Oxford Plains Speedway hosted their first PASS weekend of the 2021 season on Sunday, welcoming the Pro All Star Series Modifieds as well as the PASS SLM division and the North East Mini Stock Tour. It was the first event of the season for the Modified division, which seemingly seems to grow exponentially with every passing year. An impressive 26 drivers showed up to compete on Sunday, with both rookies and seasoned veterans in the mix.
The Modified competition kicked off with three 10-lap qualifying heats. Tyler King and Ajay Cates went head-to-head for the early lead in the first heat. King stole the top spot early as Cates trailed closely behind. The two leaders were off and away after that, carrying a substantial lead over the rest of the pack by the halfway point of the heat. The two crossed the finish line in first and second, followed by returning competitor, Troy Morse. Division rookie, Zach Nicholson, also put on a strong showing in the heat, crossing the finish line in fourth.
Another rookie, Garrett Lamb, took the early lead over Colby Benjamin in the second qualifying heat. Max Cookson was also on the move early, challenging Colby Benjamin for the runner-up spot on lap 3. After the two rode side-by-side for a few laps, Benjamin held onto the spot, pulling ahead once again on lap 6. Garrett Lamb ultimately scored the heat victory, followed by Colby Benjamin and Max Cookson. 2019 division champion, Spencer Morse, was plagued with transmission problems throughout the weekend. After an impressive team effort to get the #31 team back on track prior to qualifying, Spencer finished the heat in fourth place.
Kyle Treadwell sped away with the early lead in the third and final qualifying heat as Chandler Harrison and Brandon Varney battled it out for the runner-up spot behind him. Varney took over the spot on lap 3, later setting his sights on the leader just two laps later. Kyle Treadwell was able to hold him off, capturing the heat victory. Gary Dwinal rounded out the top 3.
After an impressive NEMST feature, the Modified division took to the track for their 50-lap main event. Tyler King powered away with the early lead as chaos ensued behind the leader. Max Cookson and Spencer Morse tangled on the initial start, which was an incident that lead to the first caution and a heartbreaking early end to the day for Spencer Morse and team. Zach Nicholson also faced unfortunate mechanical troubles early, pulling off-track before the green flag waved.
Ajay Cates overtook the runner-up spot from Garrett Lamb on the restart, but trouble was brewing behind the leaders once again. Joe Day and Brad Hammond both went around on lap 10 in turn 3, collecting Bill Dixon in the carnage. The incident led to yet another early-race caution.
The leaders were setting a blistering pace by the halfway mark, tracking down the tail-end of the field. Chaos erupted once again as Colby Benjamin took a spin on lap 26, resulting in another yellow flag. The incident was followed up by another as Jake Madore went around on the restart, causing a chain reaction of events as Kyle Treadwell, JT Thurlow, Colby Benjamin and others stoved up on the front stretch.
Tyler King powered away with the lead once again on the restart. Gary Dwinal was also on the move in the second half of the race, powering to fourth over Brandon Varney after the field went back to green. Joe Day took a spin on lap 40 in turn 1, but the field kept rolling.
Garrett Lamb was all over Ajay Cates for the runner-up spot on lap 44. The two battled it out until lap traffic came into play on lap 48, allowing Cates to pull away with the spot with just two laps to go. King continued his dominance until the very end, capturing his first victory of the 2021 season. Ajay Cates, Garrett Lamb, Gary Dwinal and Shawn Knight rounded out the top five.
Tyler King and the #11 team were on fire all day, following up their 2020 championship run with a solid finish that will provide them momentum for the early season run. Ajay Cates continues to improve and prove that he is a strong competitor and Garrett Lamb exceeded expectations and then some for his first (official) rookie season start. Veterans like Spencer Morse fought hard to come up short, but this was just week one of a long season yet to come.
Support the PASS Modified division and your local short track by catching the next Modified event on Saturday, May 4th. The can’t miss racing action kicks off at 4:00 pm. Be there or be square!
Continue chasing the checkered and I hope to see you at a local short track soon!