The journey to start the 2020 race season in Maine has been a long (and tough) one, to say the least. Due to current government restrictions and Covid-19 regulations, Maine’s race tracks have two options: stay closed or open without fans. Oxford Plains Speedway decided to choose the latter of the two, finally opening up their track (to pit admission only) for competition this past weekend. Not only did Oxford Plains host the PASS and ACT series, they also hosted BOTH of their weekly divisions as well.

With the grandstands being closed, the Mayberry family worked with the Northeast Sports Network to offer a pay-per-view broadcast that fans not in attendance were able to purchase. In person or not, all fans were able to get a piece of the racing action. Boy, there was a lot of it over the course of the weekend.

The weekend kicked off with Oxford hosting their Wednesday and Saturday night divisions in (two) separate sessions of racing on Saturday. I was able to attend the second session of the day, which featured the Saturday night divisions.

The Super Late Model division had an eclectic mix of drivers, from weekly competitors, to touring competitors, to drivers visiting from other tracks. Of those drivers visiting was Logan Melcher, a Wiscasset Speedway standout and a Chasing the Checkered driver. Logan hadn’t raced at Oxford Plains in years, so the day was a learning experience for the driver and team alike.

Logan Melker & his dad, Larry, preparing for his heat race this past Saturday,

Jeff Taylor showed strength from the beginning of the night, scoring the first Super Late Model heat victory over Derek Ramstrom. Former Oxford Plains Speedway champions, Gabe Brown and Curt Gerry, followed suit. Maine racing legend, Mike Rowe, also showed promise, racing his way up to third in his heat race. 2019 Beech Ridge Motor Speedway track champion, Dave Farrington, Jr., sailed away with the victory in the final SLM heat race of the night.

The Street Stock division also featured some veteran drivers among rookies and weekly regulars. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway regulars, Wade Kennedy and Garrett Lamb, decided to try their hand at the new track. Also in the field was a new (yet familiar) 3rd generation driver, Dan McKeage, Jr. Dan has elected to follow in the footsteps of the two generations before him and try his hand behind the wheel.

Dan McKeage, Jr. before his racing debut at OPS.

Oxford Plains Speedway regulars, Jordan Russell and Pat Thorne, both went on to collect victories in their two Street Stock heat races.

The Super Late Model field was 28 strong, with Jeff Taylor pulling away with the early lead in the feature. 2019 Oxford Plains Speedway track champion, Curt Gerry, was on the move, climbing up to third early. The top-3 drivers had broken away from the pack by lap 10 and began catching the tail end of the field by lap 17, with Kate Re and Logan Melcher among those following victim to the leaders.

TJ Brackett took a spin on lap 28 in turn 2, bringing out the first caution of the feature. Jeff Taylor took off like a rocket on the restart as Mike Rowe and Derek Ramstrom battled it out for fifth behind him, with Mike Rowe finally taking the spot on lap 35 before being overcome by the #72 of Scott Robbins. In the closing laps, nobody was a match for Jeff Taylor as he sailed off with the victory.

Not only did the win add another tally mark to the growing list of Jeff Taylor’s feature victories, the win was significant because it was Taylor’s 75th career victory at Oxford Plains Speedway. It is a huge career feat for a driver to achieve 75 victories, let alone at the same track. Dave Farrington, Jr., Curt Gerry, Scott Robbins and Derek Ramstrom rounded out the top five.

Chasing the Checkered’s Logan Melcher, had a tough day but plans to run at Oxford until the Wiscasset season begins, giving him new learning experiences and plenty of room to grow at a new track.

Jeff Taylor picking up the SLM victory. (Credit: O.L Photos)

After the conclusion of the Super Late Model feature, the Street Stocks took to the track for their feature. Pat Thorne, who had won his heat race, was forced to start the race from the tail-end of the field. Jordan Russell took off with the early lead. Matt Dufault was also an early mover, advancing into fourth over Kyle Hewins on lap 5. Rick Spaulding fell out of the groove on lap 8, falling to the rear of the field. Mike Rand and Dan Brown tangled on lap 11, sending both drivers into the turn 2 wall. Both drivers were okay, but exchanged words after the incident. The incident caused an uproar in the pits between crew members, but was quickly broken up by track staff.

Rick Spaulding’s troubles continued on lap 13 as he spun in turn 3. By lap 15, Pat Thorne had gained ground, advancing into the top 5. No drivers were any match for Jordan Russell, who sailed away with the feature victory. Billy Childs, Jr., Kurt Hewins, Matt Dufault and Pat Thorne rounded out the top five. Racing newcomer Dan McKeage, Jr. also avoided trouble, coming home with a top-10 finish in his first career start.

Jordan Russell celebrating his Street Stock victory at OPS. (Photo Credit: O.L Photos)

The Bandits capped off the night with there 20-lap feature, where Alex Mowatt took home the victory. Brandon Varney, Mike McKinney, Chad Wills and Brandon Caston rounded out the top five.

Needless to say, Oxford Plains Speedway brought the excitement on Saturday and provided the fans with memorable racing content in the middle of a hard racing drought. Racing is back and I can’t wait for more to come!

You can catch Oxford’s weekly classes again this coming Saturday, July 4th. Once again, the event(s) are closed to fans, but you can catch all of the racing on the Northeast Sports Network Pay-Per-View programming. Support local short track racing and the tracks and drivers that make it possible!