OXFORD — He’s arguably the most successful driver in Oxford 250 history, but Dave Dion said he was surprised that he was being honored at the 50th edition of the event on Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway.

He’s felt not wanted before.

Much has changed since Dion won the second edition of the race, then added two more victories, all while battling with racing officials. Once he realized the invitation to serve as grand marshal for the50th Oxford 250 was no joke, he was all in.

“It means way more now that I’m here than I thought it would,” Dion said while watching qualifying for Sunday’s race in a skybox high above the track where he last competed in 2007. “It means a lot. It means a lot to me.”

He called it an honor to be chosen as grand marshal, noting that he and his brothers started thinking of how many people have competed in the event. Hundreds, they pondered? Thousands?

“And to be selected. … At first, I just thought it was kind of a joke,” Dion said.


Dion’s long racing career included Oxford 250 victories in 1975, 1985 and 1992.

“It’s really the only thing you can do in New England that gives you credibility, is the Oxford 250,” Dion said. “We’ve won the Milk Bowl, we’ve won championships. But the way the rest of the country looks at New England, they really don’t take us seriously. But they do take the Oxford 250 seriously. And that’s why Kyle Busch, and (Kevin) Harvick and Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, they’ve all come here, they’ve put their toe in the water.

“If someone did an interview with you and said, ‘Just a couple lines,’ you would say, ‘I won an Oxford 250!’ Yeah, it’s our claim to fame.”

Dion recalled heading into the second Oxford 250 in 1975, he wasn’t among the drivers considered a threat to win. But he had a good car, and he said he and his team had finally come into their own. The result was his first 250 victory.

“That had a lot of meaning, that gave me a lot of credibility,” he said.

He gained a reputation over the next decade, and it wasn’t a good one in the eyes of NASCAR, which was the race’s sanctioning body at the time. But they couldn’t keep Dion out of the race in 1985, when it was an open competition.


He led only one lap – the last – passing Joey Kourafas to win for a second time.

“So we came in as an open comp, and we beat the others. And on the last lap,” Dion said. “And Joey Kourafas was one of the darlings of the series.”

The feuding hadn’t stopped seven years later, but new track owner Michael Liberty made sure that Dion entered, and made sure that he would get a fair shake in technical inspection.

Despite winning his record third 250, Dion said he even had to deal with another hassle in postrace inspection, which went on for about an hour.

Grand marshal Dave Dion talks with former rival Langis Caron, who dueled with Dion in the 1975 Oxford 250, which was Dion’s first of three victories in the Oxford 250. Dion also won in 1985 and 1992 and is considered one of the top drivers in the race’s history. Brewster Burns photo

“They all had drama in them,” Dion said of his three wins, while chuckling. “And they all have a lot of meaning. It was kind of justice that we came back and beat the people that threw us out.”

As the 60 entrants Sunday were getting ready for the 50th running, the nearly-80-year-old Dion was soaking up the attention.


“I mean, I don’t think I’ve absorbed it all yet,” he added. “I’ve run into a lot of people that said, ‘Thanks for coming, Dave,’ and all that. I don’t know most of the young drivers. They’ve probably heard of me. But I read about them. They’re very respectful, you know, for someone my age – and my racing has passed me by, it’s over – and they’re pretty respectful, and that’s nice when young people, that they appreciate us.”

“Us” includes Mike Rowe, another three-time Oxford 250 champion. Rowe, 73, raced in the event’s first edition, and he earned his way into the main event for the 40th time by winning his heat race on Sunday.

Dion said he talked to Rowe earlier Sunday and told him to not give up in the feature. Dion said he thought Rowe had a chance to become the first driver in 250 history to win a fourth title. When Rowe asked Dion if he wanted a cold drink, Dion told Rowe, ‘You can give me one in Victory Lane.’”

Dion mentioned that Rowe will be inducted into the Living Legends of Auto Racing in Daytona, Florida, in February. Dion is a board member and was the one who nominated Rowe.

While Dion is done racing, he admitted that being a spectator was difficult for him.

“When they drop the flag tonight, I’m going to be a real sad guy, because they’re going off without me,” he said. “Honestly, if I wasn’t the grand marshal, I’d be gone before they got to green because I couldn’t stand to see those cars go without me.

“But the fact that I’ve got this great honor, I’m gonna take it all in.”

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