Despite no fans in the main grandstand and few in the pits, racing at Oxford Plains Speedway got under way Saturday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Jeff Taylor has been to victory lane dozens of times at Oxford Plains Speedway, but his latest visit on Saturday’s opening day was strange compared to all the rest of them, the legendary driver said. 

Jeff Taylor at the 2017 Oxford 250 Sun Journal file photo

Taylor’s feature win in the Super Late Model division was the 77th feature win at the track, according to the Oxford Plains Speedway website, but this time there were no cheering (or booing, as he pointed out) fans, nor a quick word with his fellow podium finishers. 

“You just basically took a picture and went right to the tech shack,” the Farmington native said. 

Any chat with runner-up Dave Farrington Jr. of Sabattus and third-place finisher Curtis Gerry, the defending division champion, was reserved for the pits or elsewhere off the premises at the end of a long, but long-awaited day of racing. 

Yet it was still a rewarding victory for Taylor. 

“Obviously any time you can start by winning the first day, whether it’s racing or baseball or football, doesn’t matter what it is, that at least meant your preparation was good and that’s what everybody goes the first day for,” he said. “Just kind of more relief than anything, I guess, to start that way.” 

Taylor, who owns Distance Racing Products, which builds chassis, including those of some of his competitors, said his car is usually the last one to get worked on. But with a delayed opening day and less business because of the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor said he’s had more time to prepare his ride. 

“In that respect, for me, it’s probably the most prepared I’ve been, honestly, in years,” he said. “You never know, until you actually go racing, what you have, and it was pretty good. That particular car, it’s probably one of the best couple days it’s had.” 

In other results from Saturday night, when Oxford Championship Series divisions competed on their normal day, Jordan Russell beat Billy Childs Jr. for the Street Stocks feature win, with Kurt Hewins finishing third. Alex Mowatt was victorious in the Bandits division, and Brandon Varney and Mike McKinney rounded out the podium. Brady Heath captured the Rookies division win, followed by Cole Binette, Jeremy Turner and Cody Macomber. 

The Oxford Acceleration Series cars, who normally run on Wednesday nights, opened the season of racing at Oxford Plains on Saturday morning. Ryan Farrar collected the track’s first checkered flag of the year in the Trucks division. Max Rowe was second and Seth Drown third. 

Matt Mahar of Turner, much like Taylor, put all the extra preparation in the extended offseason to good use, taking the Rebels division victory. It didn’t come without a little adversity, nervousness and help, however. 

“Well, I for sure was nervous, not having much track time with a brand-new, unproven car. Only was able to run one practice, which was last week, but we lost the lower-end bearings in the motor that we had in the car and had to rush and swap in my spare,” Mahar said. “First fire-up of the new motor was pretty nerve-wracking, not knowing much about it, being out of a spare chassis I had purchased this winter, but it seems to be a healthy engine and I seem to have lucked out.” 

Rebels racers, including eventual winner Matt Mahar in the No. 0 car, screech around the back turn at OPS Saturday morning. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Mahar said the practice time and data he and his crew collected from the practice session was still useful in earning Saturday’s victory, which came after Zach Audet was disqualified in post-race tech following a start-to-finish lead. Mahar had to beat out Cody White, Nate Dubuc and 20 other cars in the field to get the win.

“The track was very slick. We had another car in the field that was blowing up and putting down a lot of oil,” Mahar said. “Was for sure a battle to keep the car stuck in the corners, but it felt great to bring home the ‘W,’ first race of the year after all this COVID stuff. I couldn’t have asked for more.” 

Mahar said he would have liked to have won in front of fans, but he kept telling himself that there were fans watching Northeast Sports Network’s livestream of the action. 

Other Acceleration Series winners in the season opener were Jonathon Emerson in Outlaws (with Varney picking up his first runner-up finish of the day), Chloe Kiley in Ladies and Will Dunphy in Cruisers. 

The track played host to a few regional touring series Sunday, with the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models and Mods  and American-Canadian Tour Late Models all in action.

Vermont’s Nick Sweet won the SLM 150-lap main feature, topping the 33-car field, with DJ Shaw and defending Oxford 250 champion Travis Benjamin rounding out the top three. Tyler King bested Bobby Nadeau and Justin Larson in the Mods feature, while former Oxford 250 champ Wayne Helliwell Jr. beat Shaw in the 150-lap ACT feature to open the day, and Jimmy Hebert finished third.

Oxford Plains posted on its Facebook page that both the Championship and Acceleration Series would both be in action again on Saturday, July 4, with racing starting at 5 p.m. The post mentioned more details will be released on the track’s website soon. The website further stated that a revised schedule for the 2020 season would be unveiled along with details for this Saturday’s action. 

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