an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

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an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by Mother of Invention on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:01 pm

I had recently come across some information regarding this race and I thought it was worth the read.

July 1986 – Chuck Bown and his familiar green #7 “Skoal Bandit” sponsored Pontiac had won numerous times on the NASCAR North Tour over the years and had shown muscle in several Oxford 250 events. Just last year Bown appeared headed for his first victory in the marquee event but a late race pit blunder handed the lead over to Joey Kourafas and eventual winner Dave Dion. With a $172,000 purse on the line in 1986 Chuck Bown and his team didn’t make any mistakes and closed out a lucrative victory in the 13th Annual Oxford 250. Of course, this was just one of the stories on tap in 1986. Added to the big money available was a battle for sanctioning control, tremendous pre-race publicity, a stellar field of drivers from the North and South, a rules controversy, a great race, a fabulous finish and rain. Lots of rain!



When NASCAR dropped its North Tour in 1985 an intense power struggle began, or continued, between NASCAR and touring series guru Tom Curley. Curley formed his own group, American Canadian Tour Ltd. (ACT), and one of the first things he did was to contact Oxford promoter, Bob Bahre, and try and keep the 250 under ACT sanction. NASCAR was having none of that. The competition between the two groups left Bahre in the envious position of being like the prettiest girl in town with two suitors. NASCAR eventually came up with the better dowry. They promised Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, and Terry Labonte, the three previous Winston Cup Champions. Also, by being a Busch point race, the top twenty cars and drivers from that series would make the long tow to Maine to race.



In order to get on board with NASCAR Bahre did make several important concessions. Time trials would be implemented into the qualifying procedure for the first time in the races’ history. Both sides compromised and the entire field was not set with time trials, just the top ten cars, and to add a twist all of the top ten had to do a blind draw to find where they would actually be starting in the feature! The other big concession Bahre made to NASCAR was to allow Goodyear Tires to be run in the 250.



Despite the race having an actual NASCAR sanction, there were at least five sets of cars that ordinarily run under their own rules that were eligible to run the Oxford 250. There were Busch Sportsman, ACT cars running Oxford Open rules, all steel Camaro-type cars that had a weight penalty, fiberglass “non-Oxford” cars, and the regular Saturday night legal cars that ran weekly at Oxford. Never in the four year history of the Busch Series had NASCAR awarded points in a race where cars that did not meet the NASCAR Sportsman rules were allowed to compete. Some drivers wished they would have known all the rules better leading up to the event. Darrell Waltrip, who brought his V6 Sportsman instead of his ASA car, commented, “I should have brought my Camaro. This is like taking a mule to the Kentucky Derby!”



When the time trials actually got underway it was Randy Porter, in an All-Pro Camaro, who set the fast time at 15.826 seconds. Dick McCabe was second, Buzzy Bezanson third, Dale Jarrett fourth and Claude LeClerc rounded out the top five. After arriving late to the track on Sunday, Waltrip turned in the sixth fastest time followed by Bruce Haley, Bosco Lowe, Brett Bodine, and Jamie Aube. Chuck Bown was odd man out. He qualified eleventh. With 102 cars on hand attempting to qualify, going to the heat races and consolation rounds was not the way to go.



Rain began to fall before the last few cars had a chance to take a time trial. Robbie Crouch, who was seen as a real threat to set fast time, spun on the wet track after completing only one lap. The rain did not let up and finally Bahre postponed his race until Monday. Rain fell early on Monday, but it finally abated. Crouch got one more qualifying lap without any warm-up but could not crack the top ten on a cold track. He would join the rest of the field in the heat races.



Heat race winners were Beaver Dragon, Mike Rowe, Chuck Bown, Leland Kangas, Jeff Stevens, and Robbie Crouch. When the top ten drew their numbers from the hat it was Dale Jarrett starting on the pole with Brett Bodine alongside.



Early on it was Dale Jarrett and Buzzy Bezanson dominating at the front of the field but Bezanson would be forced to pit with a flat tire. On lap 61, Robbie Crouch took over for two laps. Then Jeff Stevens charged to the front to lead for forty circuits. Stevens and Crouch knocked fenders on lap 94, with Stevens doing a complete 360 degree spin in turn four. At Oxford, stock car racing is a contact sport! Crouch led. Bown had pitted early for tires and was not in the top ten. Crouch would set a fast pace over the next 57 laps with Brett Bodine and Randy Porter on his heels. A caution on lap 152 would bring the majority of the field into the pits and Crouch would actually lose a lap in all of the confusion. The Oxford 250 pit demons struck once again! One of the few cars not pitting was Bown’s Pontiac. He was now the race leader. When racing resumed, Bown, Porter, Bodine, Stevens, L.D. Ottinger, Dave Dion and Jack Ingram battled furiously for the top spot.



Bown would start to fade a bit as those who had pitted for fresh rubber started to make their way back to the front. Stevens took the lead on lap 187 and Bown fell out of the top five. On lap 202 three cars tangled in turn three and Jeff Stevens, still leading, found himself with no place to go. He plowed into the trio full bore. The impact knocked him out cold and destroyed his racer. For a guy who is consistently fast at Oxford, Stevens luck has been dismal. Stevens’ bad luck was Bown’s good fortune. The long yellow that resulted from the crash allowed Bown to make two pit stops for three tires and not lose a lap. When racing finally resumed, Dion led, chased by Ottinger, Porter, and Crouch. Bown was fast after pitting for fresh tires and was now the car on the move. But with less than fifty laps to go he would need the Oxford 250 ghosts to repay him for his bad luck the year before. He wouldn’t be disappointed.



