Hundreds of campers and trailers rolled into Oxford Plains Speedway this past week, with thousands of fans celebrating the 46th annual running of the Oxford 250. 57 drivers and teams from around the nation (and Canada!) showed up to compete on Sunday, but only 44 drivers would go on to make it into the big show.
Qualifying on Sunday began with five initial heat races where the top five drivers would advance into the 250. Drivers drew their starting positions for the heat races on the front stretch Sunday morning, drawing a pill that determined their fate as their teams watched in anticipation.
Nick Sweet took home the first heat victory, locking himself into the coveted race. Ryan Kuhn, Travis Benjamin, Bubba Pollard and Tim Brackett followed.
Eddie MacDonald, a New England racing legend in his own right, took home the second heat victory. DJ Shaw, Mike Hopkins, Reid Lanpher and Craig Weinstein, an underdog in his own right, rounded out the top five.
Cassius Clark, a fan-favorite to win coming into the race weekend, took home the third heat victory. Johnny Clark, TJ Brackett, Adam Gray and Josh Childs followed.
Derek Griffith, the 2018 PASS National champion, took home the victory in the fourth heat. Curtis Gerry (2017 Oxford 250 Champion), Trevor Sanborn, Ray Christian III and Brandon Barker rounded out the top five.
The fifth and final heat was an “underdog” heat of sorts and Cole Butcher took the heat victory, locking himself into the big race. Alan Tardiff, Ryan Robbins, Jake Johnson and Scott Robbins followed.
After the initial heat races were complete, it was time for the consolation heat races, where the top four drivers from each heat would advance into the 250.
Ben Ashline, competing in his first Oxford 250 since 2012, took home the first consolation heat victory. Scott McDaniel, Joey Pole (another former 250 champion) and Dave Farrington, Jr. rounded out the top four.
Ben Rowe took home the second consolation heat victory while Tracy Gordon, Kyle Desouza and Garrett Hall followed, locking themselves into the big race.
After the consolation heat races were completed, four of Oxford Plains’ support divisions took to the big stage. Skip Tripp took home the 30-lap feature victory in the Street Stocks, Chris Foster won the 30-lap Rebels feature, Matthew Sonnhalter was awarded the victory in the 50-lap NEMST feature and Casey Call scored the victory in the Legends feature.
There was then a 30-lap “Last Chance” heat, where only the top finisher would advance into the 250. Austin Teras, who has been tearing it up in the Legends division this season, took home the last chance victory, completing the field.
Two underdog favorites, Ryan Green and John Peters, failed to make the field due to getting caught up in unavoidable wrecks during their heat races. Kelly Moore, a racing legend in his own right, also had a tough day and failed to make the field this year.
Dan Winter was one of the drivers lucky enough to recieve a provisional for the 250. This was Winter’s first time competing in the big race, which is any driver’s dream.
After the field was set, it was time for the running of the 46th annual Oxford 250.
Eddie MacDonald took the early lead over young gun, Ryan Kuhn. Nick Sweet was also on the move early, advancing into the runner-up spot over Ryan Kuhn on lap 10 and later advancing into the lead on lap 20. The leaders were setting a blistering pace early, lapping cars at the tail-end of the field by lap 21. Joey Pole took a vicious spin on the front stretch on lap 47, making hard contact with Scott McDaniel. The yellow flag came out the following lap, setting Joey Pole one lap down.
Eddie MacDonald was all over Nick Sweet for the lead following the restart, stealing the top spot back away from Sweet on lap 55. Drivers were 3-wide for second on lap 58, with Cassius Clark advancing into the spot as Nick Sweet fell back to fifth. Bryan Kruczek, Saturday’s ACT Tour winner, blew up on lap 74, pulling to the infield.
Cassius Clark was using lap traffic to his advantage, advancing into the lead over Eddie MacDonald on lap 95. Joey Pole’s troubles continued on lap 98 as he went off-track in turns 3 and 4, resulting in another caution. Most of the leaders pitted, which sent DJ Shaw into the lead following pit stops.
Jake Johnson powered into the runner-up spot on the restart and was all over DJ Shaw’s back bumper by lap 108. He made his way to Shaw’s inside on lap 115, posing a challenge for the driver of the #60. Curt Gerry was also making moves, advancing to fifth over Craig Weinstein on lap 118. But, Alan Tardiff was right there, wrangling the position away from Gerry on lap 120. After battling it out for the lead for a handful of laps, Jake Johnson finally overtook the lead on lap 125.
Alan Tardiff was still red-hot, advancing into the runner-up spot on lap 130 and later, into the lead, on lap 132. Ben Ashline was also on the move, finally breaking the top five on lap 147. There was a 3-way battle for fourth on lap 151, with Nick Sweet taking over the spot. Sweet continued his pursuit back to the front of the field, clearing DJ Shaw for third on lap 160. Mike Hopkins also showed up in the second half of the race, breaking the top five on lap 168. 2019 was not Bubba Pollard’s year like last year was, which was made clear when Pollard retired to the back pits on lap 168.
Mike Hopkins advanced to fourth over DJ Shaw on lap 173 with Ben Rowe and Ben Ashline in tow. Josh Childs then took a spin on lap 179 in turn 1, leading to another yellow flag. Alan Tardiff, Nick Sweet and Dave Farrington, Jr. all elected to stay on the track while the rest of the leaders pitted. Cassius Clark won the race out of the pits.
Jake Johnson lost a tire on the restart, making heavy contact with the front stretch wall. The impact led to an immediate yellow flag. Johnson was a bit banged up following the incident, but he was able to walk away under his own power.
Nick Sweet powered away with the lead on the restart, but trouble was brewing behind the leaders. Gabe Brown took a spin on lap 182 in turn 1, leading to another caution. Both Alan Tardiff and Nick Sweet elected to pit under yellow with both drivers electing to take two right side tires. This catapulted Cassius Clark into the lead yet again.
Cassius Clark pulled away with the lead on the restart as Dave Farrington, Jr. fell back, losing a handful of positions. Travis Benjamin was on the move late, advancing into the runner-up spot on lap 190. Benjamin was all over Cassius Clark for the lead on lap 208, finally clearing him for the top spot on lap 211.
Derek Griffith and Cassius Clark began battling it out for the runner-up spot on lap 215, with Griffith pulling away with the spot just two laps later. DJ Shaw quickly navigated his way through lap traffic, advancing into the runner-up spot over Derek Griffith on lap 222. Eddie MacDonald faced mechanical troubles on lap 228, retiring to the pits. Ashton Tucker came to a slow on lap 238 in turn 3, leading to a late-race yellow.
Travis Benjamin pulled away with the lead yet again on the restart. Garrett Hall came to a slow, falling to the rear of the field on lap 240. Tim Brackett took a spin on lap 246 in turn 3, collecting Mike Rowe, Gabe Brown and others in the carnage. The incident led to another caution and a 4-lap shootout that would determine the race winner.
Travis Benjamin took off on the restart and never looked back, creating history as he collected his third career Oxford 250 champion. Benjamin now ties Mike Rowe with three Oxford 250 wins and they are the only two (currently active) drivers ti achieve the feat. Bejamin picked up his $25,000 check in Victory Lane, celebrating victoriously with his son, family and team members.
Derek Griffith, DJ Shaw, Johnny Clark and Mike Hopkins rounded out the top five.
The 2019 Oxford 250 sure didn’t disappoint, brought many surprises and most importantly, the grandstands and the parking lots were absolutely packed with excited fans that remained on their feet for 250 exciting laps. This was my second Oxford 250 and I can’t wait to attend many more in the future!
Congrats to Travis Benjamin and the entire #7 team!