Last summer, Johnny Clark was able to finally take home his first Oxford 250 win in 13 tries. However, Clark and others that drive at Oxford Plains Speedway know how special a win turns into once you drive the course. 

“There’s nothing that will replace luck at the Oxford 250,” Clark said.

There’s so much that goes into the Sunday of the Oxford 250. You can’t enter OPS with just one plan in mind. 

“You have to have four or five different game plans and it comes down to what you get for a draw in the heat,” Cassius Clark said. “Ideally you start in the front, lead the race and dictate what you want to run for lap times and when everyone else will have to pit but unfortunately that’s not reality.”

Oxford 250 champion Johnny Clark celebrates in victory lane after winning the 2020 race at Oxford Plains Speedway on Aug. 30, 2020. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

At the beginning of Sunday, racers find out their starting position in the qualifying heat via a draw. If you start at the back of a heat, it can be a daunting task to focus on reaching a top-four automatic qualifying spot. 

“If you start 12th there’s nothing fun thinking about how you have to make the top-four,” Johnny Clark said. “If you have a good draw it can really help your day out.”

Both Johnny and Cassius Clark — two drivers not related but who both were among the close-but-no-wins club at the 250 until Johnny Clark’s victory last year — were at Oxford Plains Speedway on Tuesday for Oxford 250 media day.

From left to right: Cassius Clark, Dave Farrington Jr. and 2020 Oxford 250 winner Johnny Clark talk with a sitting member of the media during the 2021 Oxford 250 Media Day on Tuesday. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal

Cassius Clark had to start the Oxford 250 in the back of the pack last year, and with so many fast cars ahead of him his focus had to be laser-pointed. Clark had to time his pit stops perfectly, be quick in his stops and hope some caution flags were timed right in order to help his climb from the back to the front. 

“This race provides two and three-wide racing through the whole pack and there’s a lot of cars in a short amount of space so a lot can go wrong,” Cassius Clark said. “Then, you have someone like Jeff Taylor who is so fast that even though we charged from 40th to 20th in 40 or 50 laps, it wasn’t good enough. We got down a lap from him and we had a good car, but the trouble was we never were in position for a ‘lucky dog’ where they give a lap back. We were working our way back but he kept catching the tail end of the field and he kept putting the same guys down a lap so they got lucky dogs and we weren’t in position. … It’s hectic and nerve-wracking that if you do have a car to work your way up quickly and then when you do get (near the front), you’ve burnt more of your tires. It’s intense and there’s a lot of strategy.”

For Johnny Clark, pinpointed pit stops were crucial in taking down Taylor for his long-awaited Oxford 250 victory last year in front of just 800 fans. 

“We ended up pitting on lap 95 because we started in 24th and Jeff Taylor was out there lapping the field and we had no choice but to pit,” Johnny Clark said. “We were within a straightaway of going down a lap. When the caution flies and you have nothing to lose you’ve got to pit and you’ve got to put tires on, make your car better and boy did we. We took the lead within 40 laps, we had the right track position at lap 170 and we were sitting there and put four new tires on and we were able to lead the rest of the race.”

Cassius Clark won a week ago at the Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150 on August 14 in his first race since the 2020 Oxford 250. Clark liked his car last year and tuned it up with his team over the winter and only improved off his 14th-place finish in the 250 a year ago. 

While he’s confident in his car, he knows he can’t pencil his name in the record books quite yet. 

“We had a set up last year that we thought was really good but we ran into a couple issues,” Cassius Clark said. “Technical stuff and we had to change things around, getting the right heights, and that kind of beat us a little bit in the race. We practiced real well but we realized we were too low. They addressed that issue over the winter and the car is as good as it was last year but doesn’t have to worry about some of the technical stuff.”

“There’s so many variables, you could blow a motor, anything could happen,” Cassius Clark added. “As far as setup-wise, I think we are in good shape. We are getting a new batch of tires that nobody’s been on and it’s the same that we’ve been running on but the tires are never the same. It depends on how those turn out but it will be a busy week.”

Johnny Clark has taken what he learned from his victory last year and is keeping his experiences in the back of his head as he defends his title Sunday. 

“No one should be locked into your setup because you won’t know what you have until Sunday,” Johnny Clark said. “But, we are just going to try to put as many tools into the tool box as we can and if we feel the track is going that way then we will try to pull some of those tools out.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.