Consider this weekend the calm before the storm.

The usual docket of races are set for local tracks around the state, but in just one short week the Oxford 250 will invade Oxford Plains Speedway.

“I’ve always said this but when you win a race you want all big names in it,” said Farmingdale’s Johnny Clark, who finished second in the 250 in 2005. “You want big names and big numbers and then when you’ve won something like that it adds to it. The 250 is a big race for us. A lot of money on the line. You always feel like it’s an added bonus just qualifying.”

For Clark in particular it is shaping up to be a big race.

This past weekend Clark’s ninth place result at the Southern Maine Motors Firecracker 150 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway — and more specifically, former points leader D.J. Shaw’s 22nd place finish — allowed the six-time Pro All Stars Series North champ to take over the points lead.

After a rough last two years Clark has officially gotten his groove back and is a bona fide contender for yet another PASS North title.

“It’s pretty good. It just gives added momentum going into the 250,” Clark said. “It’s always better to be ahead than behind.”

Of course, a seasoned veteran like Clark is well aware that there is plenty of racing still to go.

“It’s still a tight race,” Clark said. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and keep plugging along. We need to run better than we did last weekend. Even though we took the lead, D.J. Shaw had an uncharacteristic 22nd.

“…I said it from the beginning we’d have to do all top 10 runs to (win the PASS North title). Everyone behind me has used a mulligan, I hope that I don’t have to.”

•••

It has been a big first full season at Beech Ridge for Reid Lanpher.

Recently the Maranacook Community High School junior took his first win of the season in the NASCAR Nites Pro Series, which helped him vault to the top of the points standings.

“We didn’t want to set expectations too high. We wanted to win a race, be competitive and learn a lot,” Lanpher said. “We didn’t have a goal to win a championship. To be in the position we are in now is awesome and we have to keep on going week to week and have good solid finishes. You never know where you’ll end up at the end.”

Lanpher’s first win came on Tuesday, July 1 in the Miller Lite American Celebration race and he was quick to credit all those around him for the victory.

“It was huge for us. For the team and everybody it was big for the first year,” he said. “It was just people don’t realize how big it is. It ain’t just big for me, it’s big for so many. All my sponsors, everyone on my crew, everyone that comes to the track to support me. Everybody that puts all the time and effort into this. I was so happy to pull it off for them.

“We’re going to try and pick another one as soon as we can this year and try to hang tight.”

For the time being the races at Beech Ridge are Lanpher’s primary focus. He has his name put in for the Oxford 250, but said he’s unlikely to race due to a conflict with Beech Ridge.

“We’re up in the air right now,” Lanpher said. “As of right now I think we’re not going to run that because it would conflict with me running Saturday (July 19).

“…We think that’s for the better if we just focus on Saturday (at Beech Ridge).”

•••

Kris Matchett, of Skowhegan, has been around racing for a long time but it was not until four years ago until he got behind the wheel.

“I helped some other people before,” Matchett said. “I’ve been around it for a while but I was never a driver until four years ago.

“I had a car given to me by my uncle (Ken Johnson) and grandfather (Kurt Johnson). They said if you wanted to run it, there it is. I ran that for half a season before I got wrecked in it and totaled it. Then we went out and bought another one.”

Since that first season Matchett has enjoyed a great deal of success racing in the Sportsman Division at Speedway 95, turning in a pair of runner-up performances the past two seasons.

This season, however, Matchett has been nearly unbeatable. He won the first five races of the year and after three straight seconds, he was back in victory lane last weekend.

“We got in a little wreck the week before and came home and had to change a few things,” Matchett said of the win. “(We had to) get things adjusted back to where they were and we were still a little off, but it was good enough.”

Matchett leads the division with 762 points, and is followed by Glenburn natives D.C. Alexander (718) and Emma Libby (662). Even with the sizable lead with only a few races to go, Matchett knows anything is possible.

“It’s definitely not over yet,” he said. “We definitely have to work harder to get there.”

Hard work is nothing new to Matchett though. He and his father, Dan, do all of their own work on the car — but that is part of the fun for Matchett.

“We get a lot of gratification out of it,” he said. “We go off of what we’ve learned and what not.

“…The two of us go every week. Once and a while we get some other people to help.”

Matchett will be off from Speedway 95 until July 26, but said he will try his hand racing in the Outlaw Class at Oxford Plains on Sunday.

“We’re going to try. I’ve never raced at Oxford before,” Matchett said. “I don’t have huge expectations, but we’re just going for the fun of it.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: Evan_Crawley


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