OXFORD — It’s an historic race built on rich tradition, one which has truly defined the careers of all those lucky enough to taste the spoils of victory.  

The 43rd annual HP Hood Oxford 250 is set for this Sunday afternoon, and from all angles, appears to have another strong mix of drivers young and not-so-young battling for one of short track racing’s most coveted prizes.   

Turner native Glen Luce leads the charge into this year’s big dance after wheeling his car to victory in 2015. Luce won a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North event at Thunder Road in late May, one of the toughest tracks on the entire circuit. 

Luce also won a weekly feature at Oxford on April 24, and has been fast every time he’s run in weekly competition. Yet he isn’t entirely happy with his car’s handling. 

“We’ve been a little off the last couple of races, searching for the same feel we had in the car before it was wrecked,” Luce said. “We also know the 250 is a huge draw, with a lot of great drivers and teams coming in this year. It takes a ton of patience, a little luck and great pit stops to win.

“It was a career highlight to win one, I couldn’t fathom winning it a second time. I know my entire team will give it their best, just as they always do, and we’ll see what happens.”

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Ready to challenge the reigning champion are drivers from all over the northeast, two Canadian provinces and one from Florida. Boca Raton native Dalton Sargeant is an immense natural talent and is on his way to racing’s big leagues in a hurry. 

He’s driving for Venturini Motorsports on the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Series this year and notched his first victory at Berlin Raceway (Michigan) on August 6. In the Super Late Models, Sargeant drives for car owner Bond Suss. 

“I’m really excited to run my first Oxford 250,” Sargeant said. “I’m also thankful that we have that provisional from the race there in early July. Oxford has to be one of the toughest tracks to figure out I’ve ever been on. We’re going to take advantage of every minute of practice time Friday and Saturday, because we need to get better at this track. We don’t have much experience compared to the competition, so we have a long list of things we need to improve to get better.”

Canadian drivers expected to compete include Matt Matheson, of New Brunswick; and John Flemming, of Nova Scotia. Other drivers making a long haul to compete include northwestern veteran Garrett Evans, of Wenatchee, Wash.; Kodie Conner, of Kannapolis, N.C.; and Jay Fogelman, of Durham, N.C.

Along with Luce and Sargeant, other drivers among the favorites are former ACT champions and New Hampshire natives Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and Wayne Helliwell Jr. The two veterans crossed the stripe side-by-side at Oxford on July 31 in a race eventually declared a tie after PASS officials reevaluated the finish. 

“We’re very excited for this year’s 250,” Polewarczyk said. “We have the most confidence we’ve had for this race since the switchover to Super Late Models. We’re still learning about our new car and need to make it a little better than it was the last time we ran there. 

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“We had a minor tire issue in that last PASS race at Lee, but the car has been very consistent all year. The competition for this year’s race is going to be tough. We’re hoping to get a good draw and have a smooth race. We just want our shot at it.”

Helliwell won the PASS Non-winners race at Oxford on July 3, locking himself into the 250 field along with runner-up Scott Farrington and Sargeant. A three-time ACT champion, Helliwell finished seventh last year after leading 145 laps.  

“We’ve been running well at Oxford lately and have as much confidence as we’ve ever had going into the 250,” Helliwell said. “We have a good baseline setup for the car, and as long as we don’t dial ourselves out in practice, I think we’ll have a shot at it. It’s a fine line with these cars when they’re right for a certain track.” 

Turner native and former PASS North champion Ben Rowe knows what it takes to win at Oxford. The two-time 250 winner drove his Richard Moody Racing Camry to victory on April 17 this year and appeared to be dialed in on his home track. 

His Hall of Fame father, Mike Rowe, a teammate to Ben this year on the Moody team, hasn’t been as fast as he’d like in 2016, yet can’t ever be counted out when the flag waves over any 250. The elder Rowe will have ample time to adjust his car in two days of practice prior to race day. 

Other notables on this year’s entry list include two-time 250 winner Travis Benjamin, of Morrill; Derek Griffith, of Hudson, N.H., who won at Oxford in July and won a PASS race at Lee on Aug. 12; and Fort Kent native Austin Theriault, who finished third in the 250 in 2011 and 2012. Theriault will drive a new car he built in North Carolina and use a crew that includes a pair of Maine natives. 

Qualifying races for the 43rd annual Oxford 250 begin Sunday at 1:30 p.m. 

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