Local drivers call the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway their Daytona 500.

Not sure I see the connection there, if only because I’ve been trying to put my finger on the short track showcase since I was old enough to pick “Mike Whoa,” and Daytona is a hell of a lot easier to handicap.

Seriously, my ability to pick the winner of NASCAR’s Super Bowl is uncanny. Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip each enjoyed the Budweiser bath after I forecast it to happen. In writing.

My profit from this talent is somewhere between diddley and squat. Meanwhile, my batting average regarding the race I should know a thing or two about is so Julio Lugo-like that it’s humiliating.

That career-long, 2-for-17 slump is so much the stuff of local legend that the editors have asked me to defy every conflict of interest, emerge from my camper and utter the two words that will send some poor sucker from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Quebec, Ontario or parts unknown reaching for the Pepto-Bismol.

Yeah, nice of them to make that request this year. Why didn’t they ask me to rip out pages one-by-one until I settled upon the hottest woman in this month’s issue of Maxim?

Would have been easier. I won’t ever be within the same area code as Jessica Biel, and if I am, she’ll probably call the police. Later today, by contrast, I will have to walk past some poor, jinxed soul. Probably even shake his hand during driver introductions, if he makes it that far.

Fifty drivers, minimum, have a legitimate chance to win this year’s TD Banknorth 250. That’s not the exhaust-induced hyperbole that I’ve been able to spew on autopilot this week. It’s the honest assessment you’ll hear from anyone without an axe to grind.

Love them or believe that they’re the embodiment of evil (yup, I’m squarely in the “love” category), Late Models have leveled and expanded the playing field in this time-tested event.

Regional racing legends Bobby Dragon, Robbie Crouch, Brad Leighton, Kevin Lepage and Jamie Aube are expected to converge upon the 3/8-mile oval for the first time in years. Touring titans Jean-Paul Cyr, Brian Hoar and Eddie MacDonald and home track hotshots Travis Adams and Shawn Martin have an “in” for the first time. Most of the familiar faces, namely Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe, Dale Shaw, Tim Brackett and Scott Robbins, wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And one of ’em gets the shaft before Bill Ryan even opens up the goldmine.

Did I say two words? I meant three. With a hyphen. Jean-Paul Cyr will add Oxford’s choicest hardware to his collection of six American-Canadian Tour championships tonight.

Thanks to me, he now has a snowball’s chance in Daytona.

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