He’s won plenty of 250-lap races in his career, but it’s the one he hasn’t won yet that Johnny Clark thinks about the most.

On Sunday, Clark will join more than 70 other drivers when he tries to win the 43rd annual H.P. Hood Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. With a guaranteed winner’s purse of $25,000 — plus plenty more in lap-leader bonuses — the race remains the crown jewel of auto racing in northern New England.

And though the six-time Pro All Stars Series champion Clark has won the PASS 300 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway four times in his career, the DNK Select 250 at Unity Raceway in 2004, the Toyota Tundra 250 at Wiscasset Speedway in 2008 and the Auto Value 250 at Speedway 660 in Canada, the Oxford 250 title is virtually the only one to elude him in his nearly 20-year racing career.

“When Glen (Luce) won it last year, it was the biggest thing he’d ever done in racing,” Clark said. “I honestly feel like if I won it, it would be the biggest thing I’d ever done, too, and I’ve been so fortunate to win so many big-money races all over Canada and here (in the northeast).

“There’s just nothing that can prepare you for this race.”

Clark will be the first to admit that he’s not the same terror he once was on the PASS North Series circuit, where he has 35 career wins to accent his six championships. But after taking a break at this time last season to try and get his program back on track, Clark, of Hallowell, has seen his fortunes turn.


While he has yet to win this season, the 36-year-old driver sits third in the standings with three top fives and eight top 10s through 11 races. He enters Oxford 250 week with two third-place finishes in his last three races.

“We’re in a better place than we were last year at this same time,” Clark said. “We’ve had three thirds this year, and while those are not exactly the finishes we want, we’re in the hunt. We’re closing in on second (in the standings) and still have a chance to win it.

“Glen wasn’t on anybody’s radar to win the 250 last year before he did. The fact I’m not on too many people’s radar this year doesn’t bother me. No one will really know until you get late into the race on Sunday night who has a chance to win, just like it’s always been in this race. But I feel like at the end of the 250, we’re going to have as good a shot as anyone. I really do.”

In the most recent PASS race at Oxford, on Aug. 1, Clark finished a disappointing 13th. But he knows as well as anyone that, while that race is traditionally billed as the last true test session for the Oxford 250, it has little bearing on what can happen this weekend on the flat, notoriously finicky .375-mile oval.

And Clark is also in the company of a handful of drivers who have come oh-so-close to winning the Oxford 250.

In 2004, he sat on the pole and led 125 of the first 128 laps before getting collected when a lapped car spun in front of him to end his race early. The following summer, Clark was leading with 10 laps to go before three-time 250 champion Mike Rowe, of Turner, made the pass for the win, relegating Clark to runner-up status. Last year, he raced with the leaders for the first half of the event, only to have pit road traffic cost him track position with 60 laps remaining. He battled back to fourth at the checkered flag.


“(Last year) hurt,” said Clark, who was racing with a fractured shoulder suffered in a work accident at the time. “It really stinks to have that good of a car at the 250 and not win. How many opportunities do you get with that good of a car in this race?”

On Sunday, the driver who made his debut in the race as a 17-year-old in 1997 — at the time the youngest qualifier in history — will have another chance to put all of those memories to rest with the biggest win of his career.

“It truly bugs me that we’re not winning six races a year like we did there for a bunch of years,” said Clark, who from 2004-2012 won multiple PASS races every season except for in 2006, when he won his second championship. “Of course this is a race we work hard at. It’s hard to spend the same amount of time at 36 as it was at 26 to prepare for it, but this is a big race. It will be all hands on deck this week to get ready for it.

“Of course, it’s the Oxford 250, but you’ve got to block that stuff out when Sunday comes. All you’ve got to do is have a chance and be there to see how it plays out at the end.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5648

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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