OXFORD — There was a time when Curtis Gerry was simply happy to be part of the Oxford 250. Now, everyone else is just happy to in the same class as his No. 7 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Gerry, 47, enters Sunday’s 45th annual Clark’s Scrap Metals Oxford 250 as one of the favorites – if not the favorite – to win the race. The Waterboro driver is the defending champion, and his win last August kicked off a stretch of five consecutive Pro All Stars Series victories at Oxford Plains heading into the weekend.

No PASS driver had ever won five races in a row on the same track. His success has caught the attention of his fellow drivers.

“It’s funny, because down at the shop the other day, this guy comes up to me and tells me that in practice I have to run the low line, the high line – and then whatever Curtis does,” said Travis Benjamin, a two-time PASS champion. “I like to do that anyway, on any track, is try to follow somebody who gets around quickly. But if he’s leading the (Oxford 250), and he’s really, really good, then yeah, we’ve got to change up our game plan a little bit.”

Manchester’s Reid Lanpher finished second to Gerry last year, and again on July 29 in the PASS 150 at Oxford.

“It’s just part of a PASS race now,” Lanpher said in July. “Where’s the 7 car?”

Gerry did not practice Saturday at OPS, as he was racing at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough. But on Friday, he opened eyes again when he laid down the fastest lap – 15.592 seconds – in a three-hour Oxford 250 practice session.

“Curtis certainly hopes he’s in everybody’s heads,” said Johnny Clark of Hallowell, a six-time PASS champion. “That’s where we were six or seven years ago when we were running so well. You hope you’re in their heads, and then you let everyone else self-destruct.”

But the odd part about Gerry is that he doesn’t seem all that at ease with the extra attention, particularly heading into the biggest race weekend of the year.

“I love the success,” said Gerry, the 2016 Beech Ridge track champion. “Every driver’s dream is to win these races. But I really don’t like the attention, I really don’t. I’d rather climb in a hole.”

It would be hard enough to do that as the defending Oxford 250 champion, but it’s a task that’s nearly impossible after winning four of the five PASS races he’s entered this season. He also won at Beech Ridge in April and finished second at his home track in July.

A new Distance Racing car in 2016 turned Gerry’s career in the right direction, from also-ran to dominator. He’s won six of 11 PASS races he’s entered since the beginning of the 2017 season, with 10 top-five finishes. Prior to that, he’d managed just two top-10s in 60 PASS races dating back to 2004.

“There’s times when you go (to the 250) and think you’ll be happy just to qualify and be in the show,” Gerry said. “I’ve been there. I’d run probably six of these (Oxford 250s) before and been that way. There were plenty of times I just wanted to make it in. Last year we were pretty confident we’d make it. We knew if everything worked out well, we could end up winning. But to pull it off is another story.

“Fifteen years ago, I had older cars and we struggled. I might pull out a win here or there (in a weekly division), but in the last two years, I’ve won more races than I had in the last 10 prior to that. It’s a cool feeling to have everybody look up to us and our team and the car, to have them on the radio wondering where I am on the track and what I’m doing. It’s humbling.”

Humbling, perhaps, but it comes with the attention the soft-spoken Gerry loathes. Another win Sunday would put him in select company with only five other back-to-back 250 winners.

“I’d see (the attention) when it was happening to everybody else who won, and it doesn’t bother you as much then,” Gerry said with a laugh. “It is amazing how much attention you get, people want to see you and talk to you and do video with you. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it comes with the territory.”