Both the Oxford 250 and yours truly have been around 49 years, and I’m confident plenty of insiders would have forecast neither to become true half a lifetime ago.

But against all odds, we’ve adapted, accepted the constructive criticism, asked the tough questions, made the difficult decisions and not-so-subtle changes when necessary, and here we are.

Kalle Oakes, Sports Columnist

One stark difference is that one of us wields more earning potential in a single day than the other can boast in an entire year, but such is life.

While I’ve been in the super-fan camp since I was barely out of diapers, certainly you can count me as one who didn’t expect in my heart and soul for the 250 to survive the past three decades of an ever-evolving motor sports economy.

That gut feeling made some of us wonder if our version of the Daytona 500 would survive without NASCAR sanction. I now humbly submit that it’s still here because it ain’t NASCAR.

The tiny degree of gimmickry that accompanies the 250 has been built into the fabric of the race from its origins. It stays that way due to the massive popularity of that blind draw and those nail-biter heats with its faithful fan base.


We all owe the late, great Bob Bahre our debt of gratitude for however long this race persists as one of Maine’s showcase sporting events.

Oxford’s then-owner pushed all the hot buttons, first seeing the demand for a high-dollar late model race in the foothills back in 1974. After Joey Kourafas outlasted George Summers in the inaugural 200-lap event, Bahre shrewdly calculated that 50 extra laps would ultimately bring a pit stop for fuel and tires into the equation.

Bahre also attracted the NASCAR banner and promoted the North vs. South angle to no end. He added lap-leader bonus money as the carrot on the stick, an element that has turned countless best-in-shows into non-winners and is still around to potentially almost double the winner’s share today.

Best of all, Bahre cultivated an event that was bigger than any sanctioning body, is recession-proof and guarantees the customers a good show whether the entry list is littered with national stars or it’s comprised exclusively of regional personalities and weekend warriors.

That’s not to diminish the labor of love by any keepers of the flame since Bahre left Oxford’s hallowed ground for his other racing and business ventures. All have done their fair share to give this race forward bite through the corners and keep it accelerating toward the half-century club.

During the Busch Grand National era in the 1980s decade of excess, Michael Liberty escalated the purse to a record level that still stands. When the national landscape changed due to NASCAR’s boom and BGN (now Xfinity Series) getting a full-on national TV contract in the early ’90s, Liberty had the wisdom to put the baton in Tom Curley’s hand, and the American-Canadian Tour promoter brought back the car count in droves.


Bill Ryan restored the concept of overflow crowds after the turn of the century with a parade of NASCAR champion ringers that started with Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch and was punctuated by 250 winners Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

There was tension when Ryan scaled back the race to ACT late model rules near the end of his speedway ownership. A peace accord in that cold war ultimately paved the way for Ryan’s sale of the property to Pro All Stars Series promoter Tom Mayberry. That has led to another revival in the 250’s proud history and a decade of consistency and stout competition.

Against all odds and trends that have slowly but surely prevailed in other parts of the country, nearly 70 cars are expected on the grounds to make a qualifying attempt this weekend.

The only other super late model races in the country drawing an entry list of 70 or more are crown-jewel dirt races. The Slinger (Wisconsin) Nationals and Pensacola (Florida) Snowball Derby thrive with shorter fields, headlined by unofficial NASCAR Cup development teams with young lions at the wheel. It also doesn’t hurt the perception when Kyle Busch or William Byron shows up to compete.

There’s still only one Oxford 250, and like those other major super late model events, it’s now available to a national pay-per-view live stream audience on Racing America. Flatlanders and expatriates such as I can spring for the cost of a reserved seat and enjoy all the action from our living rooms.

It isn’t a perfect solution for someone who gave no small pieces of his heart and soul to this race decades ago, but it surely beats the complete fear of missing out. It also potentially exposes this race to drivers and fans who have heard the fable but maybe have to catch a glimpse to believe it.


Then and now, the Oxford 250 is a race that defies description. Based on sheer numbers and inherent unpredictability, it’s also a party that only the foolhardy dare to handicap on paper.

My misfortune in doing so over the years is both well-documented and a bit overstated. But yes, I tend to do better when my pick is shared with only a close few and not in ink for the world to see.

This is as good a time as any to throw sports editor Lee Horton under the bus. Last year on race day he apologized for forgetting my column from afar until it was too late. Then he asked me just for amusement who would win. “Cassius,” I replied, as in Clark, who indeed parked it in 250 victory lane for the first time later that evening. I saved the screenshots to prove it.

My rationale was simple. When you look at 250 history via the winners list, it’s marked by eras. Johnny Clark’s win in 2020, a race that Jeff Taylor also dominated for a while, indicated to me that we’re moving into a stretch of long-suffering drivers finally crossing this win off their bucket lists. Cassius Clark felt like the next logical choice.

Joey Doiron and Kyle Desouza battle during the final qualifying heat of last year’s Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Brewster Burns photo

Easy to stay with that philosophy this year, especially since a trio of the hottest drivers in northern New England fall into the been-there-and-just-haven’t-closed-the-deal category: Joey Doiron, DJ Shaw and Trevor Sanborn.

Doiron has dominated the Granite State Pro Stock Series and also owns an Oxford PASS win this summer. It might be two victories, but incidental contact from good friend Shaw flipped that script two weeks ago. Sanborn has both a recent checkered flag and 250 qualifier triple crown title to his credit at OPS.


You could find other drivers to fit my theoretical mold for the eventual winner — Taylor and Dave Farrington Jr. absolutely do — but I’ll go with the three hottest right feet in the order they were just mentioned.

Doiron takes that elusive step to the top of the podium. Shaw matches father Dale’s runner-up finish of 30 years ago. Sanborn makes a late run but settles for show horse.

No matter how it turns out, it’s sure to be a race that leaves us in a rush to get to next year’s golden anniversary, and one that makes us all hope we’re around to see 50 more of ’em.

Kalle Oakes attended or covered every Oxford 250 from 1979 to 2015. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic and a dirt racing snob who hasn’t forgotten Maine or his asphalt roots.

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