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Gluchacki Beats Fireball, Darkness To Win Oxford ACT Showdown

Gluchacki’s strong season at the wheel of a Late Model continued at Oxford with his second ACT Tour win of 2022.

Derek Gluchacki was nearly untouchable in the final 75 laps of Saturday's ACT Tour Oxford Plains 125. (STS/Jeff Brown)

“Lights out” had two very different meanings for Derek Gluchacki on Saturday night.

Gluchacki took charge on a lap-50 restart and fended off a late surge from Alexendre “Fireball” Tardif to score his second American-Canadian Tour win of 2022 in the Oxford Plains 125, the eighth event of the ACT Tour season.

But the Massachusetts star’s celebration actually came just past midnight, after a local power failure plunged Oxford Plains Speedway into darkness only a few laps into the evening’s last feature.

Derek Gluchacki celebrates an early-Sunday-morning win with DJ Shaw and Alexendre Tardif. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Gluchacki’s victory capped off an action-packed day of racing at the western Maine oval in anticipation of Sunday’s Oxford 250, the richest single-day Super Late Model race in New England. The ACT Tour race was the last of nine feature events on the evening, spanning everything from dwarf cars and vintage stock cars to Tour-type Modifieds and winged Supermodifieds.

Quebec’s Rémi Perreault and Vermonter Derek Ming led the field to green, but Ming wasted little time in clearing Perreault for the top spot. In his first Tour start since the season opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ming established himself at the point, leading until a caution flew on lap 14.

But as the field circled the track under yellow, the overhead lights and scoreboard shut off without warning. The field came to a sudden stop as fans lit up their cell phones in the stand, and track officials rushed to get safety vehicles onto the speedway to provide at least some illumination. Word came in that a car accident near the track had cut out power to the area, and given the option of waiting out repairs or restarting the race early Sunday morning, most teams seemed inclined to wait out the delay.

Power was restored just before 11:00 p.m., allowing the race to resume once scoring was up and running. Ming led from the drop of the green, but Tardif stalked the veteran racer, making his move on lap 23 to take the lead for himself. Fresh off a runner-up performance at Autodrome Montmagny and with top-five finishes in three of his last four ACT starts, “Fireball” seemed primed for a first career win.

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Gluchacki and Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. followed Tardif past Ming, though, swapping second place on a pair of quick caution flags. A turn-two stack-up on lap 50 claimed Mike Hopkins among others, drawing the night’s fourth caution with Gluchacki and a fast Tom Carey III in Tardif’s mirror.

On the restart, Gluchacki found grip and jumped into the lead, pulling away from Tardif until another spin slowed the pace. Gluchacki drove off again at the drop of the green, with Carey battling Tardif for second and sophomore Erick Sands getting around Ming for fourth.

“Fireball” Tardif earned his second consecutive runner-up finish and his fourth top-five run in his last five ACT Tour races. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Contact deeper in the pack shot Cody LeBlanc into Jeffrey Labrecque on lap 74, bringing out another yellow and staging Carey alongside his former Thompson Speedway rival. Gluchacki pulled ahead on the restart, but chaos erupted in his mirror as Carey was turned around in turn four. Tardif and Sands skated through the mess, but Shawn Swallow, Brockton Davis and Ben Belanger were swept into the mess, all limping to the pits with heavy front-end damage. Carey, too, was done for the night.

With midnight approaching, Gluchacki and Tardif seemed determined to settle the race among themselves, building a big lead over the field as Sands held off DJ Shaw for third. Sands was enjoying his best performance of a challenging second season when he suddenly lost pace, plummeting through the top ten before dropping to the apron with a flat tire.

Shaw assumed third from Sands, while rookie Tanner Woodard and Connor McDougal quietly climbed into the top six as early leader Ming faded through traffic. Gluchacki and Tardif continued to show the way, with Gluchacki keeping the young Canadian at a safe distance.

Polesitter Perreault lost control with eight laps left on the scoreboard, though, erasing the North Dartmouth, Mass. racer’s advantage and bunching up the top five for a late restart.

Tanner Woodard wheeled a former Rick Paya Motorsports car to his first career ACT Tour top-five in only his second start. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Tardif challenged for the lead on the green flag, but Gluchacki eased ahead while Shaw applied his own pressure on Tardif for second. Shaw cleared Tardif in time for Isaac Bevin to spin out in turn two, bringing out one last caution flag with two laps left.

