If the recent increased car counts in the Late Model races at Oxford Plains Speedway are any indication, Sunday’s TD Bank 250 could be one of the most competitive in the race’s 37-year history.

In last Saturday’s LM feature, 29 cars were on the starting grid for the 40-lap race. The week before, 37 cars showed up to race in the division, and some of the cars didn’t get into the feature.

“A lot of guys are coming because they want to get their cars set up,” said Tommy Ricker, a veteran OPS driver from Poland who was among several local drivers at a news conference Wednesday in Portland. “They want to see if they can try to do something.”

More than 80 racing teams have already signed up to qualify for the 39 spots on the starting grid of Sunday’s race.

Local drivers will try to compete against the likes of Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, two-time defending champion Eddie MacDonald and current American Canadian Tour points leader Brian Hoar in one of the nation’s richest short-track races.

“On the right day, when the guy hits the right setup, and there’s a little bit of luck involved, it is anybody’s race,” track owner Bill Ryan Jr. said. “With these cars, you can’t outspend a guy like you can in some other races. There’s a lot of talented guys around here, and you can’t buy the trick motor that costs five times what the other guy’s motor does and get 20 more horsepower. These are standard motors. They’re spec motors. It comes down, at the end of the day, on who does their homework, who has talent and who can set up their car to run the best that day.”

“For any one of these guys who are here today, there’s a number of other (drivers) at other places who could win this race,” Ricker said. “Because these cars are so competitive, you miss one setup, you go a half-pound one way or the other in a tire, you could be the guy going backwards instead of forward.”

The racing starts Friday night with the Oxford Acceleration Series, which includes features in the track’s Renegade, Ladies, Truck, Rebel and Outlaw divisions, as well as a 40-lap feature in Pro All-Star Series North’s Modified Division.

Busch, who is making his second appearance in the 250, will hold an autograph session on a first-come, first-served basis 6-7 p.m. Friday in the speedway’s grandstand.

On Saturday night, PASS North’s Super Late Models will make their first appearance at the speedway since 2006 with qualifying heats and a 150-lap feature. A 100-lap feature in the Valenti Auto Mall Modified Racing Series and 30-lap features in OPS’ Mini-Stock and Strictly Stock divisions also are scheduled.

On Sunday, qualifying heats for the TD Bank 250 will start at 2 p.m., with the green flag dropping on the final at 6:30 p.m.

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