OXFORD — If Mike Rowe is the undisputed “king” of Oxford Plains Speedway, then Jeff Taylor and Tracy Gordon are the noblemen of the speedway’s long history.

When the 44th edition of the Scott’s Recreation Oxford 250 takes the green flag for qualifying at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Taylor and Gordon will look to finally cap their careers with a victory in the $25,000-to-win race that night.

Rowe has 151 career feature wins at Oxford Plains to go along with three career Oxford 250 victories.

But former track champions Taylor and Gordon have never won the 250 despite several near-misses over the last two decades.

“It’s home,” said Taylor, 50, of Mercer. “I can remember sitting in the grandstands with my mother and aunt watching the races with them and just hoping to race someday. It’s so different from my generation versus the kids of today. They all want to be in (NASCAR) at 19, well all I wanted to do was be on Oxford Plains Speedway.”

And with the exception of Rowe, Taylor finally got on the speedway and was more successful than anybody. He has 74 career wins at Oxford and a record nine track championships. What he doesn’t have is an Oxford 250 win, despite leading more than 300 laps in the event with a pair of runner-up finishes and 10 top 10s in 17 career starts.

This year, the first and only race of the season for the owner of Distance Racing in Fairfield will be the Oxford 250.

“We’ve had cars more than capable of winning this race,” Taylor said Saturday during a two and a half hour practice session in which 69 other cars participated. “We all have stories the older we get, but I always tell the story of the year when we were four laps down because we had a flat (tire). We passed everybody twice… and we still finished two laps down. That car was more than capable of winning — you lapped everybody twice and still lost.

“If we had never had cars like that, I don’t know if (winning the 250) would much matter. But being that close and having never done it, it’s just something you want to do.”

Taylor’s best chance to win might have came in 1995, when he finished second after leading more than half the race. He doesn’t buy all of the talk over the years that luck is one of the key factors in determining the Oxford 250’s outcome.

“That’s part of the game, but at the end I want a really fast car,” Taylor said. “If I have a fast enough car, hopefully that will negate some of the stuff that’s going to happen during the course of the day. There’s no way you can control any of that, but you can, possibly, control the car that you bring. I would say that’s one of the things through the years that’s changed

“You hear it a lot, ‘I’d rather be lucky than good.’ Well, I’d rather be good. I want luck, just like anybody, but I’d rather be good. If you’re good, it makes the day a little more relaxing. But if you’re 40th out of 60 on speed, you’ve got no choice but to be lucky.”

Gordon won the 1991 track championship at Oxford Plains and graduated to win 12 races in the old NASCAR Busch North Series, as well as six other Super Late Model events, including Pro All Stars Series wins at Speedway 95 in Hermon and Lee (New Hampshire) USA Speedway during the 2000s. He knows about luck in the Oxford 250.

In 14 career Oxford 250 starts, he’s finished inside the top five four times — finishing second in 1997 and 1998, and having led 125 laps in the 1996 edition.

“Patience is the virtue with this one,” said Gordon, 51, of Strong. “Don’t rush it — you’ve got 250 laps. If I get my car fast enough to be running up front, hopefully I’ll have the patience. Patience comes with time.”

In 2005, Gordon finished a disappointing 27th, 40 laps down, and then went a full decade before attempting to qualify for the Oxford 250 again. He failed to qualify in 2015 before finishing 14th last summer.

He’s only racing a part-time schedule these days, focusing firmly on the midsummer jewel at the track where he first started racing.

“I want to win races, but this is the big one,” Gordon said. “I’ve won at Loudon (in the Busch North Series in 2002), I’ve won in about everything I’ve done. This one’s eluded me forever. I’ve dominated the race and burned an ignition wire off. I’ve dominated the race and screwed our last set of tires up. I’ve dominated it a few times, and one of those times I got second, I feel like I should have won but I didn’t make the changes I felt I should have made to the car.”

With more than five hours of practice time in the books already this weekend, plus another two-plus hours scheduled Sunday morning, Gordon and Taylor — as well as all the other teams entered — will have plenty of shots at fine-tuning their race cars.

And what they’d both rather have than all the stories that ended in disappointment or frustration is the trophy that goes to the Oxford 250 champion. For a pair of drivers that grew up at Oxford as teenagers, and then into adulthood, it’s the only thing left to accomplish.

“I couldn’t really imagine winning races when I started,” Taylor said. “My family had always been involved, always had race cars, but we never really had a lot of the stuff you needed to win. Once we got to start winning, it was like ‘Wow, this is a ball!’ Kids today, they think they’re going to win the first time they climb in a race car. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but it wasn’t that way for us.

“Every time you drive over here, you remember all that stuff. It’s pretty cool.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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