OXFORD — There will be eight former Oxford 250 winners in the field for Sunday’s 45th annual event, but it’s hard for most of them not to feel overlooked.

Eddie MacDonald has won twice and Joey Polewarczyk once, but those wins came in the Late Model version of the race from 2007-2012. Ben Rowe won back-to-back Oxford 250s in 2003 and 2004, but he’s rolled out a brand new car for this year’s event after a couple of seasons of struggles to find consistency. Even Mike Rowe, who won a weekly Super Late Model feature at Oxford Plains Speedway last weekend and has three 250 wins, isn’t looking like a clear-cut favorite for Sunday.

Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Pelham, New Hampshire, won in 2016. It feels like a distant memory to him.

“The win that we talk about is gone, it’s long gone. I forget all about it until people bring it up, to be honest with you,” Helliwell said. “Where we’re at today is 100 percent different from where we were then, with a totally different car and a completely different setup.”

Polewarczyk and Helliwell shared a Pro All Stars Series win at Oxford Plains in 2016, but Polewarczyk’s best days at Oxford came in a Late Model. When he won the Oxford 250 in 2012, he was on top of the New England short track racing scene.

Now, with a racing schedule that’s been scaled back, he’s trying to find a feel similar to what he won with in the Late Model.

“We’re just looking to get it to drive on older tires today,” Polewarczyk said of his Friday practice session, which saw 49 cars participate. “Oxford is it’s own character. Whether you have a Late Model or a Super Late Model, you’ve got to respect the fact that it’s flat. It doesn’t matter if you have 500 horsepower or 350 horsepower, you’ve still got to baby it and make it last.”

And the game plan for a successful race day remains the same, too. It’s all about qualifying.

“If you can make it in in the heat race, your day is going to be so much better,” Polewarczyk said. “The goal is still to get in the heat race, and if you can’t do that you try to get (qualified) as quick as you can (through the other rounds). Then it’s just a matter of timing the cautions right and when you want to change your tires.”

Like Helliwell and Ben Rowe, Glen Luce — the 2015 Oxford 250 winner — is still trying to find a way back to his past success. Luce has two cars here, including the one he won this race with, but he’s not sure if that’s his best option.

Helliwell can relate. It’s not that the car he drove to victory lane in 2016 isn’t a good race car, it’s just that the technology is ever-changing in the racing landscape.

“It’s evolution,” Helliwell said. “We brought the old 250 car and ran it before, and it’s not competitive. Everything is ramped up, and we thought we were getting caught up in something we shouldn’t be. We proved it to ourselves that it doesn’t work, and we needed to start going the avenue that everyone else is going. That’s what we’re doing (this weekend).”

Ben Rowe can relate. It’s been 14 years since his most recent Oxford 250 win, but he’s never taken either of those wins for granted.

“I knew how hard it was to win.. and I don’t think it’s gotten any easier,” Rowe said. “There’s a lot of tension, a lot of stress, starting (Friday). You’ve got to be on top of your game here.

“For me, now, I’ve won it. But you want another one. When I won it the first time, it was like a weight lifted off — ‘You grew up here. You’re supposed to do this. Your dad did it.’ But it’s not that easy. Jeff Taylor, Tracy Gordon, these are awesome race car drivers that have never won this race. They’re the best of the best here at Oxford, and they still can’t win it.”

• • •

It’s been two years since Austin Theriault of Fort Kent competed in the Oxford 250. He turned about 40 laps in practice on Friday trying to get his No. 57 comfortable enough to begin worrying about his lap times by Saturday.

“Oxford always is a huge challenge, because it changes throughout the weekend,” Theriault said. “It’s a battle between making too many changes and not enough changes, and holding yourself accountable to those changes you make.”

Theriault ended up 10th on the chart in Friday’s practice session.

“Today was pretty good. The more we went out and made changes, I felt like we got better,” Theriault said. “Some of these guys out here they just start and they’re good because they have a good baseline. We don’t have that because it’s been a few years.”

• • •

NOTES: Georgia driver Bubba Pollard, who tested at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Thursday, finished as the fifth-quickest driver in Friday’s three-hour Oxford 250 practice. A total of 49 cars hit the track during the session. … Two drivers, Reid Lanpher of Manchester and T.J. Brackett of Buckfield, had their cars on the property but did not turn any laps. … Surprising nobody, Curtis Gerry of Waterboro was fastest of all in practice. The 2017 Oxford 250 winner has won a record five consecutive PASS races at Oxford Plains dating back to last August. … 2015 winner Glen Luce divulged that he has been battling Lyme disease all summer, including fatigue and significant shaking in his arms and hands. He’s run only eight of 12 PASS races this season after first noticing symptoms late last summer. … Gerry, Canada’s Cole Butcher, two-time Oxford 250 champion Travis Benjamin of Morrill, Garrett Hall of Scarborough and Pollard were the top five on Friday’s final speed charts. Gerry (15.592 seconds) was the only driver to post a sub-15.6-second lap. Three-time Oxford Plains champion Tim Brackett, Cassius Clark and Tracy Gordon were the only other drivers to turn in times under 15.7 seconds.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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