OXFORD – His body was bruised, he hadn’t slept much and, yes, he was tired of hearing the same questions about what happened the night before. Brad Keselowski was done talking about his latest run-in with Carl Edwards and a continuing feud that has brought new attention to their sport for the wrong reasons.

“I’ll talk about this race,” said Keselowski. “That’s why I’m here.”

He’s one of NASCAR’s better young drivers. He was recruited to bring more attention to this summer’s TD Bank 250, much as Kevin Harvick, Kurt and Kyle Busch have done in recent races. The idea is to let fans measure one of NASCAR’s elite against the local guys who return to their day jobs the morning after.

Except this time, Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan Jr. hadn’t banked on Keselowski’s notoriety taking another jump.

On Saturday night, halfway across the country in St. Louis, in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Edwards dumped Keselowski after they raced side-by-side coming out of Turn 4 in the last lap.

Keselowski spun and was hit hard by a following car while Edwards raced to the victory. It was payback for an incident between the two earlier in the race and earlier in the season. Tit for tat.

Except racing 3,500-pound cars and using them as weapons isn’t patty-cake.

“They’ve crossed the line,” said Dale Shaw, who was no stranger to payback years ago during his Busch North career. He and Scarborough’s Kelly Moore engaged in their version of frontier justice on New England race tracks over more than a few seasons.

“If someone dumped me, I was dumping him back. Everyone knew that,” said Shaw, who was crew chief for John Donahue’s car this weekend. “The difference is, I wasn’t trying to put somebody into the wall. That’s just crazy.”

Think hockey fights. It’s one thing when players drop their gloves. It’s something else when a hockey stick is used as a weapon.

Rubbin’ is racin’ as the mantra goes. That’s why stock cars still have their fenders. That’s why NASCAR’s version of racing became so popular. And if tempers boiled, drivers got out of their cars and settled the issue with their fists.

Which is a saner way than the alternative. Crash someone out of the race? Twice this season Edwards asked if Keselowski was OK after he crashed his adversary out of the race.

His concern is transparent.

Keselowski left St. Louis around 4 a.m. Sunday, arriving in Maine by 8. He hurried to Oxford Plains for the beginning of qualifying heats at 2 p.m.

He failed to qualify in the first round of heats.

And the second round.

In the last-chance race, he and Dale Verrill of South Paris brought the big crowd to their feet trading the lead. Verrill edged Keselowski at the finish. The crowd roared. This was racing.

Keselowski was added to the 39-car starting field by Ryan on a promoter’s option.

He spoke to the crowd of about 8,000. They applauded the driver who has been portrayed as the injured party.

Race fans understand payback.

Dick McCabe, the Irish Angel from Kennebunkport, tired of the abuse he thought he was getting from Geoff Bodine during one long-ago TD Bank 250. So he dumped Bodine, spinning him off the track late in the race. Bodine didn’t win and neither did McCabe.

It was worth it, said McCabe later.

“You never forget when someone does something to you,” said Mike Rowe, the winningest driver at OPS. You might forgive.

“It’s got to stop. I showed respect for everyone on the track,” said Bruce Haley, a former OPS and TD Bank 250 racer. “Racing is difficult enough without looking in your mirror and wondering, ‘Oh my God is he going for payback tonight?’ You don’t need to go there.”

Sunday, among the men who have their lives and livelihoods at stake, too, there was no payback.

The 37th running of the TD Bank 250 had just five yellow caution periods for mostly single-car spins where blame wasn’t assessed.

Keselowski finished 22nd, two laps behind winner Eddie MacDonald.

Someone asked the NASCAR star during a break between qualifying heats what it felt like to be spun like a top before another car smashed into his.

“I was trying to figure out how it’s going to end. And how it’s going to end quicker.”

He could have been talking about a feud that needs to stop.

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

[email protected]