OXFORD, Maine — Track announcers simplify his name by calling him Joey Pole.
His full name is Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and that is the name that will go on the list of champions in the TD Bank 250 after he beat Farmington’s Jeff Taylor by five car-lengths to capture the 39th annual 250 Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Ironically, Polewarczyk was driving a Ford with a chassis built by Taylor at his Distance Racing Products shop in Fairfield.
Polewarczyk, of Hudson, N.H., who finished second in his last four races, three on the American Canadian Tour and one in the Pro All-Stars Series, led 205 of the 250 laps, collecting $100 for each lap and the $25,000 first-place purse for a $45,500 total.
Taylor matched his previous best which he posted in 1995.
NASCAR Sprint Cup/Nationwide Series driver Trevor Bayne wound up 32nd after starting 33rd.
Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, who became the youngest driver to earn a top-three finish last year when he wound up third as a 17-year-old, finished very strong to equal last year’s showing.
“This is unbelievable. I’ve been coming to this race for a long time and I’ve watched Jeff race for a long time,” said Polewarczyk, who is engaged to Theriault’s sister Brittany. “Jeff builds one helluva’ car and we were able to get it hooked up.”
Polewarczyk led the first 135 laps before surrendering the lead during pit stops on lap 135.
He was 11th on the restart after an extensive four-tire pit stop, eventually caught leader Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Dover, N.H., on lap 187 and survived one more caution on lap 208 to pull away.
“The guys did everything right on the pit stop. We were able to get back to the front and hold on,” said Polewarczyk. “The guys tightened the car up
and everything fell into place.”
“Once we took the tires, the car was probably the best it was all day,” said Polewarczyk. “I just kept telling myself I can’t use it right now. I told myself to calm down and don’t spin the tires. I got behind Jeff there for a little while and I knew he was saving his tires. I was going to ride there for a little bit but I saw Patrick [LaPerle] looking on the inside of me so I said I’m just going to go. But I knew [Taylor] was saving his stuff.”
Polewarczyk said he was hoping he could build a big enough lead on Taylor so that if there were no yellows after lap 208, “I’d have enough at the end and that’s what happened.”
Polewarcyzk said they made a “big change” between the heat race and the feature, primarily dealing with the car’s springs, and that paid off as it improved the car on the long runs.
There were just three cautions in the race.
Taylor said it’s essential to save your rear tires “as long as you can.
“If your car is good like Joey’s, you can get out front and maintain and the rest of us had to wait and hope he screwed up and obviously he didn’t do that,” said Taylor.
“My car was OK. Obviously second is pretty good,” said Taylor. “The one thing we do miss is we don’t race much now so we don’t know how our car is going to do on a long run. We had such a good heat we’re hesitant to change it. We’re the opposite of what these two do [Polewarczyk and Theriault]. They race all the time.”
Taylor was racing for just the second time this season while Polewarczyk and Theriault are ACT regulars and Theriault also drives a Super Late Model for Brad Keselowski Racing.
“We had a great day for how we did it. Obviously, we could have maybe won if everything had gone a little differently but we’re tickled to death with second,” said Taylor.
Theriault came out of the pits in 10th place on lap 208 and his car came to life as he passed several cars to finish third.
Helliwell Jr. was fourth with Travis Stearns of Auburn rounding out the top five.
Completing the top 10 were Dave Farrington Jr. of Jay, LaPerle of St. Denis, Quebec, Tim Brackett of Buckfield, two-time 250 winner Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass., and Brent Dragon of Milton, Vt.
Frenchville native Shawn Martin wound up 11th.
Albany Township’s Ricky Rolfe started on the pole with Polewarczyk alongside him and Polewarczyk wasted no time pulling ahead on the first lap.
By lap 36, Polewarczyk had already put seven cars a lap down and he had a commanding lead.
The race remained under green-flag conditions until two-time TD Bank 250 winner Ben Rowe of Turner brought out the first caution on lap 69 when a power steering line malfunctioned, causing him to spin in turn four.
Rowe pitted and returned for the restart but had to return to the pits 19 laps later.
On the lap-69 restart, Polewarczyk again drove away from the field until Theriault began reeling him in on lap 125.
Theriault had closed to within five car lengths on lap 135 when the second caution came out after Doug Coombs of Livermore Falls spun on the back stretch.
Most of the 37 cars still remaining in the 39-car field came to the pits to take tires and fuel.
Extensive pit stops sent Polewarczyk and Theriault back to the 10th and 11th spots on the restart.
Theriault was boxed in by MacDonald during his pit stop and that delayed his exit from pit road.
Following the restart, Polewarczyk began slowly maneuvering through the field while Theriault slid back.
“We knew when we took right-side tires [on lap 135], we were headed towards the back,” said Theriault. “I know [left-side tires] don’t mean a lot but they do when you’re racing guys who had taken four tires. We knew we were going to have to come back in and take rights so I tried to save the equipment and stay on the lead lap. Luckily, the caution came out on lap 208 and we were able to take rights. We gambled and it didn’t quite pay off. I knew we probably weren’t going to win because it wasn’t a caution-filled race so we knew we weren’t going to have enough time to get up to Joey.
“But I’m happy with third. The car was awesome. You gamble to try to win and sometimes it doesn’t pay off.”
Polewarczyk had a healthy lead when the third caution came out on lap 208 as the result of a spin on the front stretch by T.J. Brackett that almost took Polewarczyk out.
Rolfe finished 24th.