TEENAGER THERIAULT GOES FROM 250 DNQ to PODIUM FINISH
The Oxford 250 weekend might have been one of the low points of Austin Theriault’s 210 racing season. He contended for victories on the ACT Late Model Tour, but did not qualify for the famed Oxford open show. In 2011, Theriault moved to the RPM Motorsports team for the entire ACT Late Model schedule, but decided to roll out his family’s #57ME Late Model to take another crack at making it into the TD Bank Oxford 250.
This time around, Theriault didn’t just qualify – he also finished third in the race.
“We kind of took a break from the RPM since this is a non-points race. We had a good car and that’s why we took it. Really, this has been one of the best cars I’ve had here. It paid off. Last year, we didn’t even qualify. We learned a lot of lessons and came back. Here we are now.”
After the race, a lot was made of the fact that Theriault is only 17 years old. However, the High School Senior from Fort Kent, Maine (who is also studying for his pilot’s license) doesn’t seem to think that age is much of a factor on the racetrack.
“Being young is okay, but it doesn’t give you anything over someone who is 40 or something,” said Theriault. “We’re all racecar drivers.”
Having a strong racecar…well, that does give you something over the other competitors.
“The car was great. You can only be as good as your racecar and it was a good one tonight,” said Theriault.
AUBE BACK IN 250
Two Time Oxford 250 winner Jamie Aube came back to OPS for the first time since 2007. Aube made the show and ran well before falling out early and finishing 37th. After all these years, he still felt uneasy about making the draw so he had someone else do it.
KYLE'S BUCKET LIST
To measure how good Kyle Busch is we have look at history. With the Snowball Derby, Winchester 400, Slinger Nationals and Oxford 250 out of the way, where can we expect to see Busch next? All American 400 is in the back of his mind, but his NASCAR commitments have him unable to run for it this year. Don't think that it's not eating away at KB. For the record, he is the only driver to win all four of the races listed above.
"The All-American, Oktoberfest," explained Busch of the big events he has not pulled off.
"If there’s ever an opportunity to run those races, certainly I’d like to give it a shot. It’s fun to run them."
WHITE'S LUCK ENDS EARLY AT THE 250
Just eight days from the Oxford 250, Jeff White stood in victory lane wondering if he could the TD Bank 250. Coming in on a hot note, White ended up a spectator early. Good news for White is he is the point leader when Late Models return to weekly action at OPS next week.
ANOTHER TOP 10 FOR SHAWN MARTIN
Some guys can figure out the 250 and always find a way to post a good finish. Shaw Martin is a classic case of that in the Oxford 250 as he has posted three top 10 finishes since 2008 with a pair of them being in the top five. 2011 had him running up there with about 50 to go.
"It was a lot of fun," said Martin. "Lapped cars kind of got in the way and I think they’re racing us just a little too hard when I’m trying to race him [John Donahue] for position. I think we were just as fast as Donahue in front of us and I think we probably could have got around him if we could had a good clean run there. There’s not a scratch on the car, so it’s a good night."
Martin finished eighth after starting in the sixth.
2011 IS SWEET FOR NICK
After winning back-to-back Merchant Bank 150's at Thunder Road, Nick Sweet was one spot away from capturing another Bank-sponsored event this time in Oxford. Sweet was running down Busch in the final laps and was perhaps the best car on the track when the checkered flag flew.
DONAHUE STILL NEEDING A 250 CROWN
Kyle Busch may be checking off a bucket list, but so it John Donahue. After winning the Milk Bowl in 2009 he has since followed it up with a Vermont Gov Cup win and a Memorial Day Classic win. However, that track in Oxford, ME has been a challenge for Donahue. He started 24th and worked his way to a seventh, his second-best run at the 250. He was third in 2009.
LUCKY PULL PUTS TJ WATSON IN GOOD SPOT
Luck can only go so far and for TJ Watson, it ran out after the pill draw. He managed to make the show after starting first in heat one. After that he watched all the races and became a spectator again early in the 250.
