OXFORD — It didn’t take long for Bubba Pollard to figure out Maine’s most historic race track, or how to beat its best on their own turf. It only took three days, in fact.

The Senoia, Georgia, drove under Travis Benjamin with 31 laps remaining Sunday night and drove off to win the 45th annual Clark’s Scrap Metals Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Pollard, who has won some of the most lucrative Super Late Model races in the country, added another crown jewel to his resume and unofficially collected $28,300 for the win.

“This race right here was huge for me,” said Pollard, who started 29th in the 42-car field. “There’s so many people on that damn social media and that talks and they’re like ‘Bubba Pollard won’t come up here because of heat races.’ Well, I just won the Oxford 250. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Joey Polewarczyk of Hudson, New Hampshire, tried to chase Pollard down over the last 20 laps but couldn’t whittle away at a three-car length deficit. Reid Lanpher of Manchester, Garrett Hall of Scarborough and Berwick’s Joey Doiron rounded out the top five.

“Man, I wanted to get there,” Polewarczyk, the 2012 Oxford 250 winner, said. “I was trying as hard as I could, but it feels good to finish a close second to the best in the country.”

Pollard had never seen Oxford prior to hitting the track Friday afternoon for the first practice session of the weekend, but he made it look like an art form to beat some of the best in Oxford 250 history — including two-time winners Travis Benjamin of Morrill and Ben Rowe of Turner — inside the final quarter of the race. The 31-year-old has won more than 60 Super Late Model races around the country, including the All-American 400 in Nashville and the Slinger Nationals in Tennesse, and he earned a guaranteed starting spot in the Oxford 250 after winning a Pro All Stars Series race at South Boston (Virginia) Speedway two weeks earlier.

Pollard’s victory snapped a six-year streak of Oxford 250 winners from either Maine or New Hampshire. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch of Las Vegas, Nevada, was the last winner — in 2011 — to come from outside of New England.

Bubba Pollard emerges from his car after winning the Oxford 250 on Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“I knew this race was big, but I didn’t know how big it was until I got here,” Pollard said. “I came in (Sunday) morning, and it was ‘Holy (crap), there’s a lot of people here.’ That’s what racing’s all about. That’s what gets me excited and wanting to go to these places.”

When a caution came out on lap 199, the race took its shape.

Virtually every lead lap car hit pit road, with Polewarczyk and Rowe winning a mad dash back onto the track. But it was Benjamin, with a lightning-quick four-lap run three-wide through traffic once the field went back to green, who took the lead for the first time on lap 205.

Benjamin stayed out front until Pollard nosed under him heading into turn one on lap 219.

It was the ability of Benjamin, Pollard and Rowe to get the early jump in lapped traffic — even as drivers with fresher tires under them were trapped further back in the field — that set them up to battle it out for the win amongst themselves.

“Saturday, I was ready to go home,” Pollard said of his frustrations with the car in practice during the weekend. “We came in Sunday and regrouped, back to baseline and started over and did what we do each ad every week, down the same path. That was the biggest thing, I went with my gut.

Garrett Hall, right, leads Jeff Taylor at the Oxford 250 on Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“It wasn’t until middle of the (practice) session (Sunday), I felt we had a car to win. Man, it was good tonight.”

A caution 24 laps from the finish put the polesitter Hall, Polewarczyk and Lanpher within striking distance, but Pollard and Rowe simply pulled away.

“I think I was getting a little bit closer with like three to go, but I was driving it as hard as I could,” Polewarczyk said. “It’s Bubba Pollard. In the short track world, every person knows how good he is. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be in the top levels (of NASCAR) right now, in my opinion.”

Rowe appeared poised for a 1-2 finish with his chassis partner Pollard, but his car lost power briefly with three laps remaining and he faded to 10th.

The first half of the race was relatively tame, with only a couple of minor incidents resulting in caution flags.

Hall led all but one of the first 128 laps, despite constant pressure from Jeff Taylor, the nine-time Oxford Plains Speedway champion. Lanpher, Benjamin and Mike Rowe were among the drivers content to turn laps inside the top five before serious pit strategy began to form the race.

Curtis Gerry’s day got off to the worst imaginable start.

The 2017 Oxford 250 winner didn’t even complete a single lap in his heat race early in the afternoon, instead suffering a mechanical issue in the car’s rear end. His crew thrashed to make repairs in the pit area, and Gerry rallied back to win the last-chance qualifier and start 34th in the field.

Things only got worse for Gerry when he and Cassius Clark crashed on lap 206 while trying to race toward the front of the field in heavy traffic. Clark finished 36th, Gerry finished 37th.

Hall, Lanpher, T.J. Brackett, Johnny Clark and Mike Rowe won qualifying races to begin the day and begin whittling the 56 cars entered down into the eventual starting grid. Ryan Robbins and Ben Rowe won the consolation-round events.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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