Dustin Salley (18) has the inside edge on Kevin Bishop (08), with Dale Durgin Jr. (6) in tow during a Tiger Cat Figure 8 race at Oxford Plains Speedway on July 10. Oriana Lovell photo


It’s not for the faint of heart but Figure 8 racing is “about the funnest thing that you can do at the racetrack,” according to reigning Tiger Cat Figure 8 champion at Oxford Plains Speedway, Kevin Varney.

Eric Hodgkins took a car a half-mile down the road and he said next thing he knew he was in the starting lineup for a Saturday night Figure 8 race at Oxford.

Hodgkins said Michael Haynes, the friend who Hodgkins had bought the car from, said Hodgkins — who had sat in the stands but never driven a car — was going to kill himself. But that didn’t turn out to be the case.

“I got second place my second race out and the rest is history. I was hooked,” Hodgkins said.

Figure 8 racing isn’t new to Oxford Plains, but the division that started in 1969 took a break after 1988 and didn’t return until 2015, which is the year Hodgkins started. He said after watching the first three weeks he decided to join in for the fourth week.


Varney was the inaugural champion of the Wednesday night Tiger Cat division for 4-cylinder cars.

“It kind of takes a little bit of crazy to race Figure 8s in the first place,” Varney said.

At Oxford, the Figure 8 course is laid out in the pits along the frontstretch, with drivers curving around a giant tire at one end, then a sand banking at the other, all while trying to criss-cross at the “X” in between.

Larry Lizotte, the current Saturday night Figure 8 points leader and whose father has four points titles that sandwiched the nearly 30-year break, said the close calls in the intersection is what appealed him to take to the division.

Lizotte started racing the Saturday night series last year, and he said he was “shaking the whole time waiting to go on the track” the first time he did it.

Dustin Salley, the current Tiger Cat points leader, admitted it was “a little nervewracking” the first time he tried Figure 8 last year, but veteran car owner Larry Hewins and other friends eased his worries by telling him what to expect and what not to do.


For Salley, the worry doesn’t take place in the middle of the course.

“For me, I would say entering corners I just take my time till there’s an opening. Far as the X goes I just don’t think about it,” Salley said. “Most of the time you know if you can make it or not. I just hold it and hope for the best.”

Lizotte said he lifts off the gas at the intersection.

Hodgkins, meanwhile, still doesn’t know if there’s a sure-fire secret to it.

“Timing, boy that’s a tough one to explain. Most of the time you can maneuver in front or behind at the X, but we all make judgement mistakes. Last year it was my turn (at Oxford),” Hodgkins said. “Figure 8 driving isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of skill, timing, forethought and a whole bunch of testosterone.”

Hodgkins got such an itch for Figure 8 racing that when he heard about the World Figure 8 Championship he knew he had to join in. He soon realized the world championship cars were a whole different animal than either of the divisions at Oxford Plains. Hodgkins likened it to Super Late Model technology in a purpose-built Figure 8 car.


After trying out the former world championship runner-up car he bought in Kentucky during a practice at the Indianapolis Speedrome he brought the car back to Oxford and felt the pain of the X.

Hodgkins said it took three months to fix the car and all winter to get it competitive. Now he’s racing on the national circuit against the best Figure 8 drivers around.

The back of his car reads “Why Yes Mine Are Brass.” It stems from a comment that came from a passer-by that asked if the car Hodgkins and racing partner Gary Powers were working on was a circle-track Wednesday night car. Powers said “No, it’s a Figure 8 car,” and the man said “Wow, you gotta have a pair of brass balls to do that.”

“That saying has stuck ever since,” Hodgkins said.

But it’s equal parts crazy and comedy.

“We beat and bang and get out in victory lane laughing our butts off,” Varney said.

Eric Hodgkins’ Figure 8 car after a wreck at Oxford Plains Speedway. Submitted photo courtesy of Joseph Johnson

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