PORTLAND, Maine — Nick Brown attended his graduation and senior prom at Bath’s Morse High School. Pittston’s Ben Ashline missed both his Gardiner High School graduation and the prom to run in a Late Model race at Oxford Plains Speedway.
“I finished second that night,” grinned Ashline.
Brown and Ashline will be two of the young guns who will try to qualify for the 36th TD Banknorth Oxford 250 on Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Then there is 19-year-old Michael Pope, who has made the trip from Dublin, Ga., to try to qualify for what he termed as “one of the most prestigious races in the country.”
At the top of the list of young guns is 20-year-old Joey Polewarczyk from Hudson, N.H.
He is known as Joey Pole for the sake of simplicity and finished fourth last year in his debut.
Polewarczyk is second in points on the American-Canadian Tour and is considered among the favorites in the 250.
He has won two ACT races including the one at Oxford Plains Speedway.
“We’ve had a good year. I won at Oxford earlier this year and won at Thunder Road (Vt.) a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully, I can add the 250 to my resume. That would be great,” said Polewarczyk.
He is bringing the Chevy Impala he ran at the 250 last year and knows he will have to adapt to the track.
“The [faster] line changes so much over the course of 250 laps. You have to know when to move up and when to come back down,” said Polewarczyk.
He said due to the length of the race, you have to “pace yourself and save your car the best you can.
“You have to be patient and save your equipment until the end. Then with 50 or 100 laps remaining, you go for it,” added Polewarczyk.
Pope will be racing for the Bob Dillner Inc. race team. Dillner is a pit reporter for Speed Channel
“My parents couldn’t afford to have me race any more but I showed Bob how badly I wanted to race and he has given me an opportunity to drive for him. I’m having a lot of fun this year,” said Pope, who races all over the southeast and ran the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model North race Tuesday night at Lee USA Speed-way (N.H.).
“I had a little bad luck. I was running eighth and got together with another car and spun,” said Pope, who finished 16th in the Bastille 200.
Pope will make the switch from Super Late Models to Late Models and will drive Polewarczyk’s backup car Sunday.
“I’ve heard so much about this race. It’s awesome. I’m looking forward to it,” said Pope.
Pope isn’t the only driver affiliated with BDI.
Polewarczyk has also signed on with BDI to run several races this season.
“What we try to do is help good young kids out. What I like about our drivers is they aren’t just [good] race car drivers, they’re good kids as well. They aren’t spoiled rotten. We try to help them get noticed a little bit,” said Dillner.
Dillner said he and his race team consider themselves to be “outlaws.
“We just like to hit the big shows, shows that mean something to us,” said Dillner.
Brown knows what it’s like to be part of a winning Oxford 250 race team.
“I was part of Jeremie Whorff’s crew when he won ,” said Brown. “But I never thought I’d be able to race in it.”
Brown has been racing since he first climbed into a go-kart when he was 8. He is in his second year racing Late Models at OPS and is 12th in points. He has won a race this season.
“I’d love to just make the race in my first shot at it,” said Brown. “My car is real good. I’m always among the top three in [lap] times.”
Ashline is running 10th in points in the Late Model class at OPS. He tried to qualify for last year’s 250 “but I just missed out.”
He has had three top-three finishes this season. It is his third year in the division and he is still looking for his first trip to Victory Lane.
But he said he feels he has “just as good a shot as anybody else.
“They run the ACT rules and the ACT tour has made it so that low-budget teams like ours can compete,” said Ashline.
He also likes the fact he has been running at OPS for three years and has a familiarity with the track.
He has enjoyed getting tips from some of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide drivers who have been recruited by OPS owner Bill Ryan to run the 250 beginning in 2004.
“You can learn a lot from talking to them. I talked to Kevin Harvick last year. They’ll give you advice on different aspects of racing. That’s pretty cool,” said Ashline, who feels a strong finish could be “huge” for his career.
Johnny Clark wins PASS race
Hallowell’s Johnny Clark won the Bastille 200 Tuesday night, his series-high third win in eight races on the PASS tour this season.
He leads the tour in points.
Louie Mechalides of Montville, Mass., was second and rounding out the top five were Farmington’s Cassius Clark, Matt Frahm of No. Salem, N.H., and Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass.
Completing the top 10 were Polewarczyk, Biddeford’s Donnie Whitten, Hollis’ Richie Dearborn, Derek Ramstrom of West Boylston, Mass., and Nick Ribbe of Kingston, Mass.
Among other notables: Dresden’s Scott Chubbuck was 11th, Morrill’s Travis Benjamin (15); Orrington’s Scott Alexander (17), Turner’s Ben Rowe (20), Aric Almirola (26) and Scarborough’s Kelly Moore (27).