July 18, 2013

AUTO RACING NOTEBOOK: No 'big guys' this year at 250

By Bill Stewart bstewart@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Over the years, the annual TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway has attracted household names in NASCAR's top touring series.

click image to enlarge

SWEET RIDE: Cameron Folson, 14 of Augusta, built this Richard Petty Superbird replica for a school project. He will race the car at Ducktona tonight at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans.

Staff photo by Bill Stewart

Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace, among others, have run the 250.

Kevin Harvick won it in 2008. Kyle Busch won it in 2011.

"There is always so much buzz with this race," six-time Pro All Stars Series North champ Johnny Clark said. "You always get some big guys up here."

Not so this year.

New OPS owner Tom Mayberry, who also runs PASS, said this week he decided against paying a Sprint Cup driver to run the 250.

"It just didn't seem worth it," he said. "We talked to a lot of our fans and only nine, 10 percent said they'd like to see a NASCAR guy come up. Most just wanted to see the top drivers compete up here."

It can cost around $100,000 to lure a big name to Maine, and Mayberry hinted that he'd like to see a "hard working driver" up here win the $25,000 winner's purse.

"We explored the possibility of having someone come," he said, "but in the end we just decided against it."

* * *

The annual Ducktona, the biggest mini cup race in the state, is tonight at Thundering Valley Raceway in St. Albans.

Drivers will race for hundreds of dollars in purse money in the stock and modified divisions.

There will be four 25-lap stock features that could pay as much as $1,000.

Cameron Folsom, 14, of Augusta, is a regular mini cup driver at the Pit Stop in Kingfield. He's never raced at Thundering Valley, but is bringing a special ride to the event.

"I built a Richard Petty Superbird for a school project," said Folsom, who just completed eighth grade at Cony Middle School. "It's a replica. It came out pretty good."

The Plymouth Superbird muscle car was developed for auto racing and specifically for Petty.

In 1968, Petty left the Plymouth racing team and joined Ford. In 1970, Plymouth introduced the Superbird in its bid to lure Petty back. The legendary driver did return, and went on to win eight NASCAR races that year.

"It's a really cool car," Folsom said.

Folsom took on the project while working on a social studies report on Petty.

"We stripped down a mini cup we had and took the body off," he said. "We got it to look like the Superbird and painted it blue. It came out pretty good. I got an A on the project, too."

Folsom met Petty at a breakfast fundraiser last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"That was really cool," Folsom said. "He's an idol of mine."

* * *

At 62 years old, Mike Rowe will be the oldest driver in the TD Bank 250 field Sunday.

Rowe, a Turner native who is chasing what would be a record fourth 250 title, will drive a car owned by Scarborough native Dick Fowler.

Rowe has driven a car for Fowler off and on since 2009, mostly at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough.

On Sunday, Rowe will drive the No. 88J in honor of Fowler's son Jason, who died in an automobile accident last November.

"It's something we wanted to do," Rowe said. "We wanted to honor him."

Jason Fowler was 31 when he crashed his Buick Regal into a tree in Gorham. He drove a Pro Stock for his dad.

Jason's younger brother, Michael, serves as crew chief.

"We'll see what we can do," Dick Fowler said. "We'll take the car up and maybe we'll do something."

* * *

2012 PASS national champion Jay Fogleman is one of a handful of southern drivers who will compete in the 250 on Sunday.

Fogleman, of Durham, N.C., is a fixture in PASS South. He says he's looking forward to the trip to OPS.

Fogleman's son, 13-year-old Tate, will try to become the youngest driver to qualify for the 250.

"It's pretty special," Jay Fogleman said. "In a lot of ways, this is just another race, but there's a lot going on. Hopefully, we'll get in and see what we can do."

Bill Stewart -- 621-5640

bstewart@centralmaine.com

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