A no-go for ACT

For the 2nd time in as many tries, a segment of the Oxford Late Model Challenge Series was rained out at Oxford Plains Speedway.

At 6:06 p.m, and with the promise of more rain in the forecast, track and series officials made the decision to postpone the ACT Time-Warner Cable 100. That race will now be held on Aug. 11.

The L-A Harley-Davidson 100 in early June was also rained out. That race, eventually won by Vermonter John Donahue, was run the next day. Oxford could not hold the Time-Warner Cable 100 on Sunday this time around, as the track is already holding an enduro race.

Rain has followed me to Oxford

A light rain began at Oxford Plains Speedway shortly after 4 p.m., and it continues to do so now. The Time-Warner Cable 100 for the American-Canadian Tour is currently in a holding pattern.

Over the radio, one track official referred to the weather radar as "not good."

We'll keep you posted.

More than blind faith for fans

I'm a die-hard Red Sox fan, good, bad and ugly.

When Coco Crips hits a grand slam, I roundly proclaim him the greatest power-hitting center fielder the game has ever seen. And when Manny Delcarmen whiffs Sammy Sosa with a little high cheddar, I write him onto every All-Star ballot I can find and begin designing his Cooperstown bust.

Of course, even with an 11-game lead atop the division, I find fault in many things. Like, who's this chump Tavarez think he's fooling? When is Big Papi actually going to hit a homer at Fenway? Can't Julio Lugo play a lick of defense? I mean, all this stuff is going to cost us in the 2nd half -- Right? Isn't it? Seriously?!?

Why aren't race fans the same way?

If a Jeff Gordon fans sees a disparaging word about what happened at Infineon Raceway, the writer is a "Gordon-hater." If Dale Jr. is called out for his indecision in landing a new team, the media "obviously has a love affair with Hendrick Motorsports." If the Busch East Series is called out for poor racing, it's because the writer "clearly wants the series to fail" so he or she "won't have to cover it anymore."

I don't get it, and, as a race fan in my spare time, I never will.

I've got the drivers I'm pulling for, and, like with my Red Sox, I'll call them out when they're not performing or say something they shouldn't. I watch Busch East, PASS and ACT racing all the time -- at tracks across New England -- and I enjoy the products, but I've also got a list about 112 pages long of things I would change in every one of those regional series.

This doesn't make me anti-racing. In fact, spending so much time watching, thinking and writing about racing suggests exactly the opposite.


We're finally over

Boy, and it feels like I could sit through 3 more features here...

Sixteen minutes before midnight, Nate Weston of Madison puts his No. 47 in victory late at Unity Raceway by winning the Hight Chevrolet 75 for the Super Street division. He beat out Josh St. Clair of Liberty and Mark Dodge of Anson for the $800 winner's check -- Weston's 1st win at Unity since his 2006 championship season.

"For me, this is just a litte bit of reinstatement for me here," Weston said.

The race was not without a bit of controversy behind Weston. St. Clair stopped on the track with a flat tire on lap 39 to bring out a caution flag. He was not penalized a lap.

"I was hoping I was," St. Clair said of being on the lead lap. "If I wasn't, I was going to prove that I had a car good enough to be in the top-3."

It seems like forever ago now, but before that Hight Chevy 75 got the green flag, Derrick Terrell of Plymouth picked up a quality win in the 20-lap Mini Stock feature.

Sure, Terrell started on the pole en route to his 1st win "in a couple of years" but when he saw Paul Shorette to his outside on a restart with only 4 laps left he was worried. Shorette hoped he could use lapped traffic to finish off his charge from 14th place on the starting grid; Terrell was hoping those lapped cars would keep him at bay.

It worked out for Terrell.

"I was really worried after that yellow flag," Terrell said. "I figured he was going to pull me on the restart, but those lapped cars helped a lot."

"I was hoping lapped traffic would play a factor -- and it actually did," Shorette said. "I didn't catch it at the right time."


