Frenchville, Farmingdale drivers both seek first Oxford 250 win on Sunday

Shawn Martin
Alex Barber | BDN
Shawn Martin Buy Photo
Posted July 16, 2014, at 6:22 p.m.
Shawn Martin
Alex Barber | BDN
Shawn Martin Buy Photo

They are atop the point standings in their respective racing divisions.

And they would love to have their names atop the results sheet at the 41st annual TD Bank Oxford 250 at the end of Sunday’s race at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Frenchville native Shawn Martin, who moved to Turner 14 years ago, is leading the points in the Pro Late Model division at OPS. Farmingdale’s Johnny Clark is the frontrunner in the Pro All Stars Series’ Super Late Model North Division standings.

The other thing they have in common is they have never won the TD Bank Oxford 250.

They certainly have contended.

Clark finished second to Turner’s Mike Rowe in 2005 while Martin was fourth in 2008 and fifth in 2009.

“It would be an honor to be up on the winner’s list with the amount of history in this race and the fact there has been so much talent in it,” said Martin. “It is a definite goal of ours. It would be a lifetime achievement goal.”

“It would be huge,” said Clark. ”It is a real big deal for any short track racer.”

He still recalls the race in 2005.

“I led 100 laps but there was a caution with 30 laps to go and Mike Rowe got tires and passed me with 10 laps to go,” said Clark.

Martin said he went into last year’s race with the most confidence he has ever taken into the 250. But he finished 18th after qualifying 10th.

“We had mechanical issues. The ball joints loosened and came out of the socket. After researching it, we found that a bunch of stuff had come apart,” said Martin. “It was really odd because we’re usually on top of that stuff.”

Martin also recalled winning the pole in 2007 only to wind up 40th because “the plastic zip ties holding the ignition wires were melted by the heat from the exhaust. The ignition wires wound up falling onto the (exhaust) headers and the car died.

“We had a fantastic car that year. We led something like 40 laps,” said Martin.

Clark is excited to be back for the second straight year after a seven-year absence.

In 2006, he failed a technical inspection after a heat race and didn’t qualify.

“I sat on the car and you weren’t allowed to touch the car,” said Clark.

The next year, then track owner Bill Ryan switched the race from a Super Late Model affair to a Late Model event. Clark races Super Late Models and didn’t enter the 250.

But Tom Mayberry bought the track from Ryan in 2012 and returned the 250 to a Super Late Model race last year.

Clark qualified 21st and finished 12th. He enters the race with momentum.

His PASS North victory on June 7 at Speedway 660 in Geary, New Brunswick, snapped a two-year winless drought. And the six-time PASS North points champion is now back atop the standings.

“Momentum is important in every sport,” said Clark. “We’re a lot better this year. We’re capable of winning more than one race.”

Clark has some new team members this year in Richard Plummer, his father-in-law, along with Kevin Nobley and Joe Small.

Clark finished sixth in points a year ago and had just two top-five finishes in 12 races.

“I love extra-distance races and they enable everyone on the team to get involved,” said the 34-year-old Clark, who began his career as a 14-year-old in the Street Stocks division at Wiscasset Raceway. “It’s really cool. It means so much to the whole team.

“What better way to say we’re back than winning an extra-distance race like the Oxford 250,” stated Clark, who will be driving a Chevy SS.

The 35-year-old Martin will be driving a Chevy Impala that his team converted from an American-Canadian Tour Late Model into a Super Late Model.

“It has a different motor this year than last year,” said Martin, who began racing go-karts when he was 10. “It has a 604 engine instead of a 603 so it will have 40 horsepower more.”

But he noted that a car with less horsepower is a “lot easier to drive. It has more grip than a 604.”

The flat, three-eighths-mile track always provides a challenge, according to Martin and Clark.

“The car has to handle well,” said Martin. “There isn’t a lot of grip. It’s a bear of a track but it makes it a lot of fun to drive. It’s a driver’s track. If you’re fighting an ill-handling car and it’s hot like it usually is, it makes for a long day.”

“You have to be patient. You can’t tear the car up. And you need luck,” said Clark.

 

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