"My sister, God bless her, she pulled that pole chip," said Watson. "That was great; that was kind of the highlight of our day. The race didn’t go too hot for us. The power steering let go about 25 laps in and it was over from there."
Watson would up 34th.
BUSCH DOESN'T SLIP. SWEET DOESN'T WIN
Oxford 250 runner-up Nick Sweet knew that he was beat in the final laps of this year’s race. Still, the Vermont driver hoped that even a NASCAR Superstar like Kyle Busch wasn’t immune to making a potentially race-losing mistake.
Busch ran the final laps flawlessly though and Sweet had to settle for second place.
“He did exactly what he needed to do,” said Sweet. “I overdrove it trying to get to him and I definitely had nothing for him. There wasn’t enough time. Anyone can mess up a corner, it’s so easy to do in these cars. I was hoping he would mess up a corner, but he was flawless at the end.”
DRAGON BECOMES A DNQ SHOCKER
To many people, Brent Dragon was a pick to win the 2011 version of the TD Bank Oxford 250. However, Dragon proved that even the best teams and drivers are capable of going home from the race. The 250 always has a few DNQ shockers and this time around, Dragon and Ricky Rolfe were those unfortunate newsmakers.
Dragon didn’t let not making the race get him too down though.
“Really, [I’m] not as disappointed as you'd think,” said Dragon in a post-race press release. “I wanted to win, and I knew that going into (the last-chance race) that starting in the rear (of the '250'), your chances of winning are slim to none – so, it's not really that disappointing. I think if you go into it starting in the Top-15, your chances are a lot better going into it.
“The heat race was our downfall. We moved up really quick in it in a few laps, and then cars got crossed up in front of us and we got turned around. It actually bent the rear end, too. It moved that in the car. We got it straightened up a bit, but it's not right. It's still not right.”
EDDIE MAC ALMOST ON PODIUM AGAIN
It didn't play out like Eddie MacDonald wanted. Then again only Ralph Nason was able to win three in a row at Oxford. Eddie Mac was in sight of the leaders in the closing only due to his team’s tire strategy that turned out to be an accident.
"We wanted to let them [the other leaders] use up their tires a little more," said MacDonald. "Strategy didn’t work out exactly how we planned it. I kind of had to run it a little too hard coming back up through. Still had a great time up there. Love running that car and my guys did an awesome job making sure that they worked all night and got their stuff last night and today. Lucky to have a good team.
MacDonald admitted that he it is hard to figure out the 250 with the strategy. A winning call one year might be not-so-good the next.
"It’s still a mystery," added MacDonald. "We just come in to it and play it by ear. It all depends on where we’re at and what we have for tires and what everyone else does. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t."
MacDonald was almost a ghost car to some people until he showed up on the score board. Several might have thought he was down a lap and he explained the confusion.
"They [the crew] found out from the scoring tower that we were on the lead lap," said MacDonald. "It kept us in the game. Just got real loose coming out of two there and spun around. It actually worked out pretty good in our favor. Happy for the other guys up front there. Austin (Theriault) did a great job, had fun racing with him. Wish we could have won it but there’s always next year."
AL HAMMOND STILL MAKING HISTORY
With his 11th 250, Al Hammond made a start in the historic race in the fourth different decade Sunday. Hammond ran the first year in 1974 as well as starts in the 80's, 00's and this decade. Hammond started 20th and finished 33rd.
HOAR TOP FIVE FOR THIRD YEAR IN A ROW
He's done it all in ACT Type Late Models, but not at Oxford. For the third year in a row, Brian Hoar was in the top five, but he says it didn't matter because he was no better than a fifth-place car when the day ended.
"It didn’t matter (that Kyle Busch was in the race). We had nothing with Eddie or the 57 (Theriault) so I don’t think the 51 (Busch) made any difference," said Hoar. We tried something and we’ve tried it two years in a row. Come up short both years, so I think it’s time to change the strategy. It wasn’t for lack of effort."
Hoar fought a push in his number-37 car all day long. It didn't matter if the track was in the sun or the shade, his car was just pushing all the time.
