Twenty-six year-old Kyle Busch has won 22 Sprint Cup races, 49 Nationwide Series races and 29 Camping World Truck features in his young career.
He is tied with nemesis Kevin Harvick for the most Sprint Cup wins this season with three.
Busch is currently fifth in points.
Even though he has won countless prestigious races, Busch says winning a legendary short track race like the TD Bank Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, which he did on Sunday night after winning a Pro All-Stars Series 150-lapper at Oxford on Saturday night, is important to him.
“Winning (the 250) means a lot,” said Busch. “I love coming back to local short tracks and running big races like the Winchester 400 (Indiana) and the Snowball Derby (Fla.) and here at Oxford.
“You’re running against the best of the best on that day. These guys are no slouches. Junior Hanley in his day, Mike Rowe. Those guys are really, really good. Certainly that’s why I always kind of like to stack up against guys in familiar territory and put myself into their arena and run against them to size (myself) up. It keeps you sharp.”
Rowe, a three-time winner including the first of Busch’s three appearances in 2005, gave Busch his first good look at the track in 2005. Rowe didn’t run Sunday’s 250, which is Maine’s richest and most prestigious race.
“He and I spent about 50 laps in his old red pickup truck,” recalled Busch. “He ran my ear off for about two hours and then I got out there and I was driving and he said ‘You aren’t doing it right.’ “And so I drove him around and talked to him and told him what I was doing and what I was feeling. And he goes ‘That’s not bad. All right, all right.
“Ever since then, we kind of hit it off,” added Busch, who won $31,900 at the race and collected an undisclosed appearance fee.
Busch, who also ran the 250 in 2006, said he didn’t consider himself a favorite Sunday night.
“These guys did a great job setting up their cars this weekend. We didn’t know that we’d have a shot. I thought we’d be an eighth-, fifth- or sixth-place car and that’s kind of where we rode for a little while.”
Busch, who started fifth after winning the fifth qualifying heat, did his homework as did his crew in preparation for the race.
“We ran every single practice session today. We ran 140-160 laps on our tires just trying to use them up as much as we could. We only put on two or three sets of tires for practice the whole weekend, that’s two to three days.
“Whether it was beneficial or not, we needed the track time to get used to a brand new car and get the bugs out,” pointed out Busch.
He said running in a Late Model race is challenging because the cars are so similar.
“It’s not that they don’t have motors or anything like that, that make them slow or sluggish. It’s like you’re locked in a box and you can only do so much. So you really have to think outside the box and try to come up with something that’s unique in its own to win here,” he said.
Busch has been involved in several skirmishes during his career and has his share of detractors. The large crowd was largely pro-Busch but he heard a few boos when he was introduced after winning the 250.
“Those of you who are booing, you’re going home crying,” he said.
Will Busch return to defending his title?
“If I’m invited I will,” he said.
He will get that invitation, according to OPS owner Bill Ryan.
“Or course he will. I’ll talk to him,” said Ryan.
Ryan said he is thankful Busch is willing to give up a weekend off from Sprint Cup racing to run the 250.
“A lot of those (Sprint Cup) guys are vacationing in places like the south of France. They’re multi-millionaires doing multi-millionaire types of things,” said Ryan. “Instead of partying with the rich and famous, he’s underneath a race car working on it in 100-degree heat.
“He is a true competitor and that’s why he’s won 100 races at just 26. He loves what he’s doing. He would have gone home miserable if he had finished second.”
Theriault has impressive showing
One of the other story lines of the race was 17-year-old Austin Theriault of Fort Kent finishing third in just his second attempt to qualify for the 250.
Theriault started 11th after finishing second in his heat race behind Busch.
Ryan said the crowd may have witnessed the coming out party for a rising star.
“What a talented kid he is,” said Ryan. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience but to come here and finish third is huge. He’s somebody people will be watching.”