ARUNDEL — Mike Rowe has so many “best,” “first” and “only driver to” accomplishments in the annals of the Oxford 250 it seems like he must have been in all 40 previous races. Truth is, he’s made only 30 of the 40 races, though he was there in the inaugural race in 1974, finishing 36th.

“I missed a few years because I was out of town working,” Rowe said. “And there were a couple times I didn’t get in.”

Rowe’s racing longevity is undoubtedly impressive. But what really sets the 63-year-old from Turner apart is that when the 41st annual Oxford 250 begins Sunday, Mike Rowe is still a legitimate and feared threat to become the first four-time 250 winner.

“I don’t think Mike’s lost anything from his prime,” says DJ Shaw, 24, the son of former NASCAR Busch North Champion Dale Shaw. “I used to watch him race against my dad at Oxford and on the old NEPSA tour. Once I started racing him, I found out he was just as tough as everybody said.”

Rowe is also about as sure a bet as you can find to get through the 250 heats and earn a shot at the $25,000 first-place prize. He’s 30 for 33 in qualifying attempts and hasn’t failed since 1987.

He did cut it close in 2005. That was the year Rowe had to win the last chance heat race to get a starting spot. He then charged from the back of the pack to win his third 250 crown and a $26,000 payday.

It’s worth noting that he has reunited with the 2005 ownership team of Mike Lux and Steve Perry.

“It’s time to get one right now,” Rowe said. “We’re running’ good, we’re running’ up front, and I see no reason why we can’t win this thing.”

Rowe’s other wins came in 1984 and 1997.

The first 250 victory is still a cherished memory. No Maine native had won in the race’s first 10 years.

“That’s when the big boys still used to come up and smoke everybody,” Rowe said in his slow-and-easy cadence.

The 1984 race included five drivers who had won or would win a NASCAR championship, plus 1986 Daytona 500 winner Geoff Bodine, who won the 250 in 1980 and ’81, and long-time Sprint Cup driver Morgan Shepherd.

Rowe, Bodine, Shepherd and New England legends Dick McCabe of Kennebunkport and Robbie Crouch produced a record 17 lead changes.

“It was awesome. We had the only V6 (engine) car in the field, and as the race went on we were good because we had a 200-pound weight break,” Rowe said earlier this week. “If there had been a restart with 10 laps to go we would have been toast.”

Rowe began racing in 1969. Most of his current competitors weren’t alive when Rowe, 18, won his first Charger division race at Oxford.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” said defending Oxford 250 champion Travis Benjamin, 35, of Morrill. “He’s just a real tough competitor. You don’t want to piss him off. I’ve learned that a couple times. If you rub him the wrong way, he’s not afraid to give it back to you. But he’ll also respect you if you show him respect.”

Rowe isn’t all hammer, Benjamin said. He knows how to be subtle.

“Early this year at Beech Ridge, he won and I came in second,” Benjamin said, speaking of a Pro All Stars Series race. “I was right on him. Then he changed his line just a little. I tried it. I went slower and he went faster. He can do that. He can make a car just do stuff to make his car better.”

At his age, one might assume Rowe would struggle in longer races like the 250.

One would be wrong.

Relaxed and patient, Rowe knows how to manage his car and preserve his tires. He knows long races can only be lost in the first 50 laps.

“I tell you, the longer the race, the better I am and the longer the green laps, the better I am,” Rowe said. “The young guys, they’ll peter out quicker than I do.”

Maybe part of the reason is that Rowe knows the value of a full day’s work.

Rowe and his sons, Tom and Ben, run the family excavation company, Mike Rowe and Sons Trucking. Both sons followed their dad into racing. Ben won back-to-back 250s in 2003-04 and, like his father, is a regular on the Pro All Stars Series, which travels throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Canada.

Ben Rowe knows he’s biased when it comes to his father. He also knows a thing or two about racing.

“You’d talk about him back in the day with the Dick McCabes and the Dave Dions and the Bentley Warrens. He was in that conversation,” Ben Rowe said. “And you’re talking about him now with the DJ Shaws and the Joey Doirons. You know what I mean? He hasn’t gone anywhere, and he’s still winning races.”

Ben Rowe says toughness is what really makes his father who he is on the track.

“I don’t care if you’re running for 10th or for the lead, he is the toughest guy to pass, the toughest guy to get around,” Ben Rowe said. “He knows exactly what his car is doing, and half the time he knows what yours is going to do.”

If there is a young driver who might convince Rowe to take a backseat, it could be his 14-year-old grandson Gunnar, Tom’s son. Gunnar Rowe is in his first season in Oxford Plains’ top weekly division.

“Once he gets rolling, I’d like to work with him a little more,” Mike Rowe said. Then he quickly added, “Yet, I still like racing, so I’m going to do it as long as I can. What do I do when I give up? Stand around and watch somebody? I’d rather be out there sweating my butt off and doing what makes me feel good.”

Ben Rowe figures his dad’s retirement from racing won’t happening any time soon.

“When he’s still out there beating me, beating these young kids that are coming up, why retire?” he said. “He’s still at the top of his game. I’m telling you, he has a better shot than anybody of winning this race.”