Tracy Gordon (49) of Strong turns some practice laps at the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in 2016.

OXFORD — When he started his racing career, Tracy Gordon says plan was to become the youngest driver to ever win the Oxford 250.

The question back then was if, not when.

Prior to Sunday’s Scott’s Recreation Oxford 250 presented by Fastway Trailer Products, a few decades into Gordon’s career, the questions is “when,” and maybe added to that is “if ever.”

For every Travis Benjamin, Eddie MacDonald, Ralph Nason or just about anyone with the last name of Rowe — all multi-time winners of the 250 — there are several more-than-deserving drivers who haven’t won once: Gordon, of course, and others such as Jeff Taylor, Johnny Clark and Dale Shaw.

“We’ve had some good days here, just not winning days,” Taylor, of Farmington, said.

“It’s a tough one to get,” Taylor later added. “You’re racing against the best people, you know?”

The Oxford 250 is the reason Gordon became a race car driver, his love of the race beginning when he started attending the race when he was in fifth grade.

Gordon, of strong, has not only had a stellar career, he’s had stellar Oxford 250s.

“I’ve dominated this race before and knew I was going to win it — you know, halfway through knew I was going to win it — and didn’t,” Gordon said. “It’s been real frustrating.”

He was serenading his crew over the headset in 1996, just waiting for the laps to run out before he claimed the Oxford 250 title. He was up a lap on all but two drivers and the car was running great.

Then he burned an ignition wire off.

“I’m singing away,” Gordon said, “and all of sudden, I’m like, ‘Did you hear that car backfire?’ And all of a sudden, it shot right off.

“Then you’re just sitting in the infield going, ‘Aw, man.’”

Another time, he was in third with brand-new tires, while the two drivers ahead of him were on old tires, but a lapped car took Gordon out.

Taylor’s nemesis has been perplexing but constant: flat tires.

“Different years it’s different reasons why you didn’t win,” Taylor said. “For us, we’ve always generally had a lot of flat tires in this race. We don’t usually have flat tires, but we have in this race. That’s the cards we were dealt.”

Shaw says that what held him back the most was his one-lap-at-a-time approach.

“I’ve been close a few times, but I always went for the lap money and it always cost me,” Shaw said. “But I looked at it like my car could break the next lap, and I was going to get all the money I could.

“I always seemed to pit at the wrong time because I was greedy — and that’s the way it works when you race for food.”

+Clark, of Hallowell, can list off his high finishes — “We have finished second, fourth, sixth and eighth, I think. We’ve done pretty well over the years,” he said —he just hasn’t won.

“It always comes down to, you need to be good, and then luck. Man, you’ve got to have so much luck. Everything’s got to go flawless for you,” Clark said

“There’s always 20 guys that could win this race, easily, hands down. You just got to have a picture-perfect day,” Clark added, then clarified, “You’ve got to have a flawless feature.”

He also might have been the victim of bad timing. He said he peaked at the wrong time, back when the Oxford 250 switched from Super Late Model cars to Late Models.

“Really, our prime in racing and all our championships were won in ’06 to 2011,” Clark said. “I wish we had some 250s in that time frame.

“In 2015, man . . . we had such a good shot at it; we came up short and got fourth. I feel like we equally have as good of a car as we did then, you just got to have so much luck to win this thing.”

Adds Gordon, “You just can’t have bad luck, basically.”

But, as Taylor said, it’s difficult to rely on luck.

Year after year, the stellar nonwinners watch someone else win the race they themselves have their hearts set on. Sometimes, they see someone win it twice in a row — most recently, Travis Benjamin in 2013 and 2014.

“I use the analogy at work, I say somebody wins the lottery every day — didn’t mean they knew how, and they can’t repeat it,” Taylor said. “In order to win the lottery every day and repeat it, you gotta know how, you got to be able to do that. There’s been people here that win it multiple times because they knew how to do it, they did it, they repeated it, they knew what they had.”

On Sunday, they saw Waterboro’s Curtis Gerry win the 44th running of the Oxford 250.

Shaw, of Center Conway, New Hampshire, has moved out of the driver’s seat, and now “Dale Shaw Racing” stickers are in the windows of a few cars that competed in Sunday’s 250. That includes his son, DJ Shaw’s No. 60.

“If he wins it, that will make up for everything,” Dale Shaw said.

Taylor, Clark and Gordon, though, are still chasing.

Taylor’s car suffered some damage during his consolation race, and he missed out on Sunday’s big show.

Clark and Gordon both showed their Oxford 250 bona fides early in the race.

Earlier in the day, Clark said his car has struggled throughout the year, but he said it was coming around.

Clark proved as much, qualifying for the feature by placing third in the first consolation race. He was in fifth place after 100 laps. He sustained damage on Lap 123, which forced him to pit. That essentially derailed his race, but he managed to work his way back to 11th.

Gordon was far less optimistic about his car on pit row prior to qualifying.

“I’m not going very good today,” he said. “I’ll need to have a horseshoe up my butt to win it.”

Gordon missed qualifying in his heat and consolation race, but made it into the race though a provisional he had earned. By a caution flag after 97 laps, he had moved up to 11th place. He ended up in 28th.

Not too shabby for someone in the second year of a comeback.

Gordon returned from a personal hiatus two years ago. He stopped racing for nine years when his daughter was born, but now that she’s old enough to come to the races, he returned to the sport.

“That’s why I came back, to win this race,” Gordon said.

He’s accomplished just about everything he wanted to in racing — he’s won 12 Busch North races, including one at Louden, Pro All-Star Series races, and Oxford Plains Speedway title — but he hasn’t won an Oxford 250.

“Now maybe I can be the oldest guy to win it,” he said with a laugh. “That’s not going to happen, either, unless I get a lot older, because Ralph (Nason) was pretty damn old.

“Just, I’d like to win the thing.”

Jeff Taylor waits for his turn at the pre-race draw while the rest of the crowd is reflected in his sunglasses at the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday.

Jeff Taylor waits for his turn at the pre-race draw while the rest of the crowd is reflected in his sunglasses at the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday.

Johnny Clark
Six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark of Farmingdale powers off Turn 4 on Sept. 17 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Clark notched his first victory of 2016 this past Saturday evening in the Foley Oil 150 at White Mountain Motorsports Park. 

Six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark of Farmingdale powers off Turn 4 on Sept. 17 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Clark notched his first victory of 2016 this past Saturday evening in the Foley Oil 150 at White Mountain Motorsports Park.