OXFORD — Las Vegas native Kyle Busch grew up racing on short tracks in the West.
And the 26-year-old, who recently won his 100th race in NASCAR’s top three series, used lapped traffic to wrest the lead from Farmington’s Jeff Taylor on the inside groove on lap 229 and executed a terrific restart on lap 234 to pull away from Nick Sweet and capture the 38th annual TD Bank Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway Sunday night.
Sweet, who is from Barre, Vt., finished second by two and a half car-lengths and 17-year-old Austin Theriault from Fort Kent, who qualified for the 250 for the first time after failing to qualify a year ago, finished third.
Defending two-time champ Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass. survived a spinout to finish fourth and rounding out the top 10 were Brian Hoar of Williston, Vt., Taylor, John Donahue of Graniteville, Vt., Frenchville native Shawn Martin, Eric Williams of Hyde Park, Vt. and Quinny Welch of Lancaster, N.H.
Busch appeared to have his hands full with Sweet, who had pitted later than Busch and had fresher tires.
But Busch timed his restart perfectly.
“I knew that was going to be the race,” said Busch. “I knew I had to get a good restart because his car was strong. I didn’t want to get stuck underneath him and have to race him. I would have had to burn up my stuff and he would have gotten the momentum.”
Busch noticed as they were rolling into turn three as they crept toward the restart, Sweet was “getting antsy.
“I said ‘No, not yet. No, not yet,” said Busch. “I don’t think he was expecting it.”
Busch said restarts are pivotal on short tracks.
Sweet tried to close the gap and did get close to Busch’s rear bumper but he couldn’t catch him.
“He outdrove me on the restart,” said Sweet. “He taught me a lesson. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again. It was one of those deals. But if you have to lose to somebody, it might as well be to Kyle Busch.”
Sweet, who is a regular at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, explained that during restarts at Thunder Road, “we’re almost at full speed by the time we hit turn four.”
“This is awesome,” said Busch. “It was a tough race. It certainly didn’t come easy. I had some of the best racers around chasing me. You couldn’t afford to lay back at any time.”
Sweet was hoping Busch would “mess up in the corner” and give him the opening he needed.
“But he was flawless at the end,” said Sweet.
Theriault was thrilled with his finish after watching the race last year.
“This is phenomenal. The guys (his crew) did a great job,” Theriault said. “You’re only as good as your car and the car was great today.”
Theriault said they used a different pit strategy than most and it paid off.
“We came in and took two lefts (left-side tires) and we held our own pretty well. Then we came back and took rights (right-side tires) and moved up through the field. That’s what helped us in the end.”
Pittston’s Ben Ashline, the 20-year-old pole-sitter, led the first 12 laps before Winthrop’s Jeff White maneuvered around him into the lead.
Following a restart on lap 68, White and Ashline suffered flat tires which all but eliminated their chances of winning.
White’s race ended on lap 135 when his car slid off the track on the back stretch.
Ashline wound up finishing 30th while White was 35th.
Busch ran consistently in the top five throughout the race.
Taylor, whose hood received considerable damage in a chain-reaction accident during the heat race, ran second for several laps in the middle of the race.
Taylor eventually took the lead during the middle of the race and, after a sequence of pit stops, he returned to the lead with Busch in pursuit.
MacDonald, who started 26th, worked his way to the front and got as high as third.
But, between laps 150 and 179, he started fading back and then he spun out in the back stretch on lap 179 forcing the race’s fourth caution.
He took on new tires and that enabled him to finish strong and capture fourth.
There were just 15 cars of the 38 cars left on the lead lap for the restart after the caution on lap 179.
Just 12 cars finished the race on the lead lap.