At age 68, Mike Rowe of Turner has won 152 races at Oxford Plains Speedway, including three Oxford 250s.
Curtis Gerry of Waterboro has won five straight races at OPS, including last year’s 250 and four subsequent Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model North Series events.
Morrill’s Travis Benjamin is the last driver to win back-to-back 250s, accomplishing that feat in 2013 and 2014.
They are three drivers to watch when the 45th annual Clark’s Scrap Metals Oxford 250 is held Sunday.
Qualifying heats begin at 1:30 p.m.
The winner is guaranteed a $25,000 paycheck and drivers receive $100 for every lap led.
Rowe won a tune-up 50-lap race at OPS last weekend and is confident of his chances to become the race’s first four-time winner. Rowe’s Oxford 250 wins spanned three decades as he triumphed in 1984 and 1997, and most recently in 2005.
“I think I’ve got just as good a chance as anybody,” Rowe said after Friday’s practice session. “The car is running better. The crew has done a good job with it. We’re going to take it to Beech Ridge [Motor Speedway in Scarborough] and race it on Saturday night.”
He said Gerry is the favorite thanks to his OPS winning streak.
“He has his stuff together. He’s on top of his game, and he was going good today. We’ve got to pick up a tenth [of a second] or so to stay up with him and hopefully beat him on Sunday,” Rowe said.
Rowe already has been inducted into the Maine and New England auto racing halls of fame.
There is no talk about retirement.
“When I stop winning is when I stop racing,” Rowe said. “Some people like to hunt. I love to race.”
He was encouraged by Friday’s practice.
“We were like 13th among 48 cars [time-wise], and we didn’t put on [new] tires,” said Rowe.
He said the track is in good shape, but it will be challenging if it’s hot.
“When it’s hot, it loses its grip. But everyone knows that,” Rowe said.
Nearly 70 drivers will be vying for a spot on the 43-car starting grid, including four who already have qualified by winning a “Road to Oxford” qualifying race.
Gerry is one of those four, although if he had failed to qualify and hadn’t won a “Road to Oxford” qualifier, he would have earned a past champion’s provisional.
Canadian Cole Butcher, Tracy Gordon of Strong and Bubba Pollard of Senoia, Georgia, are the others who don’t have to worry about qualifying via heat races although they will be using those dashes to earn a best possible starting spot.
Preston Peltier of Frazier Park, California, also won a “Road to Oxford” qualifier but hasn’t entered the 250.
The entrants include 2017 ARCA Series champion Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, who won a series-leading seven races last season; Ellsworth’s Wyatt Alexander, who won Valvoline Inc.’s Fast Track to Fame contest, which earned him a $43,000 package including a $10,000 check to put toward his race car; and two-time Oxford 250 winners Ben Rowe of Turner (2003 and 2004) and Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Massachusetts (2009-10).
Ben Rowe is Mike Rowe’s son.
Recent winners Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Pelham, New Hampshire (2016); Glen Luce of Turner (2015); and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson, New Hampshire (2012), are also in the field.
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