"I was pushing from the center of turn one and two to the middle of the back straightaway and the same in three and four, all the way to the flagstand," said Hoar. "Just couldn’t turn the car. It is the way it is. Another decent run for us and it was fun. We completed a lot of laps this weekend and we had some fun in the process. The guys worked hard and I appreciate it."
TWO LAPPER STILL CHASING 250
"Two Lap" Tommy Ricker made fifth Oxford 250 this season, but he is still looking for his first top-20 finish. Ricker knows that winning or running well will take 250 laps, as he told us before the race. He like some many other Oxford regulars are waiting for 2012 already.
ASHLINE ENJOYS HIS 250 MOMENT FORM POLE
Ben Ashline will forever be a part of history as he sat on the pole for the 38th annual TD Bank 250. After winning the first heat race, he was done until feature time as he walked around on cloud nine the rest of the day.
At least, until a flat tire sidelined Ashline to a premature exit of the race.
“We started off and the car was pretty good," said Ashline. "We were just kind of riding. Everyone just kind of sets their pace. The leaders weren’t going anywhere. We come down for that restart and blew a right front."
Ashline finished 30th.
ANOTHER SAD TUNE FOR JEFF TAYLOR
A sad moment came upon those who were passing Jeff Taylor a few minutes after the race. Taylor had just led laps in the 250 again only to fade in the late stages. The nine-time track champion always runs well, but has never been able to finish off the 250.
"You know, it’s just not meant to be, I guess," said a dejected Taylor. "They [the crew] worked awful hard. We never have quit. That’s why we keep coming back. We’re too dumb to quit. We tried. We ran with the best in the country for a while, and I ain’t no kid anymore either. Good day, just not good enough."
His sixth-place finish is his ninth top-10 finish at the Oxford 250. That mark is behind only Dave Dion and Dick McCabe.
CYR HUNGRY FOR 250 SUCCESS
Muti-time ACT champion and former winner at Oxford Jean-Paul Cyr had an off day at Oxford that saw him finish 21st. Cyr was still able to smile as he looked to figure out the Oxford oval.
"The Oxford 250 is one that I’d love to just have a good go at" said Cyr. "And boy, I’ve been anything but close thus far."
Cyr had to come out of one of the last chance races to make the show this year. As always at the 250, several cars, and several good cars, went home.
"I think I ran about every lap in the beginning," said Cyr. "Started last in the heat race and got up into an okay position for the B [Consi]. Got up to just about a qualifying spot, got spun, started from the back, got back up, and won the Last Chance race. Started in the back of the pack [in the feature]. First 130 laps were real good. The last 130 were real bad. We’re not quite sure what went wrong quite yet."
KEITH ROCCO GOES HOME
NASCAR Modified star Keith Rocco came to Oxford looking to make the show. In an effort that had for OPS winner and champion Sam Sessions helping the effort, things looked promising. Rocco had a great run in the heat race before getting out of the transfer spot late in the race. His Consi was stacked and he spun and went pit side, ending his day.
FIRST CHAMPION IN THE HOUSE
The winner of the first Oxford race was in the house at OPS on Sunday. Joey Kourafas won the only Oxford race that was a shorter distance a total of 200 laps back in 1974. Kourafas finished on the podium five times in the 250 with his last being a third in 1990.
"The place has not changed a lot," said Kourafas. "We had a good year in 1974, won a bunch of races, but we ran a lot more then. The only thing that is different about the cars now is they are all good. We would deal with a lot more lap traffic back then."
POLE IMPRESSED WITH BUSCH'S RUN
Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. had a rough day at the Oxford 250 after starting deep in the pack. When the dust settled he was 15th in the final rundown, but he was more impressed with Kyle Busch’s winning run in his first ACT-type Late Model start.
"When he comes to a race, he comes to win," said Pole. "He doesn’t just come for the show. He’s a hell of a driver. He whipped us up pretty good."
BEST RUN YET FOR WILLIAMS IN THE 250
For Eric Williams, the 250 has not been much fun, but 2011 will go down as his best finish for now after he came home ninth. Williams' four previous runs at OPS in the 250 were not pretty, with a 17th being his best until this season.
