OXFORD – Danny Smart doesn’t have a bucket of money or a fat-cat sponsor. The “Dayton Snow Fighters” painted on the right rear quarter panel of his race car is actually himself, although Smart is better looking than the happy snowman pictured with the words.

“I plow the roads in Dayton in the winter,” said Smart, who lives in Buxton. “I do a little hot-topping in the summer.”

The No. 6 was painted on his door panel and his name was above the window he climbs through to get into the car. Flames, similar to those on hot rods in the 1950s, adorned his hood. Otherwise, his car’s paint job was bare.

Eye-catching graphics won’t help anyone win today’s TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. The money provided by sponsors named on the race car could make a difference.

Next to Smart’s small patch of asphalt in Oxford Plains’ rear pit area, men busied themselves around Brent Dragon’s car. Beverage Mart and Furniture World of Vermont and about five other sponsors crowded onto the paint scheme, begging for attention.

Brent is the son of Vermont legend Harmon “Beaver” Dragon and the nephew of Bobby Dragon. Last year, Brent Dragon started on the pole for the TD Bank 250, led 46 laps and finished sixth to winner Eddie MacDonald. He’s had a top-10 finish in each of the last three years. Dragon could win today’s race.

Until this season, Smart had never attempted to qualify for the TD Bank 250. He had run cars with less horsepower in less expensive race divisions at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway and Oxford Plains. This year, with a Late Model Sportsman car that has a little seasoning, he’s running at Wiscasset Speedway. He’s won a Late Model race.

“I’m just here for the fun,” said Smart. Fun, when you can buy as many as eight tires, hope the car survives the wear and tear of qualifying heats and 250 green-flag laps, and pay the admission to the race for you and your crew?

“It’s pricey,” said Smart.

the way, where is your crew? Two guys were with the car earlier. That’s not enough for a pit stop. More are coming, said Smart.

Dragon, who races on the American-Canadian Tour, has a seven-person crew, all uniformed.

That’s the beauty of the TD Bank 250, once known up and down the East Coast by its unsponsored name, the Oxford 250. The days of an unsponsored team operating on a shoestring budget qualifying for NASCAR’s gem, the Daytona 500, have all but vanished.

The TD Bank 250 is different. Smart has a chance today. His lap times Saturday were good. If he draws a good position in one of the five or six heat races, he can race his way into the main event. Luck can be an equalizer on this track.

Austin Theriault of Fort Kent didn’t have Smart’s equanimity. But then, Theriault is 16 years old. He’s never even sat in the stands to watch. He was a schoolboy wrestler until Spud Speedway opened in Caribou, exposing him to a sport that’s hooked him.

“There’s what, 80 cars that are here or supposed to be here? And 38 start? It’s going to be nerve-racking,” said Theriault, who had completed about 30 practice laps by late Saturday afternoon. He was running in packs of fast cars, driven by far more experienced drivers. He’s looking forward to the qualifying heats.

Jamie Aube walked by. After shaking hands I asked to see the ring that flashed. It was his Busch North championship ring from 1988. He has three such rings. “This is the only one I wear.” It was his first.

He won the TD Bank 250 twice, in 1987 and ’89. Now he’s the crew chief for Dustin Delaney, a 20-year-old driver on NASCAR’s K&N Series East who has only “an inkling” of what the TD Bank 250 is all about.

Aube, who took over the 1987 race in the last 50 laps, will try to bring his driver up to speed. But how do you cram 36 years of the Oxford/TD Bank 250 into two days?

You can’t. It’s learn-as-you-go for the first-timers. Even the veterans get a refresher course on the fly. It starts with the qualifying heats this afternoon.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]