Sarah Cornett-Ching
British Columbia native Sarah Cornett-Ching stands beside her new Super Late Model on the front stretch at Oxford Plains Speedway. Cornett-Ching, who lives down south during race season, is hoping for a solid run in Sunday’s Oxford 250.

British Columbia native Sarah Cornett-Ching stands beside her new Super Late Model on the front stretch at Oxford Plains Speedway. Cornett-Ching, who lives down south during race season, is hoping for a solid run in Sunday’s Oxford 250.

OXFORD — After a long summer of weekly racing, race teams and fans around the northeast are busy preparing for the biggest challenge and potentially the greatest thrills of the entire season.

When the 44th annual Scott’s Recreation Oxford 250, presented by Fastway Trailer Products, takes the green flag Sunday evening, Super Late Model drivers from as far away as Nova Scotia and North Carolina will go after one of short track racing’s most coveted prizes at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Speedway officials held their annual media day luncheon at the track Wednesday, with seven drivers on hand to discuss their chances for a good run Sunday.

Appearing to meet with early fans and media members were 2016 winner Wayne Helliwell Jr., 2015 winner Glen Luce, Dave Farrington Jr., 2016 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) champion DJ Shaw, Oxford’s SLM points leader TJ Brackett, Derek Kneeland, and British Columbia native Sarah Cornett-Ching.

“I’m very happy with the way this year’s 250 weekend is coming together,” PASS founder and track owner Tom Mayberry said. “I think we’ll end up with about 65 cars attempting to qualify, and we’ll start between 42 and 44 cars in the 250. It should be a very exciting, competitive race on Sunday.”

Fans are showing their enthusiasm, with 166 campers already in place on speedway grounds as of noon Wednesday. The three-day weekend kicks off Friday evening with a full card of racing. Saturday night’s program will include the debut for the Granite State Pro Stock Series.

Mayberry says with similar cars, there should be a lot of crossover between it and Sunday’s 250.

“We had the ACT tour in that slot before, but they (ACT officials) weren’t very happy with the car count they drew here,” he said. “So when they opted out, we considered a lot of options. The Granite State series race should be pretty good; I think a lot of these guys plan to run in it, as well. It should be a good fit.”

Farrington has had a busy summer competing in both the PASS North and PASS South series. He will bring his own familiar No. 23 family-owned and prepared machine to run the 250 on Sunday, yet he’ll also bring a second car to run in Saturday’s Granite State series event.

“This year, we finally got that monkey off our back and picked up the win here we’d been seeking for six years,” Farrington said. “We started 15th in a regular Saturday night show and got to the front pretty fast. We ran really strong in the last PASS race here in July, so I’ve got some good notes to go on.”

The Jay native has put in some impressive performances down south in 2017 driving for Dick and Becky Woodman. He’s run fast at some pretty famous tracks throughout the Carolinas. But this Sunday, he needs to be fast a little closer to home.

“Our team needs to do some practice and build up the communication,” Farrington said. “I think we’ll have good speed in the car, I just need the guys to make a nice, smooth stop, and I’ll take it from there. In a race like the 250, it’s as much about them as it is me. It’s our one race where race strategy is key.”

Brackett, a two-time Pro Late Model champion (2013-14) at Oxford, just took over the points lead in Super Late Models last Saturday night. He’s locked in a battle for the crown with Alan Tardiff, who had led the standings since early on. The third-generation racer from Buckfield says he’s ready for the 250.

“It’s a good time of year to be fast,” Brackett said. “My car isn’t really blistering fast, but it doesn’t fall off too badly as the laps go on, either. Hopefully, it will stay under me for 250 laps on Sunday.”

Brackett works on race cars for a living, building and fabricating for a broad base of customers. This weekend, his focus turns to his own car as the one they all seek to win arrives. He’s one of a handful of Saturday-night regulars who could spoil the celebrations of some PASS series heavy-hitters.

Where those teams have an advantage is when pit stops become crucial in the outcome of a long race.

“We’re looking at this deal this way; I just need four tires and gas in the thing,” Brackett said. “If my guys just stay calm and don’t try to rip off a NASCAR-style pit stop, we should be all set. I think Alan (Tardiff) will be another weekly guy to run strong; he’s been fast all year.

“It’s just that Sunday is a totally different day. Everything that works on a Saturday night doesn’t apply to the 250. We’re used to putting on just two tires; on Sunday, you can bolt on four in every round of qualifying if you want to. It takes a different approach, I hope ours is the right one on Sunday night.”

Cornett-Ching drives for car owner Tony Blanchard. She is excited about running in the 250 after her first visit to Maine this past spring. The on-track results weren’t what she wanted, but the experience, coupled with a brand new car, gives her a good feeling as race day approaches.

“We’ve had a couple of top-10 finishes down south since I was here, so I’m pretty proud about that,” Cornett-Ching said. “We had a few rainouts, so I haven’t been able to race as much as I’ve wanted.”

The new car she has with her in Maine is a unique piece; one she feels will provide a decent ride.

“It’s kind of a one-off car, really, since Tony put his own designs into it,” she said. “It’s one of the nicest race cars I’ve ever driven, so that’s why I’m so excited for this weekend. This place is unlike any track I’ve ever seen. It was tough getting the car dialed in, but we’ve got some good notes and a decent setup now.”

Qualifying heats for Sunday’s 44th annual Oxford 250 begin at 1:30 p.m., with the green flag expected to wave on the feature at approximately 6:30 p.m. The race can be seen Live on Pay Per View (Speed 51 TV) for those who can’t attend, and will be shown to a worldwide audience at a later date on the MAV TV network.

“I think fans will be pleased with what we have lined up for racing all three days,” Mayberry said. “The weather forecast couldn’t be any better, so I hope they’ll come out to enjoy it.

“It’s always a lot of work, but can be pretty satisfying when it all goes down smoothly. I think we’ll have a great weekend.”

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Oxford 250 Media Day
Left to right, speedway owner Tom Mayberry, drivers Sarah Cornett-Ching, DJ Shaw, TJ Brackett and Derek Kneeland address the media on Wednesday at the annual Oxford 250 press gathering. The 250 will take place this Sunday evening.

Left to right, speedway owner Tom Mayberry, drivers Sarah Cornett-Ching, DJ Shaw, TJ Brackett and Derek Kneeland address the media on Wednesday at the annual Oxford 250 press gathering. The 250 will take place this Sunday evening.

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