With thirty laps to go, Porter and Dion tangled and Dion spun off turn four onto pit road. Charging through the fog, chuck Bown sailed by the spinning cars, taking the lead. Porter’s chance to win was lost when he had to pit to remove flapping fiberglass. Ottinger pulled his car behind pit wall with a broken fuel pump.



Another yellow on lap 243 closed up the pack. The leaders were Bown, Dion, and Crouch, in that order. Somehow, after nearly 250 laps of intense competition, it was happening again. Another incredible Oxford 250 finish was at hand. For the final time, starter Cary Vielleux waved the green flag, Bown led, as Dion and Crouch stacked up side by side on his bumper. Around and around they went, snarling and clawing. Bashing and banging, this was short track racing at it’s roughhousing best! When the white flag flew Bown had several car lengths on Dion. However, the battle was for second place. Crouch, who had charged back to the front several times during the race after losing a lap, was the bad luck loser in the spin that took Porter and Dion out of the lead. He had slowed for the carnage while Bown had snuck by. With one to go he needed to get around Dion to get a final shot at Bown. Dion and Crouch battered each other with popular Dion again spinning, this time at the end of the front chute.



Bown was taking no prisoners. He came off turn four and slid sideways across the finish line. Crouch, too close to avoid him, slammed his Buick into the rear of Bown’s Skoal Bandit Pontiac. Dion limped home in third.



Said Bown in Victory Lane, “The best short track racers on the whole East Coast were in this race and my team came out on top! Last year, I had the fastest car on the track for all 250 laps. This year, on good tires, we were as fast as anybody out there, but we ran out of tires. Things went our way for a change, with the late yellows and all. Strategy played a bigger part today than last year.”





CLOSING: Another great recap that really puts you back there to when it all happened. The actual article does a very good job describing the 5 (or 6!) possible set of rules that were available for this race. Tom Curley actually could have had an ACT co-sanction for the race, but once he learned that NASCAR would be running the show he gave up the nearly $7,000 in point money and the two provisional spots for his drivers. In fact, ACT drivers had to pay a $10 temporary NASCAR license to enter the race. I was, as I’ve mentioned, a big Robbie Crouch fan and this was tough to watch. He had patiently worked his way back to third when Dion and Porter got tangled up. It might have been Ottinger that got into his rear bumper and just got him out of shape down low in turn 4. Because he had to slow down so much Bown was able to get by him. My own opinion is that Crouch, who had been the fastest car all evening, was going to pounce on the survivor of the Dion-Porter battle and win this thing! As the laps wound down Dion was using the savvy “brake” early techniques and being a real pain. In one of the rare cases where Crouch would use the bumper, he got up under Dion entering turn one and gave him a boost. I’m not sure I remember Herb Dodge’s description of Crouch being that close to Bown at the checkers, but it was exciting to read!




Here are some of the photos from the race.





and I saved the best for last.....


Spoiler:
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by navycook75 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:05 pm

ah the good old days, before the cup driver dominated the whole thing. I also remember seeing these cars and pictures and whatnot and led me to beleive that the busch series was a Street Stock series at one point.
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by Mother of Invention on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:13 pm

http://bigalsphotos.smugmug.com/Phil-Prior-Collection/Oxford-Plains-Speedway-Pro/10699965_Cm7Jj#1192981835_jndak

Everything in this photo album from here to the end is from the race.
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by kensethfan on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:18 pm

navycook75 wrote:ah the good old days, before the cup driver dominated the whole thing. I also remember seeing these cars and pictures and whatnot and led me to beleive that the busch series was a Street Stock series at one point.

I was expecting you to say, "Too long; didn't read.", which by the way, I didn't. Very Happy
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by Kornography on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:22 pm

may I have the tl;dr version please?

(for those unaware of internet jargon tl;dr = Too Long; Don't Read)
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by navycook75 on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:28 pm

kensethfan wrote:
navycook75 wrote:ah the good old days, before the cup driver dominated the whole thing. I also remember seeing these cars and pictures and whatnot and led me to beleive that the busch series was a Street Stock series at one point.

I was expecting you to say, "Too long; didn't read.", which by the way, I didn't. Very Happy
when it comes to racing history, it's almost never TL;DR to me.
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by Mother of Invention on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:34 pm

Kornography wrote:may I have the tl;dr version please?

(for those unaware of internet jargon tl;dr = Too Long; Don't Read)


Camaro's and Firebird and all sorts of weird cars entered in the NASCAR Nationwide series during one race in 1986
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by Chives2112 on Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:18 pm

Man, this is some great stuff, and I actually read the whole thing. Where did you find this article? I always check The Third Turn and see if they have articles and race results. Very interesting!
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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by leon13 on Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:01 pm

being from the north east ive HEARD about this even but never actually SAW anything from it. great find!

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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by leon13 on Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:05 pm

on a side note i LOVE the stick on numbers, and duct tape numbers. never would this fly today! that #29 in the pictures is STILL racing today with a new owner and a number 02 on it

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Re: an Article on the 1986 Oxford 250 (Warning long amounts of text ahead)

Post by Chives2112 on Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:54 pm

leon13 wrote:on a side note i LOVE the stick on numbers, and duct tape numbers. never would this fly today! that #29 in the pictures is STILL racing today with a new owner and a number 02 on it
They still do that in ARCA. Laughing Check out the new and approved ARCA Hall of Shame. It's almost like they didn't even try to make the duct tape look like the original number.
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