OXFORD — He came back to Maine with the sole purpose of finishing some unfinished business.
After two previous tries that ended in disappointment, Kyle Busch closed the deal Sunday night.
The 25-year old NASCAR superstar drove underneath Jeff Taylor as the Oxford Plains Speedway veteran slid up the racetrack on lap 230, got the jump on a late-race restart and survived a 16-lap sprint to the finish to win the 38th annual TD Bank 250.
Busch started fifth on the 38-car grid, led on two occasions for a total of 69 laps and had enough left in his car to pull off the victory. Vermont native and 2010 Thunder Road track champion Nick Sweet led from lap 57 through the 123rd circuit and finished a close second, while 17-year-old Austin Theriault had a career-best run to claim third.
Two-time defending 250 champion Eddie MacDonald recovered nicely from a mid-race spin to finish fourth, while multi-time touring series champion Brian Hoar completed the top five.
“I knew that the tires on this type of Late Model are pretty tricky and really difficult to save,” Busch said. “Jeff Taylor was really strong, and Nick (Sweet) was really fast, as well, and then Austin was really coming on there in the closing laps. This was a heck of a show from my vantage point, we were all over each other for the lead.
“I have to thank the guys on my crew, T.J. Brackett and Seth Holbrook for setting up my car, we were pretty awesome this weekend.”
Busch earned $31,900 for his victory with lap money and the winner’s purse combined.
Sweet is a real powerhouse at his home track of Thunder Road, and is capable of podium finishes any time he competes on the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) circuit.
“I knew we had a really good race car today,” Sweet said. “My hat is off to Kyle, he just plain outdrove me there at the end, that’s why he’s a true professional. The car was good here this weekend from the time we unloaded, the car was strong today and even though I would have loved to win, we’ll take second in the 250 and head back to Vermont with a big smile.”
Theriault turned heads on the ACT circuit in 2010 with several solid runs in a family-owned machine. Even though he is now a part of the well-heeled RPM Racing organization of of Vermont, it was the familiar black No. 57 entry that carried him to such an impressive finish.
The young athlete held MacDonald at bay like a true veteran.
“We rolled the race in the beginning of the race and took left side tires,” Theriault said. “That move put us at the back of the pack, but fortunately another caution came out so we bolted on right side tires and came blasting through the field.
“I just can’t believe we’re up here, third place is third place in this race is awesome. Everybody was running close the whole race, it was exciting to be a part of it and come away with such a great run.”
Finishing sixth through 10th in this year’s 250 were Jeff Taylor, John Donahue, Shawn Martin, Eric Williams and Quinny Welch.
Twelve of the 38 starters finished on the lead lap, while 31 were still running at the finish. Five cautions slowed the pace, and the event was completed in about one hour and 43 minutes. Busch’s margin of victory over Sweet was just under a half second, about as close ass it gets after 250 laps.
Other notable finishers in this year’s mid-summer classic include former race winner Larry Gelinas (14th); ACT stalwart Joey Polewarczyk Jr. (15th); 2010 Oxford Late Model champion Tim Brackett (17th); multi-time ACT champion Jean Paul Cyr (21st); Quebec veteran Patrick Laperle (24th); polesitter and Oxford regular Ben Ashline of Pittston (30th); two-time 250 winner Jamie Aube (37th); and two-time NASCAR Busch North champion Brad Leighton (38th).
The 38th annual 250 delivered plenty of green flag racing, with few cautions as drivers showed respect for one another. Eighty-two cars attempted to qualify for the 38-car field, a sign of good health for New England’s ACT-style Late Model fraternity.
In earlier feature action, Jimmy Childs held off a hard-charging Danny Morris to win the 30-lap Mini Stock feature. Divisional strongman Darrell Moore powered his way to third behind Morris, while Jeff Prindall and Chris Morris completed the top five.
Rick Spaulding notched his second Strictly Stock victory of the season with a solid performance. The veteran from Lisbon took the lead mid-race and held off a late-race charge from Matt Williams for top honors. Defending champion Kurt Hewins rebounded from a tough Saturday night show to finish third, while Zach Bowie and former champion Larry Emerson completed the top five.