OXFORD – One of NASCAR’s living legends will continue the recent tradition of Nextel Cup champions competing in the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Terry Labonte, who won stock car racing’s top prize in 1984 and 1996 has entered the 34th annual race on Sunday, July 22.

Labonte, 50, plans to compete in a car prepared by Richard Moody Racing from Auburn. He will attempt to make his fourth career start in the TD Banknorth 250 as a teammate to two-time race champion Ben Rowe of Turner. Labonte qualified for the OPS crown jewel in 1983, 1986 and 1992, with a best finish of 17th in his third try.

“I’m excited to get back to Oxford and be part of that great TD Banknorth 250 tradition,” Labonte said in a news release. “My family has roots in the Rumford area, and I’ve always been fortunate to have a lot of friends and fans up there. It’s a race I have always wanted to win, and I believe this is going to be my best chance yet.”

Known as one of stock car’s most versatile and durable drivers, Labonte won 22 races in a Nextel Cup career that spanned 29 seasons. With 182 top-5 finishes and 361 top-10 showings in 848 starts, Labonte won $36.5 million prize money in NASCAR’s premier series.

While some drivers specialize in super speedways, short tracks or road courses, one secret to Labonte’s consistency over the years has been his strength on all configurations. Among his Nextel Cup race victories were four at cozy North Wilkesboro, three at high-banked Bristol and two each at full-throttle Talladega, rough-and-tumble Darlington and triangular Pocono.

Labonte, who retired from Nextel Cup racing last year, is part of the elite group of drivers to win at least one race in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series.

“It’s an honor to have Terry Labonte drive one of our cars,” team owner Richard Moody said in the news release. “We love racing. We race different cars in different series all over the country, and Terry has always been that kind of driver, also. He still has that competitive fire, and I don’t think it will take him much time at all to show everyone that he hasn’t forgotten how to get around Oxford.”

Two RMR cars qualified for last year’s TD Banknorth 250. Rowe won a heat race and led several early laps before he was involved in a crash. Trevor Sanborn finished sixth in his first 250 start.

Richard Moody Racing and Rowe have tuned up for the 2007 season by competing in a series of winter all-star races in Florida and Alabama.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Labonte is already one of nine Nextel Cup champions to compete in the TD Banknorth 250. Kurt Busch (2004) and Matt Kenseth (2004, 2005) joined the ranks in recent years. The others are Terry’s brother Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace. Four drivers with NASCAR ties – Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley and Ricky Craven – competed last summer.

“It’s a fun race, but it’s a tough, tough race,” Labonte said. “I remember the first time we tried to qualify, we looked around and saw something like 100 other cars. I’m hearing that they’ve already broken that record by a bunch. You just have to get up on the steering wheel and go after it.”

Labonte’s father, Bob, was born and raised in Western Maine before relocating to the south.

The winner’s share remains a minimum of $25,000, with the potential to double that total by earning lap-leader bonus money at $100 per turn. Drivers will draw for starting position in a series of 20-lap heat races, setting the tone for what promises to be the wildest qualifying session in TD Banknorth 250 history.

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