(Kodie Conner battles in his heat race at Oxford Plains Speedway / Brian Nagy Photo)
KANNAPOLIS, NC : Kodie Conner and the small family owned team based in Kannapolis, North Carolina made the 16-hour trek to Oxford Plains Speedway this past weekend for the 43rd Annual Oxford 250. For Conner this was the first big time Super Late Model race in his young career. Conner had never competed with 60 race cars, heat races, and live pit stops of any kind in his Super Late Model career. After the team worked all weekend to get him into the race, Conner finished a respectable 28th after a late race incident at lap 226 ended his night early.
The weekend began on Friday afternoon with a three hour practice session under hot and humid conditions. For Conner this was the first time he had race scheduled practice of this length where he could try different adjustments to improve the race car. Oxford also posed another challenge to the 15-year old racer with the pit area outside the race track, unlike tracks in the South. By the end of Friday practice, Conner was happy with the race car and ended up in the top 25 in the overall practice time sheet.
On Saturday another four hour practice session greeted the KCR team with sunny and cooler skies. After the first run, Conner radioed in that the engine had a ticking noise. After the crew surveyed the engine compartment it was found that a spark plug was blown out and knocked two plug wires out also. Repairs were made and the car was back at top speed again and finished with competitive practice times.
The Oxford 250 is called the “Richest Single Day Super Late Model Race” as all the race procedures are done on Sunday. Conner drew the third starting spot in the third 20-lap heat race. After he dropped to fourth around midway, Conner held on to cross the line in fourth and what was believed to be locked into the Oxford 250. In post race tech, the officials measured and said the left front was 1/8″ inch too low and Conner’s fourth place was disallowed. Conner would then have to race a 20-lap consolation race and a 50-lap last chance race where he ended up 11th after he started 21st. Conner received a Pro All Stars Series South provisional to start the Oxford 250 in 37th.
Race time for the 250 and Conner was at a disadvantage with 50 lap old tires and a very tight race car. Conner started the longest race in his career and also the biggest field he has ever raced against. After an early caution where an accident happened in front of him in turn 4, one of the cars clipped his right front fender and knocked it off. Conner came down pit road and the crew made adjustments and damage repairs.
The race settled into a long green flag run where Conner lost two laps as a result of old tires and still a tight race car. On a caution around lap 75, the crew led by Kodie’s father Shannon Conner, brought the Tiger 45 down pit road for two right side tires, fuel and major adjustments to free the car up. The car was much improved as Conner began to work his way forward around lead lap cars.
More yellows as Conner fought to get the two laps back, but he was never able to get through the entire field. As the race drew within 100 laps to go, Conner pitted one final time for four tires and fuel. This was the first time the crew had changed four tires live on pit road and with two battery-powered impacts they got the job done in quick work.
The goal was to finish and come away with a top-25 finish and Conner was up to 26th when Mike Rowe lost control in turn two on lap 226, and then as Rowe tried to get the car pointed straight, he drove into the left front of Conner’s race car and it destroyed the radiator and the left front corner of the car. Just 24 laps from the finish of his first Oxford 250, Conner’s night was over and the end result was a 28th place finish. Conner was a little sore after the accident, but no broken bones or other physical injuries.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity to race against the best drivers in the North,” said Conner on his first Oxford 250. “It was like the Daytona 500 to me with all the practice time we had. It was cool to try new things and experience different changes to make the car better. I had a lot of the Northern racers come over to me and say hello and they thanked our team for coming up to the 250. We were pitted next to the eventual race winner Wayne Helliwell, Jr. all weekend and they were very helpful to us to learn the race track. I can’t thank them enough for all their help. Racing in the North was different than it is in the South. I’m not so sure about the heat races, but I got a lot of seat time. And myself, at 15 years old, to get to start and race in the Oxford 250 was awesome. Although we didn’t get to run all laps, once we figured the car out we had good speed and the finish doesn’t reflect that.”
“I have to thank all the crew guys that took time away from their schedules to come to Oxford with the KCR team. There is no way that my dad and I could have done this race without them. My dad says he will be paying his Visa card off for awhile and I’m thankful I had the chance to participate in such a huge race. I know I gained a lot of experience that will help me going forward in my career and the final races in the 2016 PASS South season. We will be back again to run the 250 in the future.”
– Kodie Conner Racing Press Release