County Folks at OPS
Thanks to Dan and Tyler Raymond of Caribou I found some traveling companions and racing enthusiasts who wanted to watch racing at Oxford Plains Speedway some five hours south of home. The decision to go was made the day before when Dan suggested that racing for the year did not have to end yet; let’s go to the PASS Finals at Oxford.
We cleared our schedules and decided to leave at 6:30 am Saturday morning. You and I know that sometimes fun events are impromptu. We would get pit passes and interact with several County men who only saw race this one time this year.
As we checked in to the pit entrance the first team we saw was the #94 of Shawn Martin with Crew Chief Greg LeTourneau.
We then checked in with the Austin Theriault #57 team to see how they were progressing as the first qualifying races were getting ready to run. Austin won the race and earned the inside pole position for the main event.
Fort Fairfield’s Kirk Thibeau had his #28 Ford at the race for the first time since an off-track excursion earlier in the season necessitated sending the car back to Hamke Chassis in Mooresville,North Carolina to replace the entire front clip.
They did not expect to win the race according to tire specialist Tim Todd of Caribou since they were getting used to the way their freshened race car would handle. Thibeau went on to finish 24th in the race.
This year I have been following the adventures of Wyatt Alexander, the grandson of Bobby Alexander who came from the County. I was intrigued by WAR (Wyatt Alexander Racing) as they not only competed for the NELCAR Legends title but they launched Wyatt’s career in Pro Stocks or Super Late Model racing.
On this particular day the tires were slipping on the track due to the build up of rubber from the PASS cars. It was difficult to find the set up on the #96 Legends car that would allow Wyatt to be competitive. They never found a great set up but the youngster still managed a 6th place finish.
WAR left the track without their Legends car having sold it and all their spares to the Richard Humphrey Team from Parsonfield. It was a bittersweet moment for the young man from Ellsworth as they sent his racer up-the-road. Crew chief and Grandfather Bobby Alexander said it would be easier next year concentrating on the one race car rather than two.
I had the chance to see how racers at this level prepare for the feature race. I spent time with the #94 team as they pondered what to do to allow Shawn Martin to move up from their 24th starting position in the 34 car field. Would they take the subtle route and make small changes or would they chose to make a “big swing” which could propel them to the front or as often happens with the “big swing” you go backward as the pack eats you up.
Crew Chief LeTourneau consulted with Martin, went to his notes, and pondered the options available to the team. Finally he came out with a plan that he considered a “semi-big swing” of changes to the Super Late Model. They would adjust during the race during the cautions that would inevitably occur in a race of this length.
It turned out that the set-up was not great but decent so they tried some minor changes during the first pit stop on lap 48 after only moving up two spots. The adjustment seemed to help him maintain his spot yet not allow much progress up through the pack.
During the last pit stop the team took some of the wedge out of the car which forced Martin to drive the car like it was on dirt since it was so loose. This exhausted the 32-year-old prompting him to say this in the team race trailer after the race which was held in warm mid 80’s temperatures which was unusual for a fall day in Maine.
“This was definitely not where we wanted to finish. We came into this race looking for a solid top ten or solid top five run”, said Martin. “That’s where we could have been. We just missed the set up on it.”
“We got the car better on the first pit stop and we started to come up a little bit. The second pit stop we freed the car up way too much and I could not recover from it. That’s racing. Some days you have bad days and today was one of those days.”
“I was some hot in that car! I think I am more tired now than I was after the 250 (The Oxford 250 in July). I was working hard since the car was off a little bit. When they are on they are easy to drive. When they are off they are a handful.”
Austin Theriault was disappointed with his eighth place finish in the PASS feature fighting a loose condition with a possibility of a tire not performing up to his expectations.
As far as I could determine, Theriault will compete in the 52nd Annual Milk Bowl, a two day American Canadian Tour (ACT) Race at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont on October 4 & 5. The Milk Bowl is probably one of the most famous races in New England ranking up there with the Oxford 250 in its competitiveness and number of racers seeking the Silver Bowl filled with Vermont’s famous quality milk.
Many Victory Lane photos feature the winner sipping from the bowl with similar results found in Victory Lane after the Indianapolis 500. In addition the winner also gets to kiss Miss Daisy Dalton the Ayrshire cow from the cow barn in Berlin, Vermont.
It would also set up a potential showdown with ACT 2014 Champion Joey Polewarczyk who is married to Theriault’s sister Brittany. I wonder who she will cheer for?
After Vermont, Theriault will head out to Winchester, Indiana for the CRA Super Series 43rd Annual Winchester 400 at the high banked 1/2 mile track billed as the “fastest 1/2 mile track in America”. I am not sure if the family owned race car will be the car of choice in the Milk Bowl and/or the Winchester 400. I suspect Theriault will be in someone else’s car in each of the two races. When I know I will pass the word on.
Bryan Searles wins at Thundering Valley in Track Debut
Details are yet to come in but a photo on Facebook confirms that eight year old Bryan Searles of BAS Racing in Presque Isle won his feature race at Thundering Valley Kart track in St. Albans in his first and only race outside of Spud Speedway his home track. Photos and details will be in next week’s column along with results from other Spud Speedway kart racers who visited the track hosting it’s annual “Fall Shoot-Out”.
Let’s Go Racing
Soli Deo Gloria