OXFORD — Nick Sweet may go down as the unlikeliest Oxford 250 favorite in the 46-year history of the race. Even he has a hard time believing it.

“That’s news to me. Really?” the most recent Pro All Stars Series race winner asked Saturday when asked his thoughts on a half-dozen drivers predicting a win for his No. 40 team earlier this week at Oxford 250 media day. “That’s pretty good. I’m glad we have people at least thinking that we’re quick and being capable of being there at the end. I think we are. 

“All these guys racing here are the best in the northeast and they’ve been doing it a long time. To get some respect from my peers, that’s pretty neat.”

Sweet is a multi-time track champion at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in his hometown of Barre, Vermont. He’s a seven-time winner on the American-Canadian Tour, where he was the champion in 2016.

But shortly after winning that Late Model title, he made the switch to Super Late Models for the Mad Dog Motorsports team owned by Vermont’s Eric Chase.

By his own admission, it wasn’t an easy transition, though he did collect his first PASS win at Thunder Road last season before winning again at Oxford Plains on Aug. 11.

“We really turned it around a year ago, and we’re just getting better and better as we race this car. A lot of it is just learning,” Sweet said. “I know we’re not going to be over-confident, because there’s always somebody that’s going to be better than you. You’re never going to conquer it. There’s always somebody who will come along that’s on the cutting edge. That’s what makes this sport so much fun.”

Even though he’s not one of the locals, Sweet has always had an emotional connection to the Oxford 250.

“This was our special trip we used to make every summer. I’ve been coming to this race a long time,” Sweet said. “This race is like my Christmas in the summer. Obviously, the Milk Bowl ranks really high because it’s in my hometown, but when you’re driving closer to Oxford Speedway, you get that excitement inside of you.

“You don’t get that for every race, but this race brings that out in me. I think it brings it out in my whole team. This is a really prestigious race.”

 

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Farmington’s Cassius Clark was the fastest in the final of four practice sessions Saturday for Sunday’s 46th annual Oxford 250.

“It doesn’t really amount to anything today, but it’s just a really good car,” said Clark, who has been driving for the Canadian-based King Motorsports team owned by Rollie MacDonald since 2014. “It feels like it’s the best we’ve had here since I’ve been in the (No. 13) cars. I’m pretty optimistic for (Sunday).

“We were never really the fastest every time, but no matter what we had for tires we were always pretty much in the top 10. That’s usually where Curtis (Gerry) is. It might be a race now. We’ll see.”

Gerry, the 2017 Oxford 250 winner who already has two PASS wins at Oxford Plains this season and is the track’s weekly point leader, remains the bar by which the competition is measuring itself.

“You look at his times. He’s the same every race pretty much, and you always know where he’s at,” Clark said. “We’re just trying to get it a little bit better than that. He doesn’t have to work on it to get better, he doesn’t have to compete against anybody else. He’s so far ahead.

“I think ours is pretty damn close.”

Travis Benjamin, a two-time Oxford 250 champion in 2013 and 2014, was fastest overall on the day with a lap of 15.526 seconds recorded in the second session. Clark’s quickest time was 15.590 seconds.

Johnny Clark of Hallowell put down the fastest lap of the entire weekend of Friday night at 15.374 seconds. It was the only lap in the sub-15.4-second range across all 10 practice sessions held during the first two days of the weekend, and he is the only driver with more than one lap recorded at better than 15.5 seconds.

 

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Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson, New Hampshire, thinks that a win this weekend would be more significant than the night he led more than 200 laps en route to the 2012 Oxford 250 victory.

“In these Super Late Models, I think it would be a bit more satisfying to be able to win,” Polewarczyk said. “With the Late Models (from 2007-2012), everybody had the same thing, really. With these, there’s an endless amount of things you can do. Whoever can hit it right is going to be good (Sunday).”

No driver has won the Oxford 250 as both a Late Model and Super Late Model race. Eddie MacDonald is the only other driver entered this weekend who won when the event was a Late Model race, having gone back-to-back in 2009-2010.

 

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Reid Lanpher of Manchester, who has two runner-up finishes and a third-place finish in the last four years at the Oxford 250, packed up after the third practice Saturday and took his car back to his shop for attention from his team. The crew of the No. 59 was disappointed with the speed they were seeing. They are expected to return Sunday. … Defending champion Bubba Pollard of Senoia, Georgia, was 33rd out of 43 cars to record times in Saturday’s final session. Pollard has not featured near the top of the speed charts much this weekend. … 2002 Oxford 250 champion Scott Robbins of Dixfield led the third practice session Saturday and was in the top six in three of the four sessions on the track. … A total of 51 cars recorded times during Saturday’s second session, the busiest of the weekend.


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