Two of the drivers expected to be in the mix to win Sunday’s Oxford 150 American-Canadian Tour race are Aroostook County neighbors.
Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault, an ACT regular running fourth in points after three races, and Frenchille native Shawn Martin, an OPS Late Model regular, will be challenged by a talented list of drivers that includes ACT points leader Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Dover, N.H., second-place driver Brian Hoar of Williston, Vt., and third-place driver Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson, N.H.
Hoar is the defending points champion. He has eight ACT championships and has finished in the top five in every ACT points race at OPS since October 2009.
He has won two of the three ACT races this season and Helliwell has the other victory and a pair of seconds.
Ricky Rolfe of Albany Township is another prime contender.
Martin has two career ACT wins at OPS and 11 weekly feature wins. He won the points title in 2004.
The 33-year-old Martin is looking forward to Sunday’s race.
“It’s a fun group of guys to race with,” said Martin. “The [fast] line tends to move quite a bit so you have to continue to find the line throughout the race. That makes it a lot of fun as well.”
He enjoys racing Theriault. Both began their careers at Caribou’s Spud Speedway.
“We went back to Spud one time to race each other. It was a lot of fun,” said Martin. “He definitely has a lot of talent.”
During the off season, Martin had his race car “completely dismantled.”
“We did a lot of updates to it. It’s like a brand new car. We probably spent as much as we would have if we had bought a new car,” quipped Martin, who lives in Turner.
He will try to win another Late Model points championship at OPS.
“I’m really excited about the season. I think we have a good [car]. I love the car,” said Martin. “I practiced at Oxford last weekend. I had hoped it would have had a little more speed. So we made some pretty big changes for this weekend.”
The weekly Late Model races are 40 laps so he will have to take a different approach to the 150-lapper.
“In the 40-lappers, you don’t have much time to get after it,” Martin said. “You have to get up on the wheel [early]. With the longer race, you have to conserve your tires. If you use them up too early, you’ll fade at the end.”
Racing starts at 1 p.m. and all the OPS weekly divisions also will run except the Late Models.
The Late Model drivers will have the opportunity to race the ACT Oxford 150.
Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan is optimistic about the season and said a prediction of sunny weather and temperatures near 80 fuel his optimism.
Ryan expects to get NASCAR driver
Beginning in 2004, Ryan has been able to jazz up the field for the TD Bank 250 by bringing in prominent NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers during an off weekend for the Cup series.
Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch ran the 2004 race with Kenseth finishing third and Busch coming home in 13th.
Kevin Harvick became the first of the Cup drivers to win the 250 in 2008 and Kyle Busch, Kurt’s younger brother, won it last July.
Ryan hasn’t attracted a Cup driver yet for the 39th annual TD Bank 250 on July 22 but he said he is “relatively confident” he’ll be able to land at least one.
“I’ve been talking with some Cup guys. We’ll see how it pans out. I should know something by the end of the month,” said Ryan. “There are some guys who are real racers. They don’t want to do anything but race and they’re always very interested [in the 250].
“Winning this race is something they want to put on their resume,” said Ryan.
The race over the three-eighths-of-a-mile oval is one week after the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Besides the Busch brothers, Harvick and Kenseth, the list of recent entrants also includes Cup regulars Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.