When Kyle Busch takes the green flag for the start of Sunday night’s 38th annual TD Bank Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, he will be looking to become just the second current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver to win the race since track owner Bill Ryan began bringing Cup drivers to the race in 2004.
Ryan started altering the date of the 250 to coincide with the off weekend for the Sprint Cup series so he could attract Cup drivers to Maine’s richest and most prestigious race.
Ironically, Kevin Harvick, whose confrontations with Busch this season have landed the two of them on probation, is the only Cup winner to have taken Oxford’s checkered flag (2008).
The local drivers respect the Cup drivers and they all expect Busch to be a stout contender.
Busch will be running in his third 250 and notched his 100th career win among NASCAR’s top three divisions (Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide and Sprint Cup) with his 49th Nationwide victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend. That tied him with Mark Martin for most ever Nationwide wins.
He also has 22 Sprint Cup and 29 Camping World Truck series wins and he became the first driver in history to win in all three divisions on the same weekend last August at Bristol Motor Speedway (Tenn.).
For the first time, Busch will be bringing his own equipment as he will be driving his Kyle Busch Motorsports cars in both the Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North race on Saturday night and the TD Bank 250 on Sunday.
However, as Frenchville native Shawn Martin says, once the race begins “he’s just another guy as far as I’m concerned.”
Winthrop’s Jeff White added, “I love racing against people like that. He’s just like anybody else out there.”
Lewiston’s Corey Morgan said Busch will be really good because he’ll have the best equipment and the best of everything.
“He’s the best talent out there. He’ll be tough,” Morgan said.
“Hopefully, he’ll be just as respectful of me and the rest of the guys as we will be of him,” said Otisfield racer Don Wentworth. “He’s obviously got talent.”
Albany Township’s Ricky Rolfe said Busch’s chances to win are better than the other drivers.. “He can adapt to all race tracks because that’s what does. We do this for a hobby. He does it for a living,” Rolfe said. “He has seen so many tracks, he can adapt to them quicker than we can. He thinks quicker and is a little bit quicker when it comes to suggesting changes to his car.
“Even though some of us have been racing at Oxford most of our careers, we have instilled some bad habits in our way of thinking and it’s sometimes hard for us to change our thinking,” added Rolfe, who finished second in the 250 in 2004.
Martin read about Busch before he got to Sprint Cup.
“There was an article about his brother, Kurt, and it said Kyle and their father, Tom, would go out and race Legends cars or anything they could get their hands on. They knew he was going to good,” Martin said.
Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault pointed out that Busch came up to test at Oxford recently.
“He almost has his own (racing groove). I don’t know how he does it. He’s a force to be reckoned with,” said Theriault. “Racing with him is going to be a learning experience. He’s no fluke. If you can run with him, it’ll be a confidence booster.”
Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson, N.H. said the fact Busch took a day to test and will run the PASS race on Saturday night shows that he prepares thoroughly..
“Some of the (Sprint Cup) guys just show up on Sunday, get in the car for the first time and drive it (beginning in the heat races),” said Polewarczyk. “But Busch and Harvick don’t come here to just ride around. They come here to win. Kyle will be another guy to contend with. He will be on his game. He’ll be tough.”
The drivers like having the Sprint Cup drivers in the field.
“The most important thing is it draws a lot of fans and other cars to the track,” said Morgan. “That’s great for all of us because it helps us get sponsors.”
White said Busch will attract fans who may not normally attend races “and if they like the racing, maybe they’ll come back on a weekly basis. If more people go to the races, maybe we’ll be able to get more sponsors. The crowds have gone downhill the last 20 years.”
Busch has led laps in his previous two appearances but finished sixth in 2005 and 22nd in 2006 when his engine blew up.
The other current or former Cup drivers who have run the 250 the previous seven years have included Harvick, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Terry Labonte, Maine driver Ricky Craven, Kevin Lepage, J.J. Yeley and Kenny Wallace.