Austin Teras competes in Pro All Stars Series action at Oxford Plains Speedway on July 18. Oriana Lovell photo

 

OXFORD — This season, and this Oxford 250, just keep getting stranger and stranger.

All of Saturday’s scheduled on-track activity at Oxford Plains Speedway was washed out by rain, setting up a marathon day of racing for Sunday’s 47th annual Oxford 250. All of Saturday’s racing will be contested on Sunday beginning at 10 a.m., with the originally scheduled Sunday card beginning roughly two hours after completion.

Oxford Plains owner Tom Mayberry told teams during a drivers’ meeting Friday before weekend practice began that he still expected to be only an hour behind schedule by the time Sunday was completed.

“I feel bad for the Mayberrys and everybody trying to work through all of that (Sunday),” six-time Pro All Stars Series champion Johnny Clark said. “That’s going to be a long day.”

The American-Canadian Tour 150 highlights the early program. They will be joined by the PASS Modifieds and the track’s weekly Street Stock division.

Once that event is completed, the pit area will be cleared and teams competing in the second half of the day will be allowed in.

Car owner Jay Cushman of Windham has attended every Oxford 250, with two exceptions, since 1979. This weekend is the 17th time he’s fielded a team for the race, and he can’t remember a race week where competitors had a day off in the middle of the weekend.

“It’s definitely different,” Cushman said. “I would have gladly brought my car back to the shop and worked on it all day if I had reason to. But we did all of our stuff (Friday).”

Friday’s six practice sessions, including one in the evening, took on a different feel than they would have in years past. Teams planned for the Saturday rain and adjusted accordingly.

“Typically on Fridays, we just take care of our tires and maybe make one shakedown run,” Cushman said. “But we knew there was a good chance of rain, so we went through all of the stuff we would normally do on Saturday.”

Clark said the atmosphere in the Oxford pit area was noticeably more intense Friday than it typically is on the first day of the three-day race weekend.

“I felt that way,” Clark said. “I was actually surprised at how few cars didn’t spend time working through stuff. But if someone feels like he’s where he’s supposed to be — then I guess you don’t want to take a chance of messing anything up.”

There will be two 15-minute Oxford 250 practice sessions in the morning on Sunday and then a nearly four-hour break until they are back on the track again. It’s an unusual wrinkle in what is often a frantic, compact schedule of practice on the morning of the race.

How teams utilize that long break could impact how the race plays out.

“With so much rain, it’s washed the race track clean,” Cushman said. “The track’s only going to get worse all day long. Those first two really early practices — it’s great that (Mayberry) scheduled them in there — but there’s a pretty big danger of using that and feeling like your car is really good. You’re never going to see those (track conditions) again. For us, we don’t plan on going out at all in those first two practices.”

“I think you’re either dialed in or you’re not. You could also use those couple of hours to dial yourself right out,” Clark said. “I don’t believe you’re going to see a 20th-place car in the morning jump to the top after the ACT rubber gets on the track. I don’t think (speed) is going to just fall to anybody.”

• • •

The fastest practice lap of Friday belonged to Farmington’s Cassius Clark, with a 15.374-second lap. It came in the fifth of six practice sessions which began in the afternoon and concluded as darkness fell.

It was the lone lap to fall into the sub-15.4-second range.

Prior to Clark’s quick time, Johnny Clark held the most impressive lap of the day. In the final afternoon session, during the warmest part of the day with track temperatures at their highest and grip level at its lowest, Johnny Clark toured the oval in 15.439 seconds.

“They’re using a brand new batch of tires for this race, and we felt like it was important to spend as much time on those tires as we could,” Johnny Clark said. “It doesn’t do you any good to spend all day practicing on old tires, different rubber, from a race two weeks ago. I wanted to be on what we were going to be racing on.”

There is danger in spending too much time worrying about top speeds from sessions held two full days before the main event, but at the same time Clark said it is important to at least be in the conversation.

“Last year, we were fastest all day in practice on Friday and finished fourth,” he said. “It means something. It means you’re going to have a harder time passing that car in front of you because it has speed. At the end of the day, especially this weekend, where we’ve washed the track clean and then (Sunday) with all ACT Tour rubber and then final practices and other races after that, you’re not really going to know.

“But I can tell you I feel better being one of the better cars on Friday than being a 20th-place car and feeling like you’re nowhere close.”

A total of 45 cars recorded practice times on Friday.

Others who posted fastest times in individual practice sessions included Westbrook’s John Peters, 2017 winner and reigning track champion Curtis Gerry of Waterboro, Turner’s Shawn Martin and two-time Oxford 250 winner Ben Rowe.


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