WELCH LEADS NEW HAMPSHIRE CHARGE TO 10TH
Quinny Welch finished fourth at White Mountain Motorsports Park the night before the 250 in New Hampshire. He then came east to be the top finishing New Hampshire driver in the 250. It was a career-best finish for the Granite State regular.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR CAN MAKE FOR LEIGHTON
A year ago Brad Leighton walked out of Oxford Plains Speedway with so much lap money it could almost make up for not having won the 250. 2011 was different as they end up as the first car out of the race. Chances are we have not seen the last of Brad Leighton at the 250.
PASS 150 LEFTOVERS
As Kyle Busch won both the PASS race and the Oxford 250 Brian Hoar was able to take top 10's as he was fifth in the 250 and eighth in the PASS Show.
LAPERLE ALMOST REPEATS AT OPS
The last time the Pro All Stars Series was in Oxford for a race, Patrick Laperle went to victory lane. He almost pulled it off again Saturday night as he led Kyle Busch for several laps before Busch’s 51 took the top spot. After the race, Laperle got Busch to sign his R/C Truck that he plans on racing back in Canada, so he was all smiles.
"I saw he(Busch) was sticking to the bottom so I went high and I went around him and that was pretty cool to pass Kyle Busch," said Laperle. "He got me good on a restart and I shifted so late we were in turn one. We burned the right rear off and we were done."
Laperle ended up fourth in the final rundown.
LEGENDRE’S BIRTHDAY RUN ENDS EARLY
At one point in the race, Steve Legendre was going for the lead on the outside of Kyle Busch. A swift block stopped his progress just a few laps before a tire let go ending the run for the birthday boy.
"Think we had something for them there," said Legendre. "I felt we had a winning car, but we blew a tire and that ended our night. It's racing, what are you going to do?"
STARS LINING UP AGAIN FOR JOHNNY CLARK
Johnny Clark did not look too happy after the return for the PASS Series at Oxford. Clark was fifth, but he knows that the car could have been better. Fifth is an off night for the six-time PASS champion, who is chasing down yet another crown.
"We were off a little bit, said Clark. "I thought we could run the bottom, but that didn't work out for us. We just could never get there tonight. On the last restart, Joe Pole could keep it down and I got into the third groove and we had to hang on."
Clark still managed to gain points for another championship run which seems to be the norm for him as he is going for seventh PASS title.
FOGLEMAN FIGHTING HARD FOR NATIONAL TITLE
Jay Fogleman is chasing a national title and his quest to Thompson on Thursday left him making the run up to Oxford on Saturday for the PASS return to the Route 26 oval. Things didn't go well, but with the help of veteran Northern Super Late Model car owner Jay Cushman, they put up a hard fight.
"We had bad luck, said Fogleman. "We had good cars and just horrible luck. We had issues in qualifying and then losing the power steering just makes us happy to leave here with a car in one piece. "
The tough luck may be discouraging to some, Fogleman wants to come back to Oxford later this season.
"We are coming back here for Beech Ridge and to White Mountain to finish off the national swing, but I would love to have the chance to come back to Oxford in October. We got this place about figured out when the power steering blew.
BEN ROWE CHARGES AGIAN
Ben Rowe dug himself a big hole to climb out of after problems in his heat race. Rowe started deep in the field and had to fight all night to keep from going down a lap as Kyle Busch and Patrick Laperle were setting a blistering pace in the early laps. Rowe managed a ninth-place run after a long night.
"I had to use my stuff up to get there," said Rowe. "We just got a bad draw in the heat. It happens and it happens when you have 40 cars. We'll regroup and go to the next one.”
Rowe and points leader Johnny Clark head to Seekonk on August 6th, a track where neither driver has ever scored a win. This is just about the only track left like that on the calendar.
WILSON'S DOUBLE ENDS EARLY
After winning the PASS Modified race on Friday, Alan Wilson was out early in the PASS Super Late Model race on Saturday. Wilson's win stopped fellow former OPS regular Andy Shaw from winning a sixth straight race. It was the first PASS Late Model start for Wilson since 2009.