White takes over at Wiscasset

Doug White doesn't want race fans to go to the races on Saturday nights. He wants them to go to an event.

White will present his first program as the new owner of Wiscasset Raceway on Saturday night. It all begins with a classic car show in the afternoon, followed by a pre-race television show prior to the racing. Heat races begin at 6 p.m.

Read the complete story in Friday's Kennebec Journal.

Vintage racing

Less than 12 hours from a vacation that will feature nothing more than fishing, swimming, beer swilling and little else for the next 8 days, I needed something to get me excited about racing.

Leave it to ESPN to take car of that, as it wraps up its "Ultimate NASCAR" series with a 2-hour segment entitled "Families."

I jumped in smack in the middle of Dale Earnhardt footage, back when he was still building his Intimidator reputation. It's classic stuff, stuff that helped build the NASCAR we have today. Checkers or wreckers for the likes of Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty.

Watching, it turns my stomach to think about how plain, how vanilla big-time stock car racing has become. Points racing, polite camera-speak, Michael Waltrip's endless and shameless sponsor plugs. Not only should Earnhardt and Davey Allison be rolling over in their graves, but it's a wonder short-track racing is suffering.

PASS, ACT, the Late Model Sportsman division at Wiscasset Raceway, the Wednesday night Runnin' Rebels at Oxford Plains. All of them hold more action than a Sunday afternoon at Vegas or Kansas or wherever the heck else the Nextel Cup Series is racing. Even Bristol isn't what it once was, back when Earnhardt or Rusty Wallace or a younger, hungrier Jeff Gordon would just as soon boot you out of the way as finish 2nd.

That's, as they say, racin'. What we're seeing today, I'm not sure it's much more than a 4-hour commercial for 40 companies.

Maybe ESPN can dig up some more footage, some of those races from Darlington and North Wilkesboro, the more obscure ones I can't remember who won. Even if I can remember, I bet they're still more unpredictable than today's Cup events.


I'm having withdrawals

Despite being physically and mentally exhausted when I rolled into the driveway at almost 2 a.m. Monday morning, I'm having trouble moving on from the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday.

I mean, Carl Edwards hurts his thumb in a Super Late Model race, and I kind of shrug my shoulders. Ginn Racing is usurped by Dale Earnhardt Inc., and I bat my eyes. The Brickyard 400 is 5 days away, and it's an afterthought.

I'm still caught up in Roger Brown winning the biggest race of his life.

He's young and a little bit brash, and I like that. American-Canadian Tour director Tom Curley is always telling people that we need local heroes again, but he's only partially right. We need the villians, too, the villians that act as the perfect foil for heroes.

I loved the fact that Brown said he wasn't lifting when David Avery tried to beat him to the 1st turn late in the race.

"Not then," Brown said. Classic.

I've also been thinking about the promise I made to OPS owner Bill Ryan, Super Late Model owner Jay Cushman and PASS North Series drivers Johnny Clark and Cassius Clark last week, when I told them the story I wrote in last Saturday's Kennebec Journal would be the last one I'd write about the ongoing Super Late Model/Pro Stock-Late Model debate. It's a promise I intend to keep, if only because I don't know what more I can add to it that's fresh. Probably nothing.

Of course, I also thought it was amusing that people thought I was "throwing Bill Ryan under the bus" once the race started, because he must have "locked me out of the press box" on Sunday. Musing whether or not the field was too OPS weekly regular-heavy is not throwing anyone under the bus, and neither is noting that passing can be difficult in Late Models.

As I told both Bill Ryan and Johnny Clark at different points in the 2 weeks of coverage leading up to this event, I don't have a car in this race (I was tempted to use "dog in this fight," but the whole Michael Vick thing is so distasteful, I refused) and I like both ACT and PASS racing.

In some ways, given how much time and effort is put into the Oxford 250 from team, promoter and media perspectives, it's a shame this race isn't run at the end of the year. Then again, teams are out of money by the end of the year, and it wouldn't be the same.

It does make me wonder how the Daytona 500 managed to kick off the Cup schedule for so many years. Imagine the hype if that race came in mid-July or early August. Then again, the same guys race against one another every week in the Cup world, and it would always feel like just another stop on some level -- kind of the way the Brickyard does. Great, great event in a special place, but it's still just another race in a long season that pays the same number of points to everyone.

The Oxford 250 remains special because it draws people from all different backgrounds.

It's just that we may not see Carl Edwards get the chance to race it next year.


Texas Terry, MRN and the big 95

Heading down state route 26 after an Oxford 250 that looked every bit like an Oxford 250, lasted some 165 minutes and provided us with a bunch of lead changes and caution flags....

* Never been to an Oxford 250 before where the first question to the top-3 in the post-race press conference was, "OK, so who are YOU again? What can you tell us about yourself?"

* Nice to see Terry Labonte getting in a little seat time before moving into Michael Waltrip's No. 55 NAPA Toyota at Indy this week. Let's see, took a provisional to start last, ran a few laps at the back of the field, parked a non-competitive car. Yeah, that's about what he'll do at the Brickyard, too.