Unofficial finishes
Super Street - Hight Chevrolet 75
1. Nate Weston, Madison; 2. Josh St. Clair, Liberty; 3. Mark Dodge, Anson; 4. Ernie Wallace, Winterport; 5. Mike Lynch, Winterport.
Pro-4 Late Model feature - 20 laps
1. Cary Davis, St. Albans; 2. Steve Rackliff, Starks; 3. Frank Brown, St. Albans; 4. Greg Cummings, South China; 5. Jim Dennis, Benton.
Wildcat feature - 20 laps
1. Tim Hudson, Windsor; 2. Dustin Hubbard, Unity; 3. Mike St. Germain, Auburn; 4. Joey Doyon, Winterport; 5. Matt Picard, Unity.
Mini Stock feature - 20 laps
1. Derrick Terrell, Plymouth; 2. Paul Shorette, Winslow; 3. Mike Wilson, Chelsea; 4. David Cook, Livermore Falls; 5. Billy Allen, Winterport.

Wakeup call

NASCAR fans get a rare doubleheader on Saturday, after rain wrecked the day at Daytona International Speedway on Friday.

With the majority of Cup qualifying already in the books -- and 7 cars who needed to qualify on time sitting in the top 7 spots -- rain came and washed out the session. Per rule, the starting field for the Pepsi 400 was set by owner points and other criteria.

Weather also dashed the Busch Series race slated for the evening, so that will get the green flag at 9 a.m. Saturday. Some 20 drivers are slated to drive both races -- which will be held on the same day for the first time since 2003 at Charlotte.
The rain meant that Boris Said, who was on the provisional pole, was sent home. So, too, was Jeremy Mayfield, who was 3rd at the time. And, in a sick twist of fate, a guy like Brian Vickers who was already not going to race Saturday made it via a provision allowing a race winner from 2006 to get in.
So, it's 650 miles of racing in just over 12 hours on Saturday. An extra shot of espresso in the coffee, thank you very much.

At the break

Cary Davis of St. Albans won the 20-lap Pro-4 main and Tim Hudson of Windsor won the 20-lap Wildcat feature, his second win of the season at Unity Raceway, good enough to get us to the fireworks break here.

Yeah, I know, I don't like fireworks at the track. Then again, this massive break in the action has given me the chance to catch up with some of the movers and shakers of Maine's short-track racing scene.

Talked to Ralph Nason, a 3-time Oxford 250 champion about a bunch of stuff, including whether or not this track is for sale.

"You got your checkbook with you?" was Nason's response. I guess it's true -- everything has a price these days.

Greg Veinote was here in the press box. Veinote is the new owner of Spud Speedway in Caribou, which opens next Saturday with a 3-division program and likely 40-50 cars in the pit area.
Neither Veinote nor Nason, who owned Spud previously, would confirm the purchase price.

"I won't buy anything unless I can buy it right," was all Veinote would reveal.

Finally, caught up with Ralph Nason Jr., the general manager and race director for Unity. Asked him point-blank for his thoughts about the light field for the Hight Chevy 75 -- which, at this rate, will get the green flag sometime Monday morning.

"I really expected 18-20 cars," Nason said. "I guess I learned that 800 bucks isn't enough impetus to get Super Streets out for a show.

"I mean, it's Fourth of July, $800 is boo-koo money for a Super Street and there's a ton of people here. If you don't want to be here for that... These drivers need to have a little showman in them."

PASS playing 2nd fiddle

Check out the Thompson International Speedway web site if you want to see just how important that PASS North Series 75-lapper next weekend is to the folks in Connecticut. They're still going to pay the purse, right?

The track's Full-Fendered Frenzy program is a combination 100-lap Busch East Series event and 75-lap PASS race. But to see the track's opinion, it's all about the Busch cars and a bunch of minor-leaguers from northern New England. There are six driver mug shots on the site -- all Busch drivers, of course -- and a headline that infers the PASS cars are no different than the track's Late Model division.

Sure, there's name recognition with the likes of Joey Logano and Jeffrey Earnhardt in that BES race -- but let's be honest. That's nothing more than a Double-A baseball lineup of guys who someday might -- MIGHT -- get a sniff of the big time. When it comes to Super Late Model racing, PASS is already a national brand name in short-track racing.

Remember when PASS could headline an event, even in the open-wheel world of Connecticut short tracks?

