OXFORD, Me. — Ding dong, the rule is dead.

A controversial pit road rule that places pitted cars a lap down during caution periods has been lifted by Oxford Plains Speedway officials for the Late Model open-competition TD Bank 250 on July 18.

The TD Bank 250 does not count caution laps toward the official race distance, although it was previously possible for cars to lose laps while on pit road under caution. The rule has been in place for many years at the Maine track’s marquee event and has been debated before, during and after each running of the race.

While many are in favor of the strategy and competition the rule has created, glaring issues with the rule have involved scoring and safety.

The infield pit road at Oxford Plains Speedway is tight and dimly lit, and becomes dangerous when jammed with cars and crewmen from 40-plus race teams at the TD Bank 250. Because of previous scoring rules, drivers would speed through the pit area in an effort to stay in front of the pace car and on the lead lap. On average, the pace car travels at approximately 30 mph around the 3/8-mile oval, leaving drivers a total of 45 seconds to enter pit road, have their car serviced, and rejoin the running order on the lead lap.

The risk, Oxford officials have determined, was not worth the reward.

“There were a lot of safety concerns on pit road, especially during the 250,” said OPS Director of Competition Randy Varney. “We’re just trying to keep it safer for everyone. It’s so hard to beat that pace car in time and stay on the lead lap that guys were almost getting run over on pit road.”

In 2007, pit road penalties and scoring disputes involving Eddie MacDonald, Brad Leighton, and Randy Potter caused a whirlwind of controversy. Potter passed the pace car on pit road and was penalized a lap, leaving him out of contention for the win. Potter says he won’t compete in the event this due to lack of funding, but is happy to see the rule lifted.

“It’s long overdue,” said Potter, a regular competitor with the American-Canadian Tour. “Our [Late Model] teams are not set up to make fast pit stops, so [drivers] speed on pit road to get out quicker and it creates a safety hazard. That’s what happened to me [in 2007].”

Varney thinks lifting the rule will not only lessen safety concerns, it will save some teams money. Some teams in recent years have hired trained crewmembers from southern-based NASCAR teams to make faster stops at the TD Bank 250.

“Yeah, Randy Potter and some other guys had a scoring issue a few years ago, but it’s not about that and it never has been,” says Varney. “I’ve been trying to get this rule changed for years. People bring in ‘ringers’ from down south and spend money they don’t need to.”

The TD Bank 250 is scheduled for Sunday, July 18. NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series driver Brad Keselowski has entered the race with Vermont-based Roberts Motorsports as a teammate to Graniteville driver John Donahue. Another NASCAR driver, Kevin Harvick, won the event in 2008.

Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass., is the defending TD Bank 250 winner and has two ACT Late Model Tour victories at Oxford Plains Speedway this year.