* After more than 8 hours on the microphone, it's hard to find fault with anyone's announcing. But I did get a kick out of 2 Kalle Oakes moments Sunday.

First, on lap 197, when David Avery was chasing eventual winner Roger Brown and and Oakes proclaimed "He's looking under his quarter panel now!" despite being at least a car length behind. I thought I was listening to MRN -- you know, just make it up as you go because no one can see it, anyway.

I also liked hearing him comment on young Josh St. Clair spinning "for about the 6th time." Hey, you invite JV drivers to the race, you get JV racing. Remember, you guys opened up the race to the weekly warrior, so you can't expect them to drive like seasoned pros every lap.

* After the race didn't finish until 10:30 p.m. for the 2nd year in a row, the starting time needs to be pushed back at least an hour. Maybe more. With 93 of the 96 cars at the track already on Saturday, it's not as though they need the extra hour of practice Sunday morning.

* Tons of credit has to go to Kevin Lepage. Lepage crashed in his heat race, helped his crew get the thing back together in time for the last-chance race and started 43rd in the 44-car 250 at night. Even after being lapped a couple of times, and pitting even more than that, he was still out there running when the checkered flag flew. Unlike Cup counterpart Terry Labonte, who parked it the minute he went down a lap, Lepage competed in the spirit of the race.

What that meant to that small team he was driving for likely can't be measured. I'm a fan.

* Breaking news: It's exceedingly difficult for Late Models to pass one another. There were 2 significant rounds of pit stops among leaders -- those who pitted on lap 90 and those on lap 97. With Scott Payea being the lone exception as he rolled up to a 3rd-place finish, those who came in on lap 97 became non-existent afterward, guys like Ricky Rolfe and Brad Leighton. Being buried in traffic is no place to be in a Late Model.

By his own admission, winner Roger Brown didn't have to pass many cars on the track. He said after he pitted on lap 90 ("We wanted to short pit to get track position"), he didn't pass anyone and, boom, he was in 2nd place. Interesting observation.

* Speaking of Brown, he understands the car he's driving better than any of us, I'd say. He wouldn't even let the lapped car of Eddie MacDonald go by, and he raced David Avery hard in lapped traffic with Avery ending up spun out.

Brown didn't want MacDonald to pass, for fear Avery would follow him by, and he didn't lift when he got under Avery heading into turn one to retake the lead. Brown knows what all of us know -- let a guy go by in one of these cars, and you may never get back around him, even if you're 2- or 3-tenths of a second faster.

* OK, I can't resist -- let's see what happens next year. We'll be watching with a keen eye to see if 95 cars show up again with no guarantee of starting in the show or if the fans come back in droves. I couldn't help but get the feeling that fans and teams assembled had kind of a "OK, show me," attitude. Or, maybe it was me who had that attitude.

Driving home from the track, I had the thought that maybe I was wrong. Maybe this wasn't the biggest year for the "new" 250. Maybe it's next year, to see if the torch will, indeed, be passed on.

Newcomer hits victory lane

Even after running the race of his life, Roger Brown couldn't believe he was standing in TD Banknorth 250 victory lane.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.

St. Clair drives into TD Banknorth 250 victory lane

One day after seeing the track for the first time in his life, 18-year-old Josh St. Clair pulled off the upset of TD Banknorth 250 weekend at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.


Brown likes his spot in history

Seems Roger Brown is well aware of the tradition of the Oxford 250, despite the hits that Late Model drivers took from several places over the last few months, regarding their lack of history in this event.

Brown said he first came to an Oxford 250 back when Davey Allison was still alive and racing in the Busch Series, and he's attended ever year for the last decade watching the race in awe.

"This is the biggest race we've ever run, and probably will ever run. To win it is amazing," said Brown, who collected a winner's share of $35,800 Sunday night at Oxford Plains Speedway. "I've definitely put my name in the record books with a lot of prestige, and with a lot of honorable and exceptional race car drivers that I probably don't deserve to be in the record books with, but I'll take it."

And, naturally, with that kind of cake in his pocket now, Brown believes OPS owner Bill Ryan made all the right moves in handing the 250 over to Late Model teams.

"There were 95 guys here, and more than likely 95 percent of them wouldn't even have had the chance to qualify for a normal 250 up to this year," Brown said. "There were 95 guys here that could have won the race. It feels good for me to be a little guy racing Late Models trying to make a name for myself, to be able to come here and win it."

TD Banknorth 250: Quickie top 5

The unofficial top-5 from the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway:

1. Roger Brown, Lancaster, N.H.; 2. Dale Verrill, South Paris; 3. Scott Payea, Milton, Vt.; 4. Jon Brill, Sebago; 5. Dennis Spencer Jr., Oxford.

Looking over the starting grid

A couple of times already today, Oxford Plains PR guru Kalle Oakes has come through the press box announcing the number of 1st-time TD Banknorth 250 starters in the field.

