OXFORD – Brad Keselowski, the leading driver on NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, got his first look at Oxford Plains Speedway on Thursday.

He liked what he saw.

“I love the history behind this track,” said Keselowski, who spent the morning getting acquainted with the car he will drive next month in the TD Bank 250. “I love the inside curve. It’s kind of cool and different.”

In between brief runs around the three-eighths-mile oval, Keselowski, 26, sat patiently in the cockpit while the crew from the Vermont-based Roberts Racing tinkered with the Late Model Sportsman car he will drive in the 250.

“We got a few runs in,” he said. “They’ve got a pretty good baseline set up. Where this team has ran real well here in the past, you just try to dial it in a little bit more to some things I might feel or desire. But at the end of the day they’re the experts, so I just let them do their thing.”

Before it started raining, the racing team spent about 21/2 hours on the track.

“(I was) just trying to get a basic feel for the track and the car,” Keselowski said. “I got to meet the guys on the team that we’re racing for here in Oxford. I’m trying to understand what I can about the track.

“Never been up here, and I was trying to get a general feel for it.”

Keselowski is in New England to race in the Nationwide Series New England 200 on Saturday and the Sprint Series’ Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

One of NASCAR’s rising young stars, Keselowski has three wins, and has finished in the top 10 in 14 of his 15 starts this year on the Nationwide tour.

Last September, he joined Penske Racing after earning his first Sprint Cup victory the previous April in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

He doesn’t have a top-10 finish this year but ranks 24th among 69 drivers who have raced in that series.

Since 2004, several of NASCAR’s top drivers have raced in the TD Bank 250.

“It’s a ton of fun for the fans to see these guys, and Brad is obviously an up-and-coming driver,” said the speedway owner, Bill Ryan.

“There’s going to be a lot of people five years from now, when he’s in the chase for the championship, who will say they saw him run on a short track in Maine.”

In 2008, Kevin Harvick, the current points leader in the Sprint Cup series, became the first driver from the national tour to win the race.

“I know he was gloating for a little while after he won it, and he still is,” Keselowski joked. “I’d like to take a little of that prestige away from him and kind of rub it in a little bit.”

Keselowski said he asked Harvick about Oxford Plains Speedway before Thursday’s testing session.

“Actually he gave me a lot of pointers,” he said. “Just little things to look out for.”

Keselowski also raced a few laps around the track on a simulator.

“They’ve got different video game stuff that you can goof around with, and this (track) was one of the tracks they had on there, so it’s kind of neat,” he said.

Keselowski said he’s looking forward to his return to short-track racing.

“I haven’t done a Late Model short-track race in almost six years, and it’s kind of cool to get back to the roots,” he said. “I started in the short-track Late Models.”

Keselowski said he still has a lot to learn about racing at Oxford Plains.

“The hardest part for the actual race is getting to know the drivers you’re racing against,” he said.

“I’m sure the local track guys are very good here. They’re going to be tough to beat. Any other top dog who comes here, they could run and beat them, I’m sure.”

Keselowski won’t get another chance to drive on the Maine track before race day.

“What makes it (tough) is you have to learn on the fly,” he said. “I have to learn (about) the competitors I have during the race, and that gives you no room for error.”

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]