PORTLAND — Glen Luce couldn’t help but get caught up in the thrill and excitement of it all.

He had finished second to Kevin Harvick in the TD Banknorth 250 last July. It was a wonderful moment for the Turner native, but soon that euphoria wore off and reality began to set in.

“When the newness wore off, I wished the hell we had won the thing,” said Luce.

Luce experienced a near-miss that can be both a blessing and a curse. He won $12,500 last year with his runner-up finish to Harvick. It was a great thrill and payday, but Luce hasn’t been able to forget about what could have been.

“I really believe that had they not had the caution with 10 to go, we’d have given him a run for his money,” said Luce. “We were closing like a car a lap. He was loose. You could see him breaking loose out of the turns.”

Luce started the race in the 38th spot but hung around long enough to make a charge at the end. He had Harvick in his sights but a dozen cautions slowed the pace and kept Luce at bay. Harvick managed to hold the lead late in the race and edged out Luce by three car lengths.

“He believed it himself,” said Luce of Harvick. “I had a few cold beverages with him after the race. He said the same thing. He said, ‘That caution saved me.'”

Still, it was a superb race for Luce and a great experience. He hopes to find the same luck he had a year ago on Sunday.

“We knew we were capable of it,” he said. “Just that itself was a great accomplishment and a dream come true for us. We’re all locals, volunteer help, friends, family. It meant the world to us.”

Luce hoped the race would lead to bigger and better things for him and his team. He had a few good outings but this year, his car has been a bit temperamental.

“We thought we’d carry that momentum on,” said Luce. “We got third in the next OPS ACT race. We were a threat to win a couple of other ACT races. For some reason, we’re struggling with the car this year.”

Luce is driving that same car that propelled him to the second-place finish, but his ride hasn’t been as fast. The car has been tight all year.

Recently in a race in Ontario, Luce qualified third. It was a race he was in contention to win last year before a late wreck nixed his chances. This year, he struggled to keep pace with the field.

“I went right backwards like a boat anchor,” he said.

It has been frustrating for him and his team as they’ve struggled to find solutions. They even summoned Jeff Taylor, of Distance Racing, for his advice.

“I gave everyone a pep talk at the shop (Tuesday),” said Luce. “We know we’re capable of it. We know we can do it. We’ve just got to go show them. You get down on yourself. I’ve questioned myself. Am I telling the guys what the car’s doing?”

Luce says he’ll have the chance to test his ride more this week and has plenty of practice sessions to work the kinks out before Sunday’s main event.

“We know we can do it,” said Luce. “We were fast out there. We know that. It’s the same car. We just don’t know why it’s not running like it was. We’ll throw some new things at it this weekend.”

If Luce can get the car where he wants it, he recognizes that last year’s experience put him in pretty good stead to try it again. He’ll offer the same approach and hope a patient, even-keeled mentality early might pay off late.

“Starting deep in the field like we did, you’ve just got to keep your fenders on it and stay on the lead lap,” he said. “Obviously, we knew we had a good car, but you couldn’t force the issue. There were times I passed the same cars two or three times. I’d give and take, and it worked. We were around with 50 to go. Our car typically stays consistent and the other cars come to us. We hope we stay in it and can get into it at the end.” 

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