OXFORD — Cassius Clark’s car looked like it had a rough day, but the Farmington driver was the happiest man at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday night.

Clark first took the lead with 73 laps to go, then held onto it for the final 27 laps, fending off a late challenge from 2017 winner Curtis Gerry of Waterboro to win the 48th running of the Oxford 250.

“Just track position was key there,” Clark said. “You know, we got out front – and I love being out front, I can set my own pace. Yeah, we just did time trial laps the rest of the race there.”

The win is Clark’s first at the Oxford 250 after many close calls in past years.

It could have been another missed opportunity for Clark when he and leader Eddie MacDonald collided while battling for the lead behind lapped traffic a couple laps after a restart. But Clark made it through the carnage – albeit with a punched-in right side of the car – and grabbed the lead when the caution flag was thrown.

“Yeah, (Turns) 3 and 4 there, there was a big wreck,” Clark said. “And I saw it coming and kind of went to the bottom, but I couldn’t jump the curb, either, and I got run into in the back and I could see a guy coming up and a guy coming down.

“I just kept the wheels straight and was able to get through it.”

Derek Griffith finished third. He was the leader when the race’s sixth of 13 cautions came at Lap 175. He briefly took the lead from Clark at Lap 222, but Clark quickly took it back and held on until the end.

“(Cassius) had so much speed, and every time we’d gain a little bit, he’d just gain it right back. So it was a tough race,” Griffith said. “I feel like I might have used it up a little bit on the outside of him on those restarts. Man, there was just so many restarts. I wish I was restarting on the bottom. My car was a lot better on the bottom. But hats off to those guys. Hell of a run. Hell of a run by (runner-up Curtis Gerry).”

Gerry gave one last try against Clark in Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap, but his bump didn’t stop Clark from crossing the line first.

“I was definitely faster than him on the bottom, and I don’t know if I had anything on the outside for him,” Gerry said. “I bumped him a little bit, moved him a bit, but I’d hate to win like that. It’s just not my M.O. It sucks to come up short, come that close and come up short. But we had a heck of a day. Can’t be not proud of that.”

Gerry was the leader for much of the early part of the race. DJ Shaw jumped ahead of pole-winner TJ Brackett at the start, then Gerry took the lead from Shaw on Lap 6. He held it until a caution on Lap 108.

MacDonald and fourth-place finisher Joey Doiron both took turns leading until Griffith became the leader on Lap 118.

Last year’s winner, Johnny Clark – no relation to Cassius Clark – finished fifth after getting an unlucky draw. He started dead last in his heat, right behind Gerry, who was able to speed his way to the front and win the qualifying heat.

Clark said after the draw that he was hoping to use the heat as an extra practice for the consolation qualifiers. He finished second in his consi to make it into the feature.

Gerry’s car ran well early on the outside, but he said his new tires after his pit stop were too snug to make the top lane work. Griffith also said his second set of tires didn’t run as well as his first set.

The way Cassius Clark performed on restarts, it might not have mattered.

“I just practiced my restarts,” Clark said. “You know, I’ve been out of it for basically a year since last year’s 250. We had a tune-up race there (two weeks ago). You know, for half a day I was practicing my restarts, and obviously it paid off today.”

Trevor Sanborn, who won the last-chance qualifier to get into the race, finished eighth. Joey Polewarczyk, the 2012 champion, was ninth. Bubba Pollard, the 2018 winner, got in via a provisional and was the 43rd and final starter in the race. He drove up into the top five before settling for a 10th-place finish.

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