Ben Rowe, right, and members of his team watch an Oxford 250 qualifying heat from the top of their car carrier in the pits Sunday afternoon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

OXFORD — Lewis Anderson was a first-time participant on Oxford 250 weekend, something he never thought would be possible.

Anderson, 50, suffered a stroke last summer and feared his racing days were over.

“It was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Anderson said during a break Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway.

The racer from Hollis was rushed to Maine Medical Center in Portland on August 18, 2019. Just nine days removed from an accident during a race at Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire, he had no feeling on the left side of his body, and a CT scan at the hospital revealed a blood clot on the top of his brain.

He said he slowly recovered over the winter. Now, the only lingering effect from the stroke is numbness in his left hand.

“I used to drive one-handed with my left hand,” Anderson said. “Now, when I’m in traffic, I have to use both hands to make sure I can feel the wheel.”

Anderson didn’t have a Super Late Model entered in the 47th annual Oxford 250 on Sunday. Instead, as he’s done for the past 34 years of his life, he was competing in the Street Stock division on the undercard. He raced in two features for the division – one in the morning during a makeup of Saturday’s rained-out schedule, and the regularly scheduled feature in the afternoon.

He finished eighth in the first race and 15th in the second, but he cared little about the final results.

“After having a stroke, I’m just happy to be back in the car,” said Anderson, the 2016 Wildcat Division champion at his home track of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough. “I had butterflies in my belly this morning, like I was racing for my first time ever. It’s Sunday of Oxford 250 weekend and I’ve got a car here. It’s not a Super Late Model, but every penny I’ve got is in that thing.

“To have $25,000 in a Street Stock, it’s crazy.”

When Beech Ridge announced an abbreviated seven-race schedule this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson noticed one glaring omission. The track scheduled an off weekend for the Oxford 250.

“I said we’re going to the 250, because I’ve never raced 250 weekend,” Anderson said. “I’ve never had a car here 250 weekend. It’s always been my dream to be on the big stage.”

• • •

Fears of an overcrowded pit area Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway never really materialized.

Curt Hanscom of Fryeburg, longtime spotter for Travis Stearns, said things were relatively quiet for an Oxford 250 – especially on a day with an extra race program added to an already busy morning.

“It’s definitely not even like a normal Oxford 250 in the pits,” Hanscom said. “I think with everybody nervous about what was going to happen, there’s actually fewer people in there.

“The atmosphere is definitely not what it usually is.”

Hanscom and some other spotters got creative with how they were going to see the race. While there is pit area seating at the facility with a view of the track, the bleachers are not very tall. Additionally, lighting at the speedway is designed to illuminate the cars for people on the front stretch – leaving pit spectators with a dark and often shadowy view of the action.

Hanscom, Scott Tapley (spotter for Cassius Clark) and Kevin Alden (spotting for Ray Christian III) bought $100 tickets for luxury box seating atop the giant front grandstands.

“On Friday, we were told nobody would be allowed from the pits to the grandstands,” Hanscom said. “We didn’t think spotters would be able to get over to the front stretch otherwise.

“If there’s 40-something cars in the Oxford 250, that’s 40 more people in the stands, which they didn’t want to have happen,” Hanscom said.

The track sold 200 grandstand tickets, leaving the speedway “at 2.5 percent capacity,” according to track owner Tom Mayberry.

• • •

Jimmy Hebert of Williamstown, Vermont, made Oxford Plains history Sunday.

The American-Canadian Tour points leader picked up his second win of the season in the Oxford Plains 150, holding off two-time Oxford 250 winner Ben Rowe of Turner. It was the seventh career ACT win for Hebert, but his first at Oxford.

The race was originally scheduled for Saturday night before rain intervened and forced its postponement to Sunday morning.

“That was one of the things I told the guys was that this Oxford track, we haven’t won at yet,” Hebert said. “We’ve had very, very fast cars every time. … We got a couple breaks at the right time and got to the outside about midrace and got the lead.”

A restart midway through the race – as Rowe and other early leaders were pulling away from the back half of the top 10 – gave Hebert the chance to make up track position and grab the lead. He took the lead for the final time on Lap 93 and held on to the checkered flag.

Rowe, making his second start of the season, was happy to be in contention.

“It’s way above our expectation,” said Rowe. “It’s kind of an in-house deal. It’s kind of a project we threw together over this winter wanting to go have some fun. But the idea of having two races in one day wasn’t my idea of fun. But we made it through it.”

Bryan Kruczek of Newmarket, New Hampshire, and Dylan Payea of Milton, Vermont, finished third and fourth, respectively.

• • •

NOTES: A total of 56 cars entered qualifying for the Oxford 250, just one fewer than last year. … Rookie driver Kate Re of Lovell became the fourth female driver to qualify for the main event, earning the No. 31 position on the starting grid. The last was Sarah Cornette-Ching in 2017. … Kurt Hewins of Leeds won the first Street Stock feature, and Jordan Pearson of Thorndike won the second. Both were 35-lap races. Waterford’s Spencer Morse won the 75-lap PASS Modified feature, and Gary Dwinal of West Baldwin won the morning Modified event.

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