OXFORD — For every driver that has support from chassis builders this weekend, for each that’s won this race before, and for every multi-car team with affiliations throughout the crowded Oxford Plains Speedway, there’s a John Peters.

The Westbrook native represents the true “little guy” at the 46th annual Oxford 250 this weekend, the racer who still thinks that simply qualifying for the race is nearly as good as winning it.

“I wouldn’t say I carry any kind of torch for people like us,” said Peters, who graduated from Southern New Hampshire University this year and now lives in Cary, North Carolina, where he works in marketing. “But I’m very aware of what we have, and what we have in this in terms of time and resources.”

Peters, 22, finished 10th in the Pro All Stars Series race at Oxford on Aug. 11, his fourth career top-10 finish in 13 career starts. It’s a true family operation, with his father Greg serving as his crew chief.

Peters missed out on qualifying for the Oxford 250 last season in his first try. After falling short in his first-round heat race, he lined up third in his consolation-round race behind Bubba Pollard and Ben Rowe.

Pollard went on to win the main event; Rowe was in contention for a third 250 win before a battery issue ended his night early. Peters was wrecked on the first lap of the consi.

“I think if I could finish in the top 10, that would be like winning for us,” Peters said. “But realistically, if we could get into this race, it would be a big day for the family.”

He’s not exaggerating. Greg Peters has tried six times previously to make the starting field, failing each time — twice as a driver, twice as a car owner for Derek Kneeland, once as a crew chief for Richie Dearborn and last season as the crew chief for his son.

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Defending Oxford 250 champion Bubba Pollard is from a rural part of Georgia, nearly 30 minutes south of Atlanta. He said Oxford Plains Speedway reminds him of home.

“This is kind of like home,” Pollard said. “This is what we’re accustomed to. It’s out in the middle of nowhere. Awesome when we pulled in yesterday and saw all the campers — that’s crazy. It’s a lot of fun here.”

Pollard participated in a full practice effort Friday as he tries to replicate his performance from last season when he became the first southerner to win the Oxford 250 since Tommy Ellis in 1983.

With only one race at Oxford in his career, one of the country’s most accomplished Super Late Model drivers, spent most of the afternoon getting reacquainted with the .375-mile flat oval.

“It’s totally different than what I’m accustomed to, so it takes a couple laps,” Pollard said. “We’ve only been here last year, so we still don’t really know what the race car needs. I feel like I’ve forgotten everything from last year of how it’s supposed to feel.

“We’re kind of starting over, which I think is a good thing.”

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To the surprise of nobody in attendance Friday, Curtis Gerry turned the fastest lap around Oxford Plains during the five midday practice sessions for Sunday’s race.

Except maybe for Gerry himself. His 15.454-second lap topped all recorded times, and it was especially impressive considering in came in the middle of the afternoon when the track was hot and grip was harder to find than it was in earlier sessions.

“That was pretty quick for us. We weren’t expecting that, we haven’t seen that all year,” said the Waterboro driver, who was scuffing in a new set of tires on that run. “We were really quick on old tires in the first practice. That was a really good lap.”

Gerry didn’t plan to practice Friday, and given his 2017 Oxford 250-winning car was among the quickest cars every time in hit the track, he probably didn’t need it.

“We weren’t going to come up here today, but I wanted to be here. I wanted to be here for the atmosphere, get in the mode and see the other competitors. I really didn’t have the expectation to come up here and set the fastest lap.

“The car’s good, so we’re packing up and we’ll do it again (on Saturday).”


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