PORTLAND, Maine — Two years ago, Frenchville’s Shawn Martin won the pole for the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. But his car broke down during the race and he wound up 40th.
Last year, Martin started 25th but maneuvered his way to a fourth-place finish behind winner and Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick.
Harvick became the first Cup driver to take the checkered flag since OPS owner Bill Ryan began attracting Cup drivers to the race in 2004.
Martin is poised to make a run for the win in the 36th annual TD Banknorth 250 on Sunday night over the 3/8ths of a mile oval.
He is currently running second in points in the Late Model class at OPS and has one win to his credit.
“I’m having a decent year. I won a race a couple of weekends ago,” said the 30-year-old Martin who is a graduate of Wisdom High School in St. Agatha.
He said his fourth-place finish a year ago gives him confidence heading into Sunday’s race.
“There was a wreck on lap 12 or 13 and I pulled off the track to avoid it. I was 35th [on the ensuing restart] and I marched all the way up to fourth,” said Martin at Wednesday’s press conference at the Holiday Inn in Portland.
“I tend to do pretty decent in the long distance races. That’s more my style. So I’m looking forward to it,” said Martin, who now lives in Turner.
The weekly feature races are 40-lap affairs.
Martin likes his chances but knows a driver needs a share of good fortune to win the 250 beginning with the draw for starting position in the 20-lap qualifying races.
“I’ve got a good car and a great crew but you need a good draw and a lot of luck,” said Martin.
Since there will be pit stops, unlike the weekly races, it adds to the drama.
“We’ve added a couple more guys to go over the wall and we’ll do a little bit of practicing [on pit stops] this week. What’s great about this race is the crew guys get to participate,” said Martin who indicated he will keep the same set-up on his car that he uses on Saturday nights.
Veteran Sprint Cup driver and current Nationwide driver Kenny Wallace and his nephew, Steve Wallace, who is also running in the Nationwide series, will be the featured drivers Sunday and Martin is looking forward to meeting them and racing with them.
“Kenny is quite a character. I can’t wait to talk to him,” said Martin.
Kenny Wallace, who has 344 career Cup starts to his credit, was made available on a conference call and said he is excited to be running his first TD Banknorth 250 since 1992. It will be his fourth overall.
He finished 20th in 1990, eighth in 1991 and 34th in 1992.
“It has been a special race for me since the early 1990s when [Newburgh native and former Sprint Cup driver] Ricky Craven and I became fast friends. I needed a garage to work on my race car and Ricky told me I can work on it at his father-in-law’s shop,” said Wallace. “I was so jealous because Ricky won the race [in 1991]. I was running fourth and got a flat tire. But the next week, I won the Bud 300 [Nationwide race] at Loudon [N.H.].
“So Ricky and I won $100,000 between us out of his father-in-law’s little shop in two weeks,” said Wallace.
He said he “cut my teeth” racing Late Model cars and considers the TD Banknorth 250 and the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla., the “two greatest short-track races” in the country.
The last time Wallace ran a Late Model race was in 2001 and he won the race.
He said he considers his nephew to be a legitimate contender.
“Let me tell you something, do not take Steven Wallace lightly. He won the Snowball Derby a couple of years ago. And he just got done running one of those cars in a real big race that paid $20,000 to win at Hickory [N.C.] and he ran out of gas with three laps to go. He’s more up to speed [with Late Model cars] than I am,” said Kenny Wallace.
Wallace will be driving a car provided for him by Ricky Rolfe of Albany Township, Race Basics and the Brackett Motorsports team.
Steve Wallace will drive a car supplied by the American-Canadian Tour team of Kendall Roberts.
Rolfe, who finished second to Turner’s Ben Rowe in the 2004 250, said Kenny Wallace’s Chevy Impala is actually better than the Ford he will be driving.
“His car is brand new [as is mine]. Both of our cars have the best of everything. But we’ve tested them both on the same day, at the same time, and his car is better right now,” said Rolfe.
Rolfe has been racing at OPS and on the ACT circuit and said he has “struggled trying to figure out” his new car.
“But we have one win at Oxford and our results are improving,” said Rolfe.
The drivers at the press conference were asked to make their predictions on Sunday’s winner and among those who were picked included OPS Late Model points leader Travis Adams, Martin, Rolfe, Kenny Wallace, Joey Polewarczyk of Hudson, N.H., and two-time Camping World East series champion Brad Leighton of Center Harbor, N.H.
Leighton became the ACT circuit’s first multiple-race winner this season as he captured his second triumph this past weekend.
The heat races will begin Sunday at 2 p.m. with the 250 scheduled to start between 6-6:30 p.m.