I’ve never been great at picking the Oxford 250 winner. Parity and the ever-evolving nature of the sport make it more difficult than ever to choose a prohibitive favorite. And I have lived 1,000 miles away for the track for the past seven years.

Kalle Oakes, Sports Columnist

So this ought to be fun.

Seriously, I’m a has-been as far as this race is concerned. Just a paying customer on Racing America along with everyone else who isn’t within a $3.89 per gallon cruise along Route 26.

Right now I’m looking at the list of weekly feature winners at Oxford Plains Speedway this summer.

Eleven different drivers have carried the checkered flag out of a dozen races. What kind of witchcraft is that? It’s completely abnormal.

Max Cookson is the only name on that list to make a repeat left-hand turn into the winner’s circle. I have never seen the guy race live.


My understanding is that he was an iRacing phenom during the COVID-19 pandemic, transitioned into the real thing after we were all allowed out of our homes and has been absurdly good ever since. He’s like the local version of William Byron.

Less than a month ago I was on social media and saw that Mike and Ben Rowe won back-to-back races on a double weekend at OPS. Mike topped the traditional Saturday night feature, with Ben scoring the Pro All Stars Series victory on Sunday.

Mike is a 73-year-old who recently beat cancer. Ben last I knew had broken up with the team that furnished his cars for well over a decade and hadn’t won a super late model touring event in five years.

So, wait. Now I’ve got to add them to my list of contenders? Gosh, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve jinxed those two guys over the years.

Jeff Taylor races once a year and invariably finds a way not to win that would make the 1919-2003 Boston Red Sox cringe. Yet he could navigate his way to the front of the pack at OPS in his sleep against any level of competition and any stage of his career. How on Earth am I supposed to handicap his chances?

Peering at the PASS point standings, I see only nine races have been run this year and that 12 of the top 15 full-timers haven’t yet won.


Yeah, that’s helpful. Picking someone to win the granddaddy of all northern New England stock car races when they haven’t even set the pace in a 150-lapper at White Mountain this summer would make a world of sense.

Beneath that Cookson kid in that points tally are the names of D.J. Shaw and Trevor Sanborn. Well, they were basically kids when I skipped town and now they have mortgages and stuff.

Is this the year they join Johnny Clark and Cassius Clark of recent vintage and finally smash the 250 ceiling after running in the top-5 and top-10 all their lives? I’d love to tell you it’s a Las Vegas lock, but admittedly it would be nothing more than a hunch or sheer sentimentality.

At one time or another this year I gather Austin Teras has been the hottest commodity on four wheels at Oxford. Dear old dad Jay Cushman has furnished 250 rides for everyone from Dave Dion to Scott Chubbuck to Larry Gelinas with some of the rottenest luck getting in the way of that elusive win.

Do I go with the hot hand or with the history there? Again, here I am trying to weigh the merits of someone I’ve only seen compete at OPS when my internet isn’t buffering.

Bubba Pollard is bound to recapture that 2018 lightning in a bottle, assuming he shows up. Hey, at least he’s a 100% known quantity.


Travis Benjamin has only won this thing three times in the past 10 years and at least hinted at retirement on Facebook earlier this week. Yeah, I get my Oxford racing news these days from some of the reliable sources.

At any rate, should I assume he’s hungry and pick him to become the first guy to put his name on the T-shirt four times? Or do I look at his one-off Oxford feature win and dabbling among the low car counts on the Granite State Pro Stock Series as reasons not to get carried away?

Stop me if I’m repeating myself, but heck, I dunno.

A weekly racer would be cool for the golden anniversary edition. But if not Cookson, who? Dave Farrington Jr., Kyle DeSouza, Calvin Rose Jr., Scott Moore, Joe Pastore and Kate Re are on that everybody-and-their-brother/sister list that have at least proven they can run up front in a Saturday night sprint.

Moore and Re would be complete underdogs, but you’re never too far out to lunch picking a shot in the dark to win this race. Sure, you would have laughed me to scorn if I anointed Gelinas in 1996, Jeremie Whorff in 2006 or Roger Brown in 2007. But who would have been guffawing at the end of the night, pal? Hmm?

Nine times out of 10 since its origin in the mid ’70s, though, the winner of this race has been somebody of whom you might have said, “Ah, yes. I should have seen that coming.”


Nobody has a prouder and more prolific history of uttering those words than yours truly. It’s the reason I’ve been nice and not even mentioned Joey Doiron, the co-favorite who received the printed kiss of death last year on Sunday morning.

I guess when you’re at a safe distance at least there’s no chance of an awkward encounter in the pit area when you try to explain to Driver X why you did him like that.

And since I’m already on the record as never having met him or seen him race from anywhere but my recliner, Max Cookson it is.

Hey, if technology can take him from the couch to the mountaintop in three years, there’s hope for it being my only tool to choose a champ.

Kalle Oakes attended every Oxford 250 for more than 30 years and was a Sun Journal staff writer and columnist from 1989 to 2016. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Stay in touch with him at kaloakes1972@yahoo.com.

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