I'm guessing the PASS guys put on a better show than the BES cars at Thompson, and I'm not exactly going out on a limb here. I saw that New England 125 at New Hampshire last weekend, and it was awful, wretched, putrid stuff. Looked like a bunch of kids behind the wheels of those cars, ones who were in over their heads on the big, flat, mile track.

Oh, wait a minute, those were kids behind the wheels who were in over their heads on the big, flat, mile track.

Suprise, surprise... rain at Unity

This would make it 3 trips in a row for me where rain plays a part at Unity Raceway.

Cars are circling the track now as we put the wraps on what will likely end up being somewhere in the neighborhood of a 45-minute rain delay. All qualifying heats were in the books just after 8 p.m., and the Pro-4 Late Models were on the track to start their 20-lap feature when the rains hit.

It was a much lighter rain than the one that blew through here about 5 hours before, one that left 1/3 of the pit area looking like Lake Nason, as Puncin St. Clair put it.

Should be noted that there are only 11 Super Street cars here for the main event -- the Hight Chevrolet 75, which, by the way, pays $800 to the winner. With 7 divisions on tap for the evening, there are only about 50 cars signed in across the way. Suffice it to say, that's not good news.

No truth to the rumor that there are more mud puddles in the infield than cars for the Super Street feature.

All fired up at Unity

I know I'm nearly alone in this, and I should be happier about it, but there's just no place for fireworks at a racetrack -- unless they're set off as the winner takes a checkered flag or the starting grid rolls off pit road.

I'm going to Unity Raceway tonight, where a long night with the Super Street Hight Chevrolet 75 will be made even longer with a fireworks display somewhere around 9 o'clock.

I was first introduced to stock car racing as a child, when my parents piled the 3 of us in the back of a Subaru and drove us over to Unity -- of all places -- for racing and fireworks. I was hooked, on the racing, not the pyrotechnics. Me, I just think fireworks pale in comparison to the speed, the sounds and the colors of race cars zipping across a .333-mile asphalt track.

I'm crazy that way.

Call it full circle that over 20 years later, I'm going back to that dusty little track for some racing and fireworks. Of course, in those days, I wished the racing would never end. Now, I just want them to be over so I can make deadline.



Tomorrow's not here just yet

The impression I get when I watch the Car of Tomorrow is that we're getting the parity NASCAR so hoped we'd see, but that it may not stick around long once green flags fly.

To wit: Dave Blaney won the pole for the COT race at New Hampshire, and guys like Johnny Sauter and Reed Sorensen ripped off A-1 qualifying laps that same afternoon; when it came time to race, however, it was Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and the Joe Gibbs No. 11 bunch showing up front and center -- again.

Right now, there are only a half-dozen teams that have a handle on this thing, and it's painfully obvious in the single-file racing that's on the track.

We all know that when teams are struggling to find handling, they're going to struggle to race -- and that means they'll struggle to pass. If you don't feel like the car has any grip in the corners, you're going to be a lot less inclined to pitch it onto the apron and try to make it stick as you go in underneath someone. Instead, you'll take the conservative route and follow the leader for a few laps, waiting to capitalize on someone else's mistake instead of forcing the issue.

From the beginning, we believed whole-heartedly that we wouldn't see the true, desired results of the COT for a couple of seasons. Halfway through this one, though it's natural to start being impatient, it's as obvious as ever that we're still in the waiting mode. We may be eager to see better racing right now, but it's just not realistic.

Teams need more tests, more races, more time -- time to sort through everything and come up with some notes they can use going forward.


That's a wrap 3

Click here for a roundup of the weekend's racing action in and around Maine.

Putting NHIS behind me

After watching the boo-birds "embrace" their "second son" Kurt Busch, the nearly infamous Ward Burton brush-off and thousands of miles of practice, qualifying and racing -- it's finally time to put this road trip to bed...

As you well know, Denny Hamlin won the Lenox 300 at New Hampshire, and Hendrick Motorsports didn't miss a beat without crew chiefs Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus. Click on those links for the stories.

