Saturday, June 19, 2010

ACT returns to Oxford: Final tuneup before the 250

Can you believe the 37th annual TD Bank 250 is just four weeks from tomorrow?

Neither can I, but it's true my friends. And as Late Model teams from around the northeast start to think about what it will take to have a shot at "the big dance," a perfect opportunity to get 'dialed in for long distance' at Oxford is here.

Teams and officials from the Vermont-based American-Canadian Tour (ACT) are on their way to western Maine this morning. Pit gates open at 2 p.m. as teams file in to prepare for tonight's ACT 150 at the historic 3/8-mile oval. An amazing 53 cars showed up back on May 16 for the first ACT show (Oxford's season opener), and I'll bet the number will be pretty close to that today.

Almost two years ago to the day (June 21), ACT ran the Dunkin' Donuts 150 at Oxford and young Joey Polewarczyk Jr. drove to victory. Yet in 2010, the rising star from Hudson, N.H., is a bit off the pace. Polewarczyk failed to qualify for the feature on May 16, something I surely didn't expect to see. He was on hand last Saturday night to get a jump on tonight's race, but got stuck in traffic for much of the 40-lap feature and finished 11th.

As for a list of favorites to take down the win in tonight's 150-lap tussle, I'd have to start with the man everybody is watching after last year's 250 and another win in the May 16 ACT event. Eddie MacDonald has become "the man" at Oxford these days, with finely honed skills and veteran crew chief Rollie Lachance in his corner. I don't believe the K&N Pro Series East (E-Mac's regular gig for Grimm Racing) runs again until Loudon, so expect the rocket-fast No. 17 NEMO Pontiac (not many teams still running the Grand Prix body) to be in the pits this afternoon and near the front this evening.

Any sensible list of possible winners would have to include "Two Lap" Tommy Ricker, the 54-year-old veteran from Poland, Maine. Ricker has been on a tear all season, starting with an incredible second-place finish behind MacDonald on May 16. Since then, old Two Lap (Oakes isn't sure if it was Bob Walker or Dave Moody that first called him that for his habit of having trouble two laps into the race) has two wins and a third place finish in three starts.

The exciting charges up through the field Ricker has been making using the often-tricky outside groove have brought back memories of watching Jeff Taylor do the same thing.  It has really been fun to watch, except perhaps for the rest of Oxford's regulars. I'd have to include Tim and his son TJ Brackett, Ricky Rolfe and Jeff White on my list of Oxford weekly warriors who could challenge the ACT touring teams tonight.

As for a few ACT mainstays I expect to be strong tonight, look for Brian Hoar, Randy Potter, Brent Dragon and Scott Payea to run up front. All have excellent equipment and know there way around Bill Ryan's famed oval alongside Route 26. I know it's going to anybody's game - especially with today's blistering hot temps.

One last tidbit as we prepare for another great ACT race at Oxford. This evening I'll have the pleasure of hosting a VIP guest. Legendary Maine short track pioneer Glenn Andrews will be on hand this evening to help kick off Oxford's 60th Anniversary celebration. Andrews competed at Oxford during the inaugural season of 1950, although he was only 15 when he ran his first race. The Oxford native raced there until 1970, and also won the 1960 track championship at Northeastern Speedway in Waterford, Vermont.

Mr. Andrews will serve as Grand Marshall this evening, speaking to the crowd before driver introductions and giving the command to fire engines. With the contribution this man and his family (two of his brothers, Rodney and Clyde Jr., as well as his father also raced) made to the sport, it's time to give a little back in the way of recognition and a good time. What a honor it will be to host this true gentleman of Maine racing history.