OXFORD – He smoked his tires and spun his winning race car in front of cheering fans. He climbed through the window, stood on the car and exulted. Kyle Busch acted like he had done this before.

Which he has, but not at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Busch won the TD Bank 250 on Sunday and for most of the paying customers, it was a popular victory. More than that, the NASCAR star reminded fans why this historic race always has the chance to be special. The big name won, but in holding off Nick Sweet of Barre, Vt., and Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, Busch introduced two young drivers who are not yet familiar names even to Maine race fans.

This race, run for the 38th time, has mostly been about ordinary men doing extraordinary things with a race car. The race has been about triumph and heartache. Deep satisfaction and terrible frustration.

It is a race that has survived change and difficult egos and tough times. That this race and this track got a boost from the Sprint Cup race winner with the truculent, bad-boy image is remarkable. Handed a microphone during the post-race hoopla, Busch thanked the fans who cheered and waved goodbye to those who didn’t.

The boo-birds have to go home crying, he said. Bye-bye.

He had earned respect the night before, winning a 150-lap Pro All-Stars Series race on this same track. PASS runs the big-boy Pro Stock cars, or Super Late Models as they’re called now. PASS has more of the veteran drivers who are more popular with Maine fans.

Saturday night, the introduction of the drivers was punctuated several times with standing ovations. The air, said someone who was there, was electric. Much of the front grandstand was full. The racing was mostly clean, mostly exciting. So much, fans got nostalgic comparing the sights and sounds and the action of the race itself to past TD Bank 250s.

Maybe, they said, next summer’s TD Bank 250 would become a full PASS race with drivers from both its northern and southern divisions providing the large car counts that have typically made this race stand apart from others.

Then the drivers who qualified for the TD Bank 250 went out and put on a show of their own in their comparatively underpowered cars. Or, as Busch explained, there isn’t enough horsepower difference to separate a winner from the contenders. You’ve got to drive the car to the win.

“(Busch) drove a flawless race at the end,” said Sweet. “I hate finishing second, but he drove flawlessly.”

“The cars have the same speed,” said Busch. “You’re locked in a box and you’ve got to think your way out.”

The race, of course, was more than Sweet and the 17-year-old Theriault chasing over the last 16 laps, following a restart.

It was Jeff White of Winthrop, holding the early race lead before a flat tire put him a lap down and out of contention. After years of being a competitive Saturday Night driver, White had become a contender in Maine’s biggest stock car race. He was fighting to get his lap back when he went up against the wall on the backstraight, ending his day.

It was Jeff Taylor of Farmington, a former multi-time track champion who has never won the TD Bank 250. He’s a car builder with a strong reputation. He’s a racer and for many laps seemed to be the feel-good story Sunday, steering his metallic green car through the corners two- or three car-length ahead of Busch.

His handling went away and he had to give up the lead and the top-three finish.

It was Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass., coming from back in the pack again and again. He was the two-time winner, trying to become only the second driver after Ralph Nason to win this race in three consecutive years.

MacDonald got up to Theriault, but couldn’t push his car past the kid. Theriault’s poise, in racing his first TD Bank 250, never rattled. Sitting between Busch and Sweet, Theriault resisted the urge to pinch himself. He watched last year’s race from the infield after he failed to qualify.

“I learned a lot from last year. The car was great.”

So many plots and subplots, but the catalyst was Kyle Busch. “The win to me means a lot. It’s just like anywhere else. You’re racing the best of the best on that day.”

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

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