And my only response is, 'Yeah, so?'

Let's be honest here. Sure, there are 28 drivers on the 44-car grid who have never made it into the Oxford 250 before. When the track overhauled the race, and its weekly program last summer, though, wasn't that exactly the point? Weren't we supposed to be seeing a new doorway into the region's biggest race of the year.

One would expect, then, that there would be new faces.

Looking at all the new faces, though, I'm wondering if we didn't go too far. The first 7 rows on the starting grid look like a Saturday night feature -- with a few exceptions, of course. The names there are Martin, Rolfe, Wentworth, Brill, Martin, Hewins, Watson, etc.

I want to see new faces. But I want to see established drivers and teams, too. That's what the race has always been about -- seeing the little guys having their time to shine in the spotlight, a spotlight provided by the high-profile teams.

Seeing Richard Moody Racing and Lux Enterprises have to pack up with drivers like Jeff Taylor and Patrick Laperle because they didn't make the race is disheartening. Hey, look, some guys are just supposed to be in the show. That's what makes it "the show."

Here's a list of who isn't in -- Laperle, Taylor, Mario Gosselin, Bobby Dragon, Robbie Crouch, Jamie Fisher, D.J. Shaw and Joey Polewarczyk. Terry Labonte and Kevin Lepage needed provisonals to get in, as did Jamie Aube. So, too, did Travis Adams.

Of the three pre-race favorites, only 1 -- Jean-Paul Cyr -- is starting inside the top-40. Adams is 41st, while Mike Rowe isn't even here.

It proved to be every bit a wide-open field, but I'm searching for a phrase a little better than "wide-open."

Maybe it's just the way they "drew it up," as in, where they drew for qualifying order is where they landed.

Qualifying news and notes

Local favorite Shawn Martin of Turner won the pole for tonight's TD Banknorth 250, after the golden gift of the pole in heat race No. 1 was squandered by Gray driver Travis Stearns.

Stearns littered the track with fluid as he pulled out of the pits and had to go in a couple of times for repairs, thus forfeiting the top spot.

CUP DRIVERS KEVIN Lepage and Terry Labonte had their share of trouble in qualifying. Lepage and Robbie Crouch got together under the flagstand in their heat, and Lepage didn't come out for the consi round (Crouch did). Kind of reminded folks of the old American-Canadian Tour days.

Labonte moved up to finish 4 after accidents eliminated some of the competition from his heat race. Car looked a lot better as the race went on.

THE ROWES WERE announced to be on their way and at OPS by 6:15 p.m., but no one was sure if either would have a car to drive when they got here. Jeff Taylor, driving Ben Rowe's car, was DQ'ed from his 3rd-place finish in the consi after dumping Ricky Morse out of turn 4 on the final lap for the transfer spot. Patrick Laperle, in Mike Rowe's No. 24, spun while running up front in his consi.
BEST QUALIFYING STORY belongs to young Josh St. Clair, a Wiscasset Raceway regular who made the field in his 1st try. It comes only one day after seeing OPS for the first time in his life, and after his grandfather -- Dave "Boss Hog" St. Clair made the race only once in 15 tries in his career.
St. Clair will start 13th tonight.

NOTABLES NOT IN the race after two rounds included Terry Labonte, Jamie Aube, Jeff Taylor, Travis Adams, Brian Hoar, Mario Gosselin, Doug Coombs and Kevin Lepage.

It's 95 in the sun

There are 95 cars entered in today's TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

It would have been 96, but Patrick Laperle gave up the ride in his own car to drive the No. 24 usually driven by Mike Rowe. In other Rowe news, Ben Rowe did not return to Oxford today, staying in Nova Scotia for the PASS North Series race there. Jeff Taylor is in that car today, which obviously makes for an interesting story line.

Though cheering is discouraged among the media throng, I'm pulling for Taylor to get his 1st 250 win in a race he'd never thought he'd be competing in. That would be truly great stuff.

Should note that the car count falls short of the more than 100 many of us expected. I'm not sure what that means, but maybe it's true that Late Model teams just aren't prepared to travel and spend thousands of dollars on one weekend, knowing that it's going to be hard just to make the race today.

Maybe it means nothing. I mean, 95 cars is still 95 cars -- anytime more go home than make the grid, it's a big-time event.

Taylor should get his shot in 250

Jeff Taylor has lined up as Ben Rowe's replacement in the No. 4 Chevrolet owned by Richard Moody Racing, but even after practicing all day for Sunday's big event at OPS, one he has never won despite all his success at the track in the weekly ranks, Taylor wasn't all that excited either way.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.

It's all in the name

There is no other name more synonymous with success at Oxford Plains Speedway than Rowe.

Mike Rowe has won 150 career feature events, the most in history, and seven championships at the track. Three of those victories were in the TD Banknorth 250, the 34th installment of which gets underway with qualifying at 2 this afternoon.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.