There was a lot of activity in the pit area at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday afternoon while the headliner Super Late Model cars were transitioning from qualifying heat races to consolation qualifiers.

Hallowell’s Johnny Clark, the 2020 Oxford 250 winner, perennial contender Derek Griffith, and sensational second-year SLM driver Max Cookson were all relieved to be wearing T-shirts rather than firesuits.

“It’s a huge relief. I’m in street clothes, just like you right now,” Clark said. “It’s huge. It makes for such a better day.”

Clark wasn’t feeling as good at the end of his heat race. The top five finishers qualified directly into the Oxford 250, and Clark placed sixth. However, Joey Doiron failed his postrace inspection and was disqualified after crossing the line in third place. That bumped Clark up to fifth, allowing him to avoid a consolation heat.

“I mean, I’m looking around, like they haven’t rolled (the cars out for) consis yet. You know, Tracy Gordon, Jeff Taylor, Cassius Clark, some really, really big names have yet to put the car in the field,” he said. “So it’s nice to just sit here and relax.”

There were five heat races Sunday, with 12 cars in each, and Clark’s heat might have been the most difficult. Clark was joined by five other former Oxford 250 winners: Cassius Clark, Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe, Jeremie Whorff and Eddie MacDonald.


“When I saw the heat lineup, I couldn’t believe it. I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” Johnny Clark said. “We’ve got one of the best cars I’ve had here in a long time, probably since we won it in 2020. And then you see the lineup, and you’re starting 10th – it’s one thing to be starting on the front row in a qualified spot, but you got five more (places to gain) before you get in. It’s kind of depressing. All you could do is pick off what you can, keep the fenders on, put yourself in a good position to go to the consi, and that’s what we had done.”


One of the most nerve-wracking moments for Oxford 250 drivers is when they blindly pick a numbered poker chip out of a bag. Picking the right chip means a favorable starting spot in a qualifying heat.

Some drivers put a lot of mental energy into deciding who will pick the chip. Kids or friends become good-luck charms.

Then there’s Griffith, of Hudson, New Hampshire, and defending 250 winner Cole Butcher of Nova Scotia.

“We just joked around about it on the way up (to the drawing spot on the frontstretch),” Griffith said. “I said, ‘Hey, I can’t draw any worse than anyone else,’ so I’m like, ‘Hey, you want to draw mine, I’ll draw yours?’ … I’ve been friends with Cole for a long time, he’s awesome. He’s a very talented race car driver, so it’s pretty cool to watch him come up.”


Neither Griffith nor Butcher drew a favorable number. Griffith picked the No. 9 starting spot in the second heat for Butcher, and Butcher drew Griffith into the eighth spot in the first heat.

“We were a little bummed out, but honestly, this race, there’s so much that goes into it that – the heat draw is really important, I should say, but it’s just not the determining factor of your weekend, right?” Griffith said.

Both were able to get into the top five of their respective heats.

Griffith said his car was good on long runs, and it showed at times in the heat as he finished fifth. Butcher, meanwhile, picked up where he left off last August, moving his way up through the field and winning his heat.

“He’s obviously going to be one of the favorites. He’s in really good equipment, and he’s a good race car driver,” Griffith said. “I feel like he’s better now than he has been in the past, too. And he’ll even say that, too. I mean, he’s running all of these races all over the country, and he’s really, really good. So he’s got a target on his back, for sure. And, I don’t know, he’s going to be hard to beat.”



Cookson, from Pittsfield, is participating in only his second Oxford 250, but he’s already finding a theme – and a bit of luck.

For the second straight year, Cookson started his heat second, but unlike last year, he won his qualifier.

“It’s everything. You know, the draw went good for us, and started second and got the lead in the heat and was able to win,” Cookson said. “So that’s huge, and now we can just kind of relax. The pressure’s off. We got probably another two hours before we even go out on the racetrack. So just be able to kind of relax, and get all your tires checked, and get everything good ….”

Cookson said he learned a lot from last year’s experience. He’s also been learning from his last-minute teammate, 2018 Oxford 250 winner Bubba Pollard, to whom Cookson’s team loaned a car. Pollard, from Georgia, raced Thursday in Missouri and wouldn’t have been able to get his car to Maine in time for the 250.

“It’s been huge. They’re super intelligent, and I’ve definitely already learned a lot,” Cookson said. “They missed it by one in the heat, so they’re starting second here in the consi, so I’m pretty confident they’ll be able to get in right here.”

Indeed, Pollard earned his way into the field by placing second in the second consolation heat.

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