As for Kurt Busch, amazing to see the way he was embraced. Last week, of course, Busch said that he was like a second son, rivaling Ricky Craven in popularity in New England. Funny, then, that he would be so roundly booed during driver introductions and that the crowd around his merchandise trailer on the midway was, well -- let's just say the word "sparse" comes to mind.

I don't remember the fans ever booing Ricky.

The weekend on the working front was a frustrating one. Four different times Ward Burton decided he couldn't take two minutes to talk to a reporter.

But, we remind you, these are the most accessible athletes in pro sports.

Now, I'm not just some whining "I didn't get my story" reporter expecting you to feel bad for me. Twice on Saturday, I tracked Ward down -- once in the Busch garage and another time in the Cup garage. On the Busch side, he gave me the wave and walk-off -- no biggie. On the Cup side, he said he couldn't talk because he had to get to practice for the Busch car. Told me to come back.

You got it, I said. Not a problem.

So then there was Saturday. I waited for him after practice and he walked out of his hauler, saw me, stopped, grabbed a water and ducked back inside. Then after Happy Hour for the Cuppers, a full 2 1/2 hours before Busch race later that day -- and after he waited in the garage stall behind his car for several minutes, he finally walked over in my direction.

"Ward," I asked him. "Have you got a couple of minutes to talk about your wildlife foundation?"

"No, I don't," he said. "I've got to do this hospitality thing, and then I've got the Busch race. Come back tomorrow."

"Is there somewhere I can walk with you to? I only need about 30 seconds, I just want to quickly ask you about the education work you're doing for kids."

"I can't do it in 30 seconds. I'd love to do it, but I'm booked solid today."

With that, he was gone. In the time it took him to haggle with me about whether or not he had the time to talk anyway, we could have been done with.

Ward Burton finished 43rd, dead last in the Lenox 300, after transmission failure just 3 laps in. Karma?


Gear jammin': New Hampshire

Top 4 stories from the Lenox Industrial Tools 300:

1st gear -- No crew chiefs, no problem: For Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson, not having their respective crew chiefs on top of the pit box didn't pose much of a problem at New Hampshire International Speedway. They finished second, fourth and fifth, respectively, showing just how deep these organizations are when it comes to talent both at the race shop and in the garage area. Earnhardt, of course, finally gets a reprieve -- as Tony Eury Jr. returns from his 6-race suspension next week at Daytona. For Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus, however, it's another 5 races on the sidelines; not that it's shaping up as much of a road block for the teams.

2nd gear -- Hamlin gets 1st win of season: Not only did Denny Hamlin get his first win of the year, but he did so in a way even he didn't think possible a couple of months back. Where pit road miscues had the team beating itself at both Phoenix and Darlington, the No. 11 team won this won by gambling on pit road with a two-tire stop late that put the car out front to stay. The team also has a handle on this COT stuff -- with 6 top-5s in 8 COT races this season.

3rd gear -- Hendrick's COT program at head of the class: The individual cars of Hamlin and Carl Edwards may look good in COT trim right now, but as an overall organization, Hendrick Motorsports is head and shoulders above the rest of the Nextel Cup garage. At one point near the midway point of the Lenox 300, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon were all running in the top-4 -- with future Hendrick driver Earnhardt second. All had moved through the back half of the top-10 with relative ease, too. With 8 COT races still to go this year, including 4 in the final 10 Chase races, that could be bad news for the rest of the field.

4th gear -- Truex emerges as DEI leader: Martin Truex Jr. won at Dover and had one of the best cars all day long at New Hampshire, too. This team, one that's been kept virtually intact since its Busch Series championship days, seems to be getting the hang of the Nextel Cup racing thing. That's nice to see and, given Earnhardt's imminent departure and Bass Pro Shops signing an extension as the primary sponsor of the his car, Truex is positioning himself as a bona fide No. 1 driver in a multi-car stable.

Getting it right

Heading to the driver's meeting at New Hampshire International Speedway on Sunday morning, Kyle Busch's golf cart came to a screeching halt.

He stopped when he saw PASS North Series driver Mike Rowe walking through the infield, yelling over to tell Rowe he had something in his motorhome for the Turner, Maine driver. It was the winner's trophy from All-Star Speedway.

