OXFORD — They came with their cameras, coolers, crazy shirts, colorful hats and koozies.

They came to cheer on their hometown favorites, check out car racing’s future class and catch a glimpse of NASCAR’s cream of the crop.

And some just came for the crashes.

Thousands of stock car racing fans from across the region flocked to Oxford Plains Speedway for Sunday’s 36th annual TD Banknorth 250.

“It’s fun. It’s exciting, and it’s quick,” said Randy Nutter, who attended the event with his 7-year-old son, Alex. “It’s just the competition of getting around other people to get to the front.”

Nutter is more than your average race fan. The 42-year-old Auburn father has a personal connection to the Oxford track because he races here every Wednesday night.

Alex Nutter, decked out in a Maine-Ly Action Sports T-shirt two sizes too big for him, Spongebob wrap-around sunglasses and binoculars bigger than his small frame hanging from his neck, excitedly waved his black-and-white checkered flag as stock cars raced past at upwards of 80 mph.

Fans were far from disappointed by Sunday’s event. Mother Nature took a break from her seemingly relentless rain and offered up an afternoon of sunshine and gentle breezes for die-hard race fans like Leslie Stimans, 31, and his girlfriend, Rhonda Phillips, 44. The Wilton couple arrived bright and early to stake their claim in the front row of the grandstand.

“This is one of the greatest races of the year,” Stimans said. “It’s short-track racing, so it usually doesn’t last as long as a NASCAR race does. Plus, it’s local, and it don’t cost too much to get in.”

Revving engines, air-horns and classic rock blaring from the loudspeakers signaled the starts of several heats throughout the afternoon. Drivers from around the region jockeyed for position in hopes of speeding their way into one of the coveted 43 spots in the big race.

Fans, meanwhile, eagerly awaited the phrase they all came there to hear as the 40-lap feature race grew nearer and nearer.

“Gentlemen … start your engines!”

The grandstand started filling up with fans as cars racing in the final qualifying heat burned rubber on the asphalt and sent dust flying over the fence into the front row.

“My favorite part about racing is the excitement, the win and the enjoyment,” said Jerry Guerrette, 31, of Hamden, who was attending his fourth straight TD Banknorth 250 with friends. “This speedway provides awesome racing services. This is the best track of all the tracks in Maine.”

Looking back at the crowd from his position at the fence, Guerrette said that more and more people are becoming interested in racing because it’s a sport where people can pick favorite drivers and relate to their lives.

For some, like Shannon Hopkins, racing runs through their blood. The
12-year-old Camden girl said her dream is to one day follow in the
footsteps of her father and uncle and climb behind the wheel of a stock
car.

“I’ve been around races since I was born,” Hopkins said, looking out and offering up a cheer as the cars buzzed past. “I
really like racing. I want to race, but my dad won’t let me because
it’s dangerous. I guess racing just runs through my veins.”

And then, of course, there were those who simply wanted to see something smashed up.

“I like this race better than the last one I went to,” said 9-year-old Randall Scroggins, of Rumney, N.H.

Scroggins and his family attended Sunday’s race thanks to winning tickets at a charity auction. Randall’s favorite part of the race was watching the cars spin off the track after bumping into each other. He was far from alone in that sentiment.

“I’m most looking forward to the final heat when they all go at it,” said Stimans, looking over just in time to see two cars bounce off one another. “I’m definitely looking forward to the crashes.”

Randy Nutter and his son, Alex, 7, of Auburn, watch racing action before the start of the TD Banknorth 250 Saturday at Oxford Plains Speedway. “The best seats are up in C section because you can see
the cars come down the straight-away,” said Nutter.

Tanner McDougal, 8, of Brookfield, N.H., waves his checkered flag at passing cars before the start of TD Banknorth 250 Saturday.

An estimated 12,000 to 14,000 people attended the TD Banknorth 250 Saturday at Oxford Plains Speedway.


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