Some guys play pool in their spare time. Some go to the bar and enjoy a few adult beverages. Others fish or hunt or do any number of other things that are enjoyable to use up their extra time and money.
A small group of Mainers has another way to spend their extra time and money. They all get together to field an ACT-spec Late Model at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) – donating not just time as volunteer crew members, but also funds to field the car week after week. That car, numbered as #50ME, sports a simple white paint scheme and a driver named White behind the wheel.
Jeff White is the one out of the group who gets to drive the car, but all of the team members worked to get it into victory lane on Saturday night when the ACT Late Model tour visited the speedway. White’s victory continued a tradition of regulars upsetting the ACT touring stars at Oxford. The record book already showed Oxford drivers Ricky Rolfe, Shawn Martin and Travis Adams as winners. Now White joins that elite group – and even though his name will be the one in the record book, it was a group effort that got him there.
“We did good and that’s because I have a good crew,” said White after his victory. “They are all a big part of this and we’ve been together for awhile. [The crew member] who does lettering for me…He’s been with me since a graduated from high school. There are three or four of us who work together and we’re all friends. This is what we throw our money together into…this is what we do for fun.”
Five years ago, White and his gang were trying to have fun in the Pro Stock (Super Late Model) division at Oxford. After the 2006 season, that class was dropped from the lineup at the track that annually hosts the TD Bank Oxford 250 – which was a shocking, and somewhat controversial move at the time. Switching the ACT-spec Late Models to the top division at the track was something that was welcome by a budget racer like White though.
“I used to have one of them (A Pro Stock) before one of the owners bought a (Late Model) chassis when they cancelled out Pro Stocks,” said White. “I never really ran too good because I was underfunded. Those other guys really had some good stuff. This class is more (budget) friendly. It takes less money to get the stuff that you need. We were racing against $16,000 of shocks that people were running when we had $800 in ours. This class isn’t like that. I like it. I really like it…and I hope that they keep it around for awhile. I like Pro Stocks too, but this is right in my price range.”
While the arrival of the Late Models as the top Oxford division has proven that with talent and hard work, an underdog race team can beat one of the big boys, White wasn’t thinking that he would be that underdog several hours before Saturday’s ACT race there. He was quick in practice for the 150-lap feature, but White did not find the car to his liking until a major change was made…pretty much as a gamble.
“No, not really,” admitted White when he was asked if he thought if he was capable of winning the race before it started. “The car wasn’t that good in practice. It was good, I mean we were second on the practice charts, but to me it had a push in it. So we made some changes to fix that. I just happened that we made the right changes after the heat race because it went good. I couldn’t believe how good it went.”
White led a total of 147 laps in the 150-lap event. Only briefly did the winningest driver in the history of the ACT Late Model Tour, Brian Hoar, poke his nose through to lead. Many observers thought that White might have even been driving too hard and that his car would give up its handling late in the event. But it actually looked to be even more settled and comfortable to drive in the closing laps of the race – even after 100 plus laps of wear on its tires.
“It might have been [better],” said White. “But after that last restart, I might have just been working more to get a little bit of distance.”
White wasn’t worried about his car being used up.
“I tried to conserve it earlier in the race. You can usually feel when you are burning up your tires and running the car too hard. I didn’t feel that. That was good, so I held a steady pace. Then on that last restart, I tried to get some distance on them and then just ride.”
And being out front for most of the show also made it easier to set a pace that would get the car to the finish.
“It’s easier to lead…it’s definitely easier to lead than to run in traffic or to run second and try to catch somebody. You can’t get that rhythm and you end up pushing it harder and harder.”
Hoar, who has already won twice this season, eventually finished second to White and maintained his ACT Late Model point lead as a result. Brent Dragon finished third with Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. coming from a start deep in the field to finish fourth. Oxford regular T.J Brackett rounded out the top five finishers.
After the racing was all over on Saturday night, White found out quickly that winning big time races isn’t all just about going to victory lane and celebrating. The winner and runner-up both had to pull their engines and a shock absorber after the Oxford race as part of the post-race technical inspection process – which left the newly crowned race winner and his team with a long night of work ahead of them right after White spoke to Speed51.com.
“Now, I’ve got to take the motor out,” laughed White. “That’s a lot of work! I’ve got to race next week here.”
Speed51.com will have more from the Oxford ACT race, including our 51 Leftovers and a Photo Gallery, later this week. Stay tuned to Speed51.com and the Five Star Racecar Bodies Speed51.com Facebook Feed for more.