OXFORD — In early June, Garrett Hall stood in Pro All Stars Series victory lane at Oxford Plains Speedway for a second time and immediately understood the implications.

“It’s pretty awesome,” the Scarborough driver said that evening, having won two straight PASS races at Oxford in 2019. “But I don’t want to be the favorite come ‘250’ time.”

When the 46th annual Oxford 250 hits the track this Sunday, Hall will be on a short list of contenders to win the state’s marquee auto race. In five PASS races at Oxford this season — one of them a non-points event — Hall and 2017 Oxford 250 winner Curtis Gerry of Waterboro have each won twice.

Favorites haven’t always fared well in the main event.

Last season, riding a five-race winning streak at Oxford into the 250 weekend, Gerry encountered mechanical trouble in his heat race and finished a distant 37th as the defending champion of the race. Glen Luce came out of nowhere to win in 2015, ending Travis Benjamin’s bid to become just the second driver in history to win three consecutive Oxford 250s.

Even nearly two decades ago, Gary Drew (2001) and Scott Robbins (2002) pulled off major upsets by becoming the first weekly Oxford Plains racers to win the Oxford 250.

While Hall might have been concerned about flying under the radar, it has been impossible to ignore two significant trends which developed at Oxford Plains this season.

Gerry, in his first full season of weekly competition at the track after winning two Beech Ridge Motor Speedway championships, is running away with the Super Late Model title. His four wins in weekly competition top the division, and he’s shown that same speed when PASS teams have invaded.

In the last three PASS races at the track, Gerry has two wins and a runner-up finish.

“It’s a lot of hard work to get where we are right here,” Gerry said. “It looks easy, the end product, but it never gets old. It’s such tough competition and it takes such hard work and dedication to do it and pull it off that it never gets old.”

Garrett Hall drives under the flagstand while leading the PASS 150 earlier this season at Oxford Plains Speedway. Kennebec Journal file photo by Travis Barrett

Another thing that’s happened at Oxford has been the strange predictability to the PASS races there this season. The last two events have featured the same three drivers on the podium at the end of the day — Gerry, two-time Oxford 250 winner Ben Rowe, and Vermont’s Nick Sweet.

Add in Hall’s early-season dominance and the four drivers have combined for five wins and 10 top-three finishes in 17 starts at Oxford this season.

Sweet earned his first career PASS win at Oxford on Aug. 11.

“Last year, we were going laps down and we’ve really turned this program around,” Sweet said.

Sweet, with considerable American-Canadian Late Model Tour experience at Oxford, has used a similar strategy for success at the track. Even with more horsepower and wider tires in his PASS car, he’s not been afraid to venture into the third and fourth grooves to find the quickest way around the .375-mile oval.

“Look for me out there. I’m going to put on a show, I can tell you that,” Sweet said. “We were honestly too loose (during the race in July). The only way to go is up the hill, because it tightens up when you go up there. You just have to be willing to be too free.”

Nick Sweet, left, Curtis Gerry, center, and Ben Rowe stand in victory lane following Gerry’s win in the PASS 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford in July. Kennebec Journal file photo by Travis Barrett

Just a few days remain before teams unload their cars for the first day of Oxford 250 practice on Friday building up to Sunday’s race, so attention will turn to a handful of drivers who have demonstrated to be among the class of the field at Oxford Plains already this season.

Hall. Gerry. Sweet. Rowe.

“I still don’t like (the attention). I’d rather hide in the back and work on the car,” Gerry said. “I’m sure I’ll have to do media and the press thing and all of that. But I think lap times and experience at this track matters.”

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