OXFORD – Cole Butcher got out of his car at Victory Lane after winning the Oxford 250 and was greeted with boos.
The Hantsport, N.S. driver took the lead with eight laps to go after slamming into the back of leader Johnny Clark as the two drove through doubled traffic.
Clark, the 2020 winner, ended up crossing the finish line fourth in Sunday’s 49th running at Oxford Plains Speedway.
In his Victory Lane interview on the PA system, Butcher began by apologizing for meeting Clark – “I had nowhere to go,” he said. Clark had caught up to the rear bumper of Jimmy Hebert’s lapped car and got veered sideways between Hebert and Butcher’s No. 53 car.
But still, the boo birds were raining down on Butcher.
“On the one hand, I don’t want that to happen. That’s not how I race,” Butcher said. “You know, I had to do a few bumps and races, but that’s because everyone is hogging the bottom. So, you know what, we had better tires than everyone else and it showed at the end.
“But that’s not how I wanted to race with Johnny. Johnny knows that and, you know what, I hope he gets over it.
Clark, from Hallowell, had held the 186 lead until the bump and spin. Clark and Butcher had moved away from the rest of the field before the warning.
Butcher, who started the race 20th, took the lead after the collision, pulled away two restarts later and comfortably headed for the white flag when the 18th and final caution came on lap 148.
It gave two-time Oxford 250 winners Eddie MacDonald and Gabe Brown a chance to fight Butcher for an extra restart, but they didn’t have enough time or speed to make a move.
“I knew we really had nothing on our minds. That 53 was quick,” said MacDonald, who won in 2009 and 2010. “But the timing worked out well. Whoever had the outside was going to finish third on this restart. So luckily we were in the right place at the end (to finish second).
Brown wasn’t thrilled to start outside Butcher for the final restart.
“We were screwed when we were at the top and I didn’t know what to do,” Brown said. “I was sideways all around, and I was screwed up top, and I just had to go down as soon as I could.”
Still, Brown called his third-place finish showing a win, given his previous best finish was 10th and his next highest was 30th.
Butcher called his victory “surreal”.
“You know what, I don’t do very well with my emotions. It might not look like I’m excited, but I’m definitely on the inside,” he said.
He is the first Canadian to win the Oxford 250 since 1995, when Ontarian Dave Whitlock took three straight wins from north of the border. Junior Hanley and Derek Lynch, also from Ontario, have won the previous two years. Don Biederman is the only other Canadian winner, in 1977.
Joe Pastore dominated the start of the race. After starting on the outside post, Pastore edged pole sitter Curtis Gerry – the 2017 winner – as the green flag dropped.
Pastore held that lead until Gerry returned the favor after a restart on Lap 51, but it only lasted two laps until Gerry spun into Turn 1 while trying to stay ahead of Pastore in the outer groove.
Pastore caught the back of the field on lap 72, then Max Cookson caught Pastore on lap 81 and took the lead.
After starting the race fifth, defending champion Cassius Clark left the race just before the halfway point on lap 124.
MacDonald, who crashed early with a puncture, passed under Cookson and took the lead on lap 130.
“You know, I thought we were done when we got this apartment (early),” MacDonald said. “I knew the car was pretty good at the start and we were a bit in the middle, three wide, and unfortunately we got a bit tangled up and actually ripped the valve stem straight out of the wheel.
“So unfortunately it messed us up a bit, changed our strategy a bit. But luckily it worked. We had to take tires much earlier than expected. Fortunately, we finished second, and hopefully next year we will have them.
MacDonald relinquished the lead to the pit on bail on Lap 180, when Pastore retired his car from the race. MacDonald said the reason for the pit stop was to get new tires again.
Calvin Rose Jr. took the lead and held it after the restart until Johnny Clark grabbed the lead on lap 186. Butcher made a move after a restart on lap 220 to take second .
“There was no strategy. It was a bit every man for himself,” Butcher said.
Cookson, a 19-year-old from Pittsfield who raced in his first Oxford 250 and is in his first season driving a Super Late Model car, finished fifth.
49th Annual Oxford 250 Results