Commend PASS North Series officials for making the right call -- and doing so swiftly on Sunday.

After celebrating a win by Busch in the All-Star 200, one that was roundly criticized and contested by the series' regulars, PASS announced that Busch had been penalized 2 laps for an inappropriate tire change during the race.

Rowe was given the win over son Ben Rowe, and Travis Benjamin finished 3rd. Busch was relegated to a 16th-place finish.

It was the only decision PASS could afford to make, not being held captive by the name and presence of a Nextel Cup driver. That's the way it has to be -- for the series' teams and its loyal fan base.

Playing the waiting game

You know you're bored when you download the "ESPN Bassmasters" game onto your cell phone so you can kill some time while you wait out the next 7 hours in the infield media center at New Hampshire International Speedway.

I mean, come on. Fishing video games are as brainless and senseless as they come -- and now I've got one going on my cell phone screen I can hardly see.

It's going to make that Hinder concert prior to the Lenox 300 seem like a night out.


Why do race fans always insist on driving to and from racetracks as if they themselves are in the race? I almost understand the dash to leave the track -- having watched cars race for hours, while hurrying to get hom before the middle of the night.

But getting there? On no sleep, a couple cans of Monster and a killer hangover -- with the 17-burner, 8-million BTU grill system strapped into the truck bed -- darting from lane to lane. I'm more afraid than I was standing in the Cup garage during a practice session.

I need a spotter on a radio tuned to something other than the local country music station.

Let's PASS on Busch's win

Here's what Tom Mayberry doesn't understand -- having the Nextel Cup star barge in and win one of your biggest shows of the season lends the PASS North Series zero credibility, particularly when that win is clouded by controversy.

Kyle Busch's win in the All-Star 200 Saturday night, by several accounts, should not stand -- and it probably won't. He changed his right side tires after his crew, according to two different sources, purposely punctured the tires to make them appear flat. Busch then charged up through the field, rallying back to win in the No. 51 supplied by PASS marketing director and former team owner Steve Perry.

One flat tire? Maybe. Two at the same time for a car running up front? Not on your life.

Changing tires that are anything but flat is a big-time no-no in the PASS series, even in a $5,000-to-win, 200-lap feature like the one at All-Star Speedway. Intentionally flattening your tire is cheating. Plain and simple. This isn't some NASCAR Nextel Cup Series "gray area." It's like stopping on the frontstretch to intentionally bring out the caution flag -- times 10 -- and then punting the leader into the turn 4 fence to get your lap back.

As of 1 a.m. Sunday, word was that Busch would be penalized 2 laps for changing right side tires and Mike Rowe would be declared the winner.

Busch, of course, didn't stick around to discuss his race strategy -- though he did talk freely in victory lane about changing two tires just shy of halfway, saying that his car came to life after. He was escorted to his car by police and long gone toward Loudon during post-race inspection.

But, it doesn't really matter, anyway. Everything Kyle Busch does for a regional touring series happens before the green flag -- generating interest, selling tickets, drawing attention to the PASS brand. Having him go out and whip the pants off your stars, your Rowes and Clarks and Benjamins and Dearborns, only makes your series look weaker -- like your drivers can't hold a candle to the sport's best.

But don't you want your stars to shine brightest?

In my book, Mike Rowe won that race Saturday night, fair and square. Come Monday, it should be that way in Mayberry's book, too.

Racing into the outdoors

With the eardrum-shattering screeching of tires and race engines surrounding him in the garage area at New Hampshire International Speedway, Scott Zipadelli speaks of the surreal serenity of hunting trips to western Canada.

Chasing the high prestige of a regular gig in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, Ward Burton continues to escape into the natural world whenever there's time in a busy racing schedule.

Richard Childress created a racing empire, fielding cars for the late Dale Earnhardt, a seven-time Cup series champion, while working big game hunts across the globe into his schedule. He has three drivers in today's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at NHIS -- including Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick, 4-time NHIS winner Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer.

For all of these men, and for countless others working at all levels of NASCAR, being an outdoorsman takes on added challenges.

Read the whole story in today's Kennebec Journal.