This Lewiston Daily Sun photo shows Geoff Bodine on the day he won the 1980 Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Screen grab

The Oxford 250 reaches its 50th year this weekend. It started as a 200-lap race at Oxford Plains Speedway in 1974 and quickly became one of the top short-track races in the country. Here is a look at the first 10 races:

1. JULY 14, 1974
The one that started it all might have been the longest of them all. The first Oxford 250 — which was called the Open Competition Race and was 200 laps — took 18 days from the first lap to the naming of a winner. What started in Oxford was decided in Daytona, Florida.

Joey Kourafas of Sharon, Massachusetts, crossed the finish line first on Sunday, July 14, but the 21-year-old’s big win wouldn’t be official until July 31. That’s because George Summers put down the required $100 to protest the race. Summers dominated the day, taking the lead on the 36th lap and holding it for 161. However, Summers’ gas tank was almost empty and he had to pit on the 197th lap when the yellow flag came out.

Summers thought he lapped the entire field, and therefore would retain his lead when he exited the pit. However, Kourafas and John Rosati passed Summers. The protest went to NASCAR in Florida, which ultimately denied the protest.

2. JULY 20, 1975
In its second year, the Oxford 250 became a 250-lap race. The field included the top three NASCAR point leaders, including No. 1 L.D. Ottinger, but Dave Dion and George Summers dominated the day.

Dion, of Hudson, New Hampshire, started in pole position and Summers started second. Those two drivers combined to lead all but four laps. Dion took the lead from Summers on the 168th lap and was in front the rest of the way, other than Summers’ final, brief push to the front after a restart on the 235th lap.


3. JULY 18, 1976
Butch Lindley entered the third Oxford 250 race having established himself as one of the winningest NASCAR National drivers. He told the Lewiston Evening Journal that he didn’t expect to win his first time at Oxford Plains.

But Lindley, of Greensboro, South Carolina, out-raced Newburgh’s Ralph Nason to win the top prize. Nason, a future three-time winner, initially protested the result before withdrawing. His second-place showing was the best by a Maine driver in the first three 250s.

4. JULY 17, 1977
Toronto’s Don Biederman became the first Canadian to win the Oxford 250 — then called the Oxford 250-lap National Championship Open. For the fourth year in a row, there was a protest filed about the finish, this time by runner-up Bob Pressley, but the results stood. Pressley later said he miscalculated the laps.

5. JULY 16, 1978
Bob Pressley was determined to get things right at the fifth 250, and he did. The driver from Asheville, North Carolina, took the lead in the 39th lap and held it to win.

It was the second of three consecutive top-three finishes for Pressley, whose son, Robert, drove in the 1990 and ’91 Oxford 250s. Bill Dennis took second and Butch Lindley third, making Lindley the first driver in the race’s history to earn first-, second- and third-place finishes.

6. JULY 22, 1979
The sixth edition was delayed for a week after qualifying due to rain. A lot happened in a week. Pole winner Junior Hanley crashed his car during a midweek race between the two Sundays and was unable to return for the Oxford 250.


Tom Rosati kisses the check he earned for winning the 1979 Oxford 250. This photo appeared in the July 24, 1979, edition of the Lewiston Daily Sun. Screen grab

That increased everyone else’s chances of winning the $10,000 winner’s check, the largest in the race’s history at the time. Tom Rosati, from Agawam, Massachusetts, overcame a spinout on lap 212 to win the race days after his 19th birthday. The younger brother of John Rosati, the runner-up in the first 250, kissed the check given to him by track manager Dick Bahre and said to the Lewiston Daily Sun, “I’ve never won a big one before, I still can’t believe it!”

7. JULY 13, 1980
Five of the race’s six previous winners qualified for the main event, but it was Geoff Bodine, born in New York but living in North Carolina at the time, who won the seventh Oxford 250. To do so, Bodine had to out-duel the great Butch Lindley, who placed second to earn $6,000 (more than he received for winning in 1976) and overtake Bob Pressley for the top spot on the race’s all-time money list.

8. JULY 19, 1981
For the first time, drivers received money ($50) for each lap they led and $500 for leading at the halfway point.

Geoff Bodine, only a few years away from a fierce rivalry with Dale Earnhardt, became the first two-time winner and the first repeat winner of the Oxford 250, overcoming a couple of collisions with Tommy Ellis to finish first. Bodine led laps 1-139 and 232-250, and took home $20,800. “That’s probably as much as we’ve made all year,” Bodine said after the race.

This photo of Tommy Ellis celebrating his win in the 1983 Oxford 250 appeared in the July 18, 1983 edition of the Lewiston Journal. Screen grab

9. JULY 18, 1982
Mike Barry of Bolton, Vermont, was a surprise winner among yet another stacked field. Before Barry received his $13,500 check (plus $1,350), officials had to deal with protests that Barry skipped a lap after a collision. However, it was decided that Barry, driving a car built by Steve Leavitt of Kezar Falls, took the lead before the yellow.

10. JULY 17, 1983
The payoff reached six digits, and Tommy Ellis of Richmond, Virginia, earned the $20,000 top prize for the 10th running of the Oxford 250. He then proceeded to rip the local drivers and the “junkers” they drove. His comments, Joe Gromelski of the Lewiston Daily Sun wrote, “took much of the gloss off what he had just done.”

For the record, Ellis also called the 250 “the king” of short-track races, and said southern race promoters could learn a thing from Oxford Plains owner Bob Bahre.

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