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At Long Last, Johnny Clark Realizes His Oxford 250 Dream

Johnny Clark no longer has to offer a trade of his championship trophies for an Oxford 250 win. The six-time PASS North champion earned his first win in the crown jewel event Sunday evening. (Jeff Brown photo)

Prior to last year’s Oxford 250, Pro All Stars Series veteran Johnny Clark declared that he would trade all six of his PASS North championships for a victory in the legendary race.

Clark can hold onto his trophies now.

The Farmington, Me. veteran finally earned the elusive win Sunday night, holding off Jeff Taylor in the closing laps for his second PASS North win of the year, but by far the most prestigious.

And as Clark celebrated on the frontstretch of Oxford Plains Speedway, he was open about the sacrifices his family had made on his path to victory.

“I want to thank my wife, my kids,” Clark said. “My kids, man. They probably don’t get to see dad as much as [they] want when he’s working on this car. He was trying to win the Oxford 250.”

Indeed, the last few years have been lean for the family team. Clark won his 40th career PASS feature earlier this season at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H., his first win since 2016. The slump coincided with a reduction in his schedule in 2018 and 2019. Thus far, though, Clark has run every PASS race in 2020, entering this weekend fourth in points with top-ten finishes in all but two races.

For Clark to find victory lane at Oxford, though, it meant heartbreak for another driver. And for the nineteenth time in his career, that driver was Taylor, the nine-time Oxford Plains Speedway track champion, who had wins in his only two Oxford feature races this year.

Jeff Taylor (#88) battles Joey Doiron in the closing laps of the race. Taylor, who erroneously served a penalty that was never issued, could only climb back to second in a race he seemed destined to win. (Jeff Brown photo)

Taylor was fast from the drop of the green, moving from sixth at the start to take the lead by lap 25. And by the race’s second caution flag at lap 91, the chassis builder and owner of Distance Racing Products had lapped well over half the field. Mike Hopkins and Clark each had a stint at the front of the field, but Taylor charged back on lap 160, taking the lead back in traffic. The stage was set for one of the winless veterans to break the streak, but for one to win, one would have to be left disappointed.

Craig Weinstein’s spin on lap 180 opened the door for late-race pit stops for both Clark and Taylor. But as Taylor returned to the track, he believed he had run the stop sign at the end of pit road. Taylor immediately returned to the pits, expecting a penalty that was never called.

Clark restarted second, with Taylor mired in traffic, and while Alan Tardiff and Dave Farrington, Jr. would threaten Clark for the lead, neither would threaten for long.

Taylor raced his way back to fourth with 22 laps remaining, when a caution flew for an off-track excursion for defending Oxford 250 champion Travis Benjamin. Taylor closed some ground under caution, and on the restart he wasted little time in moving to second. But there were not quite enough laps left for Taylor to run down Clark.

“I did it to myself,” Taylor conceded after the race. “It’s not bad luck. It’s not racing enough. Not paying attention. I penalized myself.”

Joey Doiron made the most of his first Oxford 250 as a hired gun, winning his heat, starting second and finishing third. Doiron, the reigning Granite State Pro Stock Series champion and an eight-time PASS North feature winner, earned his third top-five finish in seven starts in the 250.

Farrington, the local hot hand with four straight wins at Oxford entering the 250, finished fourth, with Hopkins rounding out the top five.

Defending PASS champion DJ Shaw finished sixth, but earned a victory in his title defense with trouble not only for Travis Benjamin, but for points leader Nick Sweet. Sweet dropped off the pace early and reported to the pits only 17 laps in, finishing last in the 44-car field and suffering a crushing blow to his championship hopes.

Fifty-five teams attempted to make the field, despite the absence of the usual Canadian contenders due to border-crossing restrictions. Heat races were won by Alan Tardiff, Doiron, Austin Teras, Shaw, and Gabe Brown. John Peters, Ben Ashline, and Curtis Gerry won the consis. Ray Christian III edged out Cassius Clark for the final transfer position in a thrilling last-chance B-feature. Clark and Oxford Plains Speedway regular Calvin Rose, Jr. were added as promoter’s options.

Rookie Kate Re finished second in her consi to become only the fourth woman to qualify for the 250. The sixteen-year-old finished 27th in the longest race of her career thus far.

The 47th running of the Oxford 250 was not quite typical, with fan attendance restricted due to Maine’s pandemic precautions and most fans tuning in to streaming coverage. Heavy rain in the weekend forecast forced Saturday’s racing action to be moved to Sunday morning, making for a long and intense day for all involved. The main event capped a day that included a 150-lap American-Canadian Tour race, double features for the PASS Modifieds, and single features for the North East Mini Stock Tour and Oxford’s own Street Stocks and Rebels.

Johnny Clark’s victory, in his fourteenth attempt at Oxford glory, made him the 34th unique winner of the legendary race, joining a list that includes regional greats like Ralph Nason, Dick McCabe, and Ben and Mike Rowe.

And long past sunset, Clark and his team were finally able to celebrate the crown jewel they had chased together.

Unofficial Results, 47th Annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway:
1. (54) Johnny Clark
2. (88T) Jeff Taylor
3. (21) Joey Doiron
4. (23) Dave Farrington, Jr.
5. (15) Mike Hopkins
6. (60) DJ Shaw
7. (99) Ben Ashline
8. (29S) Trevor Sanborn
9. (94H) Garrett Hall
10. (47) Gabe Brown
11. (9T) Alan Tardiff
12. (7G) Curtis Gerry
13. (32) Derek Ramstrom
14. (13) Cassius Clark
15. (17MA) Eddie MacDonald
16. (29T) Austin Teras
17. (4) Ben Rowe
18. (51) John Peters
19. (88B) Brandon Barker
20. (81) Dan Winter
21. (24) Mike Rowe
22. (96) Wyatt Alexander
23. (12) Corey Bubar
24. (7) Travis Benjamin
25. (90) Craig Weinstein
26. (14) Scott McDaniel
27. (10) Kate Re
28. (20) Joe Pastore, Jr.
29. (12G) Derek Griffith
30. (3C) Josh Childs
31. (93CT) Ray Christian III
32. (1) Kyle DeSouza
33. (8) Calvin Rose, Jr.
34. (26) Bubba Pollard
35. (94) Shawn Martin
36. (41) Tracy Gordon
37. (72) Scott Robbins
38. (85) Travis Stearns
39. (60B) Tim Brackett
40. (72X) Ryan Kuhn
41. (36) Ryan Robbins
42. (53) Alan Wilson
43. (14C) Anthony Constantino
44. (40) Nick Sweet

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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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