowd Oxford Plains Speedway had enjoyed in years.

The full-fendered doubleheader was a result of “peace talks” between principals of the two groups and delivered all of the side-by-side action fans have come to expect at Oxford. It also set a positive tone for what turned out to be a successful season for short track racing here in the northeast.

On Sunday, the storied Maine oval will open its sixty-seventh consecutive season with the Speedway Homes 150 for PASS North Super Late Models and the Dave’s Small Engine/Husqvarna 100 for ACT teams. 

Among the contenders entered in Oxford’s season opener is Turner native Ben Rowe, fresh off a victory in the PASS South Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway. Rowe finished fifth in the PASS North season opener last Sunday in Thompson, Conn., a 75-lap contest won by Garrett Hall of Scarborough. 

“We’ve struggled at Oxford the last couple of years,” Rowe said. “We’ll be at the practice session on Saturday working to improve our speed and chassis setup. The cars are all so even now; if you’re off a little, it really shows. We’ve been way off, so we need to get dialed in before Sunday. It won’t be easy, but we’re going to try.” 

Joining Ben on the well-heeled Richard Moody Racing team this year is his Hall of Fame father, Mike Rowe. The elder Rowe parted ways with Petit Motorsports at the end of last season after earning the PASS North points championship. Two-time Oxford 250 winner Travis Benjamin (2013, 2014) now drives the No. 7 entry.

“I’ve already seen a benefit from having him on our team,” Rowe added. “We all work out of the same shop and share information. Both teams get along well, and I love racing with my father. This has the potential to be a very fun season for us.” 

Ready to challenge the talented father-son duo are a host of veteran PASS drivers with the equipment and skills to win. Among them are 2015 Oxford 250 winner Glen Luce, Joey Doiron, who won a PASS South race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (S.C.) in early February; David Oliver, Bryan Kruczek, Johnny Clark, Mike Hopkins, and Auburn’s Travis Stearns.

Formerly a regular on the ACT circuit, Stearns will now focus on the PASS series in 2016. 

The change from an ACT-legal car to the super late model hasn’t gone as well as we planned,” Stearns said. “I’ve always loved a challenge, so hopefully we’ll get this car to the performance level we want.

“I’m planning to run the full PASS National schedule, along with more local races at Oxford and Beech Ridge. It’ll be a busy season, yet I also have to find the right balance between racing and family time.”

On the ACT side of the twinbill, three-time and defending series champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. will lead a full field of well-prepared Late Models to the green flag.

Among those ready to challenge the veteran from Dover, N.H., are former champion Joey Polewarczyk Jr., who will also run a driver development team this season with young Ryan Olsen at the wheel; Maine hotshoe Brad Babb of Windham; Emily Packard, and New York native Brandon Atkins.

Oxford was slated to be the second event for ACT teams in 2016, yet lingering cold temperatures forced officials to postpone the opener at New Hampshire’s Lee Speedway from last Sunday to April 24.

Oxford’s 2016 schedule will again be highlighted by one of the nation’s richest single-day short track races. The 43rd annual HP Hood Oxford 250, (with its newly-announced, nationally-recognized title sponsor) is set for Sunday, Aug. 28, with nearly 30 drivers having filed their entries before the season even opens.

The move to late August was met with a great deal of skepticism when first announced last year, yet it did not hurt car counts or fan turnout last season. 

Other highlights on the 2016 schedule at Oxford include a doubleheader featuring the Valenti Modified Racing Series and Northeast Mini Stock Tour on June 18; the HP Hood 150 for PASS North on July 31; a 100-lap battle for ACT teams on Saturday, Aug. 27, and the PASS North season finale on Saturday, Oct. 15.  

Oxford’s weekly Championship Series program will begin on Sunday, April 24, while entry-level Acceleration Series teams return to action on Wednesday, June 15, with racing in the Outlaw, Rebels, Trucks, Ladies and Cruiser divisions.

Qualifying races for Sunday’s features are set to begin at 2 p.m., while spectator gates swing open for the first time in 2016 at 9:30 a.m. 

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