In the pits, David Getchell of Strong and Tom Rose of Turner work on replacing a fender on Calvin Rose Jr.’s car. Brewster Burns photo

OXFORD — The overriding sentiment among drivers prior to Sunday’s Oxford 250 was worry over the adjustments they knew they’d have to make when the temperature drops double-digit degrees between the qualifying runs and the race.

In the afternoon, while drivers were battling in the five heats to earn a coveted spot in the 250, the temperature was around 73 degrees. The Weather Channel was estimating that at 8 p.m., it would drop to 60 degrees at Oxford Plains Speedway. 

 DJ Shaw said the significant temperature change gives him and his team yet another hurdle to overcome at a track that already throws a lot at drivers. 

“This track is so weather-sensitive, it’s unbelievable,” Shaw said. “I wish I knew how it was going to be at 7:30 and at 9. It’s like playing the lottery. The track is hard to get a hold of when it’s warm and then it seems to change instantly. You have to go with the changes and figure out how to read it.”

Shaw was tinkering with his car all weekend, as many other racers did, and was anxious to see how alterations would hold up. 

“I don’t know if we’re that good right now,” Shaw said. “I am up in the air. Finishing second in the heat is not bad, but we started the heat in first. I don’t think we’re great, but I don’t want to make it worse.”

Rusty Poland is aware of what the track can do under temperature changes, but, he said, it can also change for other reasons. 

“The track changes a lot, you have a lot of different cars on here today, so different rubbers screw it up,” Poland said. “Then it’s so hot and then it’ll be 30 degrees cooler when the 250 starts, so you go through a lot of changes.”

Curtis Gerry, prior to what he estimated was his fifth Oxford 250, understood the temperature on the track can throw plans off course. 

“It’s been good, we’re happy with the car,” Gerry said Sunday afternoon. “(It) drives good, has good speed, so we’re happy so far.

“The change of temperature is going to be a lot. We’re going to have to tighten up the car and make an educated guess. You can’t read it right, sometimes it cools off and tightens up, sometimes it cools off and doesn’t tighten up.”

ON THE POLE

The pole position went to Ryan Kuhn for the Oxford 250. Kuhn, who was just hoping to make the race going into Sunday, is excited about his placement. 

The Massachusetts driver said he wanted to make the most of the 250, the first of his career, as his team used out-of-pocket funds to fund the trip to Maine’s biggest race. 

“It means a lot,” Kuhn said. “A couple weeks ago, we didn’t know if we were going to run this race because of the funding we have. This is all out of our pockets this weekend, trying to get this car ready and we’re basically out of money. After this race, this car is going to be parked for a little while, unless we end up winning then maybe we can run a couple more shows with this one.”

READY TO ADJUST

Kuhn’s next-door neighbor for the start of Sunday’s race is Eddie MacDonald, who entered the contest with cautious optimism. 

Adjustments are imperative at the 250, and MacDonald, the 2009 and 2010 champion, was focused on them all weekend. 

“We are trying to find a good balance and get the car driveable,” MacDonald said. “We weren’t as fast we were in practice, but we’re focusing on being able to last the whole race. We were able to pull it off (in the heat). … Just changing a bunch of different springs and setup stuff to get the car to last longer. We’ve been coming up here and practicing just for this weekend.”

Poland altered his tires and reaped the benefits during qualifying. 

“We put a new set of tires on for practice and had our fastest time here of the year, so that made us feel pretty good,” Poland said. “The tires for sure helped. The change we made isn’t something we usually do, but a friend of mine came down and showed us so we did it and I love it.” 

In-race adjustments are important, also. Many drivers mentioned how crucial luck is at the 250.

“The biggest thing is to stay out of trouble,” MacDonald said. “Make sure that 200 laps come and you’re still in one piece, able to have tires and save something for the end. We’re going to keep an eye on it, we’ll adjust and pit a couple times to adjust. It’s a lot of ‘as it goes,’ but you have a good idea because you’ve run it before. You have to see how the car is handling and stay with the lead pack and ride with them.”

Reid Lanpher, who was racing in his fifth 250, was hyper-focused on making sure his car was as ready as possible. Lanpher has sniffed glory a few times with two runner-up finishes and a third-place mixed in, so the trophy was the goal Sunday. 

“The guys definitely have worked their butts off prepping for the race,” Lanpher said. “We made a ton of changes on Friday and Saturday. We ended up kind of second-guessing ourselves to make sure everything was perfect, so we actually loaded the car up and brought it back to the shop last night. We made all sorts of changes, go back to our baseline setup, go back today and it’s pretty quick right now. We’re pretty happy with things.”

The attention to detail is so crucial to drivers because of what the Oxford 250 means to them. 

“It’s like the Daytona 500 for short-track racing,” Gerry, the 2017 champion, said. “When you win this up here it’s like winning the Daytona 500. It’s such a big event and so hard to get in, so it means a lot.”

“It’s a big deal for us,” Lanpher said. “We’ve been working for this race for a long time. It’s a big deal.”

LAST CHANCE TO MAKE THE DANCE

A second 250 almost slipped from the grasp of Gray’s Austin Teras, but he won the last-chance qualifier to put him in the field. 

“We got the win, it was a pretty good race,” Teras said. “We opened up the stager quite a bit, tried to be aggressive … I spun the tires and I think they got hot and loosened up and we were able to pull away.”

Teras wasn’t taking the opportunity for granted. 

“It’s nice to come here and be able to race, some people don’t get to and we almost didn’t get to,” Teras said. “I really appreciate the opportunity my guys gave me, they never give up and I wouldn’t be here without them.”


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