Second-guessing is plentiful in a sport in which second place can sometimes feel like last place.

Going around Oxford Plains Speedway’s track 250 times means there’s at least that many chances to make the wrong move in the Oxford 250 — a wrong move that can cost a driver not only money but, more importantly, a win.

Craig Laroche of Haverhill changes a flat tire for driver Eddie MacDonald in the pits during the consolation races the day of the 2017 Oxford 250. Brewster Burns photo

Sometimes the wrong move doesn’t take place in turns one, two, three or four, but during the one or two pit stops a driver makes during the prestigious race.

“I’ve seen pit stops take a great car that’s leading every lap, and if you don’t pick the right time, it takes you right out of the race,” two-time Oxford 250 champ Ben Rowe said. “And I’ve seen, it happened with us last year, we wasn’t the best car last year, but we kind of made our pit stops right, and with 25 to go we were right in the top three contending for the win.”

Curtis Gerry, the 2017 race winner, said that because of pit stops there’s “no comparison” for most drivers between the 250 and the other races in which they compete.

“The PASS 150 is easy, you don’t have to pit for tires or anything like that, so you don’t have the live pit stops involved. And this one here, it’s got that extra-special thing involved that can go wrong,” Gerry said.

Gerry appeared to be the driver to beat leading up to last year’s race, having won seemingly every time he took the track at Oxford in 2018 after winning the 250 the previous year. But on race day day, after he overcame car troubles in the heats and clawed his way into contention in the feature, Gerry said he made “probably the wrong call” on when to pit.

“If we had done that same thing (race winner Bubba Pollard did) we wouldn’t have probably gotten caught up in the wreck (that ended our chances). So it’s like trying to figure it out, that perfect timing,” Gerry said. “And pit stop speed has got to be on-point, because the year we won we came in (to the pit) first and we came out 24th. That doesn’t help a lot.”

Because many of the drivers don’t do much — if any — live pit stops throughout the year, being ready for the 250 becomes that much more important.

“It gives your crew that has worked hard on these cars all year long, it gives them a chance to be part of this race,” Rowe said. “They come over the wall, change tires, stuff like that, fuel it up, and they’re part of this race.”

Not only will pit crew members have their chance to shine Sunday, they might even make or break a car’s chances of winning.

“Having a good pit crew is crucial. You need a lot of hands on deck,” Calvin Rose Jr. said. “Pit stops are pretty important, as you need to be in and out to try to salvage spots on the track.”

Garrett Hall hopes to be at or near the front for most of the race, and he said his team will be practicing all day Sunday.

“I got my friends that are mechanics, and they’re really good and fast and in good shape, so they know what to do,” Hall said. “And hopefully we’ll have a good car and pit strategy, and tire-changing won’t have really anything to do with it.

“Hopefully we’ll just have a fast car and a dominant car. If we have a good pit stop, that will be a bonus.”

Like Gerry, Hall also said that pit strategy might have hurt his chances last year, though a fourth-place finish helped make up for some of the what-ifs.

Three-time race winner Mike Rowe said he’s combining his Oxford and Beech Ridge pit crews in hopes that it can give him one, solid crew to help him earn a record-breaking fourth Oxford 250 victory.

“We try to pinpoint down what we’re going to do, and this and that, and sometimes things work out and sometimes don’t,” Rowe said. “But you just got to have a lot of luck and patience.”


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