Second-generation racer Derek Lynch was one of a handful of Canadian drivers to make his mark on the famed Oxford 250.

Like his talented and easy-going father, Dave, the younger Lynch had the 250 up on a pedestal. Dave had towed down from Ontario in 1979 and ended up with a solid seventh-place finish.

His son wanted a victory in the prestigious short track spectacle, with his father right there beside him all the way.

Derek was a force on the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) in the mid 1990s, back when Tom Curley’s circuit ran Pro Stocks all over the northeast. In an era when legends like Junior Hanley competed in ACT, the competition was about as tough as it would ever be.

“We started the race from outside the front row alongside Hanley, who had earned the pole,” Lynch recalled as if it were yesterday. “Once things got settled in, we ran between third and fifth most of the night. That was kind of our plan; we knew Junior would be strong and check out early, which he did.”

In a long race like the 250, there is plenty of time to ride and see how your rivals measure up. Lynch knew he had a good car, so there was no hurry to challenge Hanley during the opening laps.

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“We found a comfortable place to run, and were able to stick with our preplanned strategy for the race. We ended up putting four new tires on the car during two different stops, so that worked out well for us.

“We pitted to change our left-side rubber around the halfway mark, then caught a caution and came in for new right-side tires about 30 laps later. It was all falling into place pretty much like we’d hoped.”

Over the decades, a lot has happened to potential front runners during the second half of the 250. Many have been caught up in somebody else’s mess, or experienced mechanical trouble that ruined their day.

Lynch’s car stayed on the straight and narrow path, humming along like a finely-tuned machine.

“My chance to take the lead came about in an unusual way, but I was OK with it,” Lynch added. “Ralph (eventual three-time 250 winner Nason) was leading the thing, but had not made a pit stop. I think it was his plan that year to run the entire distance without stopping.

“We had caught Ralph and were running side-by-side with him going down the backstretch when his rear-end gears blew sky high. I remember hearing all the pieces come out from under his car and bounce off the side of mine. We both ran down into Turn 3, and with no gears in his car to slow it down, he carried way more speed into the corner than usual.”

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At that point, Lynch knew one of the top contenders was in trouble. It would be four more long years before Nason went on a three-year tear, winning the mid-summer classic in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

“Ralph kind of clunked into the side of me, and the two of us went right up the racetrack. Once he got slowed down some, he realized he had no rear-end gears and was out of commission. That brought out the final caution and put us into the lead. We led the remaining 30 or 35 laps and picked up the win.”

Earning that win changed Lynch’s career path in a big way. The next year, thanks to his 250 win and a recommendation from Stan Meserve, Lynch got a ride with O’Connor Racing in NASCAR’s Busch North Series. While he just missed earning Rookie-of-the-Year honors, he made a big effort that was noticed throughout racing circles. He worked for Dick Glines at NRP before heading south to work.

“Winning that race was definitely the highlight of my career,” Lynch added. “That race is known across Canada and beyond. I’ve won lots of Super Late Model races, and won at Thunder Road, which is a big deal as far as short tracks go.

“The 250 has always had a certain mystique, it’s always had the top drivers there because of its prestige and rich history. When you look at the big-name drivers who never won a 250, it’s pretty amazing. That was one thing I could always razz the great Robbie Crouch about, because he never won it. The Dragon brothers, Dale Shaw and Kelly Moore are all icons of the sport. Yet they’ve never won a 250.”

Some former 250 winners have retired from racing and don’t even follow the sport at all. Lynch still races on occasion in Canada and pays close attention to Super Late Model racing here in New England. Ask him about current drivers who have talent, and he’ll rattle off names like he lives here.

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“I purchased the Pay-Per-View telecast from Speed 51 last year and really enjoyed watching the race. It’s still a great mix of veterans like Mike Rowe and talented young guns like Joey Polewarczyk and now Derek Griffith. The 250 still has that incredible magic; the kind that gives you goosebumps.”

Canadian fans have something to look forward to you in 2017. Lynch purchased a Super Late Model and has plans to give the 250 a whirl once again.

“We were actually hoping to be there this year, but just didn’t get the car completed. We bought a new Howe car about a year ago, and have been working on it when time allows. We wanted to get back down there in 2014 on the 20-year anniversary of my win, but it didn’t quite work out. So we’ll shoot for 2017, and I can’t wait to get there. When we do, all of those great memories will return.”

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