Gluchacki had the preferred groove for the restart, though, and pulled away from Shaw on the start. From there, it was home free for Gluchacki, who cruised to his second ACT Tour triumph of 2022 and his first since the season-opening bout at NHMS.

Tardif got the best of Shaw in the two-lap shootout, earning his second-straight second–place finish and his third podium in the last four races.

Shaw, who finished third at Montmagny, held on for his sixth top-five of the year as he remains the favorite for the season-long ACT Tour title.

Renfrew, who had dropped back in traffic midway through the race, rebounded for fourth. Rookie Woodard wheeled his former Brian Hoar entry to a fifth-place finish in only his second Tour start.

Connor McDougal finished ninth in a car throwing back to the earlier days of Maine racing legend Mike Rowe’s career. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Mike Hopkins, a victim of the lap-50 calamity, drove his way back through the field to finish a strong sixth, ahead of Ryan Olsen. Reigning White Mountain Motorsports Park track champion Jeff Marshall was eighth. Connor McDougal, sporting a new number and a sharp scheme honoring Maine racing legend Mike Rowe, ran as high as sixth in the final laps before slipping back to ninth. Rounding out the top ten was visitor Bubba Pollard, making his ACT Tour debut on the eve of the Oxford 250.

Gluchacki’s victory was somewhat redemptive, as he had come close to winning at Oxford a year earlier when late contact sent him spinning from the lead. In July’s visit to the legendary speedway, he had come up just short of catching Marcel Gravel for the top spot, with traffic keeping him from making a bid for victory.

Since finding victory lane for the first time last fall at Thompson, Gluchacki and his team have been on a roll, picking up extracurricular wins at Seekonk Speedway and WMMP while finishing no worse than eleventh on the Tour. Gluchacki opted to skip both races in Quebec this year, but remains in the top five in points on the back of a strong third season.

Gluchacki treats the turn-four fans to a smoke show after his second Tour win of 2022. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Shaw, though, holds what could be an insurmountable lead in the standings over rookie Tardif and sophomore Sands with only four races to go. Jonathan Bouvrette, one of the remaining full-time challengers, was absent at Oxford after a hard crash at Montmagny, further paring the field.

Saturday’s race was one of the deepest fields in recent memory, though, a big turnaround from the small turnout at Maine races in the mid-2010s. Reilly Lanphear and Isaac Bevin won consi races to punch their tickets into the lineup, while Lanphear’s sister Peyton won the B-feature in her first Tour attempt since being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

With anticipation high for Sunday’s 49th running of the Oxford 250, Saturday’s supporting action had a high bar to clear to build that enthusiasm. And with the exception of a delay for darkness, Saturday’s ACT showdown met all expectations.

Even if it came to a close early on Sunday morning.

Unofficial Results, ACT Oxford Plains 125 at Oxford Plains Speedway:
1. (03MA) Derek Gluchacki
2. (21QC) Alexendre Tardif
3. (04VT) DJ Shaw
4. (00NH) Jimmy Renfrew, Jr.
5. (68VT) Tanner Woodard
6. (15ME) Mike Hopkins
7. (61NH) Ryan Olsen
8. (32NH) Jeff Marshall
9. (5NH) Connor McDougal
10. (26GA) Bubba Pollard
11. (19QC) Dany Trépanier
12. (45VT) Derek Ming
13. (21VT) Reilly Lanphear
14. (92VT) Jaden Perry
15. (74ME) Justin Eldridge
16. (12NH) Jeffrey Labrecque, Jr.
17. (35NH) Alby Ovitt
18. (1NH) Corey Mason
19. (0NH) Dylan Bilodeau
20. (27KY) Isaac Bevin
21. (4NH) Jamie Swallow, Jr.
22. (33QC) Rémi Perreault
23. (36NH) Erick Sands
24. (7NH) Cody LeBlanc
25. (27NH) Cam Huntress
26. (04NH) Shawn Swallow
27. (5MA) Tom Carey III
28. (99NH) Ben Belanger
29. (47NH) Brockton Davis
30. (49NH) Matt Anderson
31. (77NH) Bryan Wall, Jr.
32. (22VT) Peyton Lanphear

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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