OXFORD — You might need a prayer to be answered if you’re trying ‘The Angels’ Expressway’ this season.

When it comes to complaints, race car drivers have them in droves. Whether it’s other competitors, their own cars or even the track itself, there’s always something hindering a better on-track result. For years, it feels like the finicky Oxford Plains Speedway asphalt has been unfairly criticized for the racing its produced.

No matter how the track races all season, the Oxford 250 itself typically ends up producing two-, three-, even four-groove competition.

That may not be the case this year.

“A bad (qualifying) draw, and you’re going to be in for a really long night,” said Parsonsfield driver Trevor Sanborn, who last weekend captured the Port City Triple Crown title at Oxford Plains and the automatic starting spot in the 49th annual Oxford 250 on Aug. 28.

Oxford’s far-outside racing lane — ‘The Angels’ Expressway’ — has been an infamous part of the track’s lore. Whether a weekly feature or the Oxford 250, over the decades it’s been the drivers who can get their cars to work on the outside at Oxford who’ve been rewarded with the most hardware.


They might not get that opportunity in a couple of weeks.

In last weekend’s final leg of the Port City Triple Crown, a series of 100-lap features for the Super Late Model division, nobody made ground on the outside. Jay’s Dave Farrington Jr. picked up a couple of spots in his heat race. Like Sanborn, though, Farrington was caught on the outside on the race’s only restart and immediately dropped.

In the last few summers, as the competition has leveled out through a combination of talent and technology, qualifying rounds for the Oxford 250 have been largely devoid of comes and goers. The daytime heat typically offers a slick race track where passing is difficult.

By the time the feature event rolls around in the evening, the sun sets and the temperatures cool, the racing in the Oxford 250 always found a way to return to its classic two- and three-groove presentation.

There are real concerns among drivers and teams that, for whatever reason, that might not happen in this edition. A Pro All Stars Series 150 at Oxford on Saturday night remains the one final hope that somehow teams will figure out a way to combat a lack of grip on the outside in time for the annual summer classic.

“I still think that once you get to the race itself, it will widen out and you’ll be able to race,” Sanborn said. “At least I hope that’s the case.”


If it’s not, what does it mean for the Oxford 250?

The qualifying draw will take on added significance. Over the last decade, there have been very few “surprises” when it comes to drivers who were unable to qualify for the main event. The cream has always risen to the top and found its way into the show.

But if Oxford remains a one-groove race track two weeks from now, where you draw for your heat race starting spot — a completely blind draw based entirely on luck — could dictate a team’s fortunes before the first green flag of the day ever flies.

From an entertainment perspective, the heat races have the potential to be as entertaining as they’ve ever been.

If fast cars draw poorly into their heat races — and are intent on getting into qualifying spots, by hook or by crook — then these 20-lap dashes have the potential for absolute mayhem. Even the feature itself, with it’s $25,000 check for the winner and bonus money for every lap led, could find intensity ramped up to —as Spinal Tap would prefer— 11.

There’s a lot left to happen before we get to the Oxford 250, to be certain. And there are a lot of laps in practice, qualifying and feature racing for more than 20 divisions of stock cars over the three-day weekend.

If the outlook doesn’t change, however, you won’t be able to rely on The Angels’ Expressway this year. You’ll need to hope your prayers are answered instead.

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