OXFORD — For a driver who’s more than a decade younger than the race itself and someone who didn’t grow up studying its history, Brad Keselowski shows a keen understanding of the TD Bank 250.

While waiting out a rain delay during his lone scheduled pre-race test session at Oxford Plains Speedway, the 26-year-old NASCAR Nationwide Series star and Sprint Cup sophomore described the short-track summer classic as a “T-shirt race.”

“I want the T-shirt. It’s one of those races you go to and you have to buy the T-shirt,” Keselowski said Thursday morning.

He was informed that, indeed, the supply of colorful 250 tees at the OPS souvenir trailer is exhausted almost every year. Somebody else mentioned that the title sponsor even awards a $250 gift card to the spectator wearing the oldest one, inspiring a nostalgic few to dig oil-stained, moth-eaten throwbacks from 1983 out of their closets.

Seeing OPS owner Bill Ryan within earshot, Keselowski called out, “Hey, if I win, do I get my name on the T-shirt?”

Ryan explained that the number of names outgrew the fabric somewhere around the turn of the century. “But if you win,” he told Keselowski, “you’ll be on there next year. I guarantee it.”

Keselowski hopes to put his name two lines beneath NASCAR Sprint Cup point leader Kevin Harvick’s on that hypothetical piece of apparel. Harvick won the 2008 showcase.

He’d also put himself on someone’s back along with three-time champions and regional racing legends Mike Rowe, Dave Dion and Ralph Nason. Or share the cotton and polyester with longshots Tom Rosati, Don Biederman, Larry Gelinas and Jeremie Whorff.

That blend of past and present, old and young, superlative and surprise is what gives the TD Bank 250 its distinct flavor. And while his is the nationally recognized name on the marquee this summer, Keselowski knows he’ll be a small part of the allure when the 37th annual event unfolds Sunday, July 18.

“It’s the first time I’ve been in a late model in about six years,” Keselowski said. “It’s something I want to do a lot more of. Kyle (Busch) started running a lot of these races, and now he has his own car. I have a late model. I don’t think it would be legal here.”

Kendall Roberts of Vermont will furnish Keselowski’s ride in the 250. Roberts owns the car John Donahue drove to a top-three finish here last July. He also provided the wheels for NASCAR Nationwide driver Steve Wallace.

Wallace’s scheduled practice fell victim to severe thunderstorms in 2009. Keselowski estimated that he turned 20 laps Thursday morning before light rain put his session in jeopardy.

Keselowski’s first competitive laps around the 3/8-mile oval won’t be a blind date, though, thanks to modern technology. The Penske Racing driver said he spent much of the week learning Oxford’s idiosyncrasies on iRacing, a computer simulation.

Like most OPS newcomers, Keselowski was struck by the unorthodox “reverse banking” of the frontstretch that slants downward toward the concrete wall.

“The nuances of every track are different,” Keselowski said. “Right now I’m just trying to understand it all, take it all in. That dropoff is something I’m not used to. I like how the infield is open and you can slide off the track without wrecking. That’s nice.”

Thursday’s rain gave Keselowski a chance to do what comes naturally to drivers and their teams during such delays — standing in the back of the car hauler and swapping stories.

Keselowski currently leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings. The TD Bank 250 was part of that series (then Busch Grand National) from 1986 to 1991.

The driver was vaguely familiar with those details. He was surprised to learn, however, that Oxford’s Saturday night late models competed against the likes of Butch Lindley, Tommy Houston and Morgan Shepherd, with weight penalties used to level the playing field.

Ryan told Keselowski of a picture taken at the 1991 drivers’ meeting that captured a 19-year-old, lightly mustachioed Jeff Gordon.

“Oh, man, I’ve seen a picture like that. When I was his teammate (at Hendrick Motorsports) we gave him a hard time. Told him he looked like (young development driver) Landon Cassill,” Keselowski said. “He got so mad. He just said, ‘(Expletive) you guys.’ And let me tell you, when Jeff Gordon says ‘(Expletive) you,’ it’s special. I still think of him as the 1998 Jeff Gordon who got out of the car and said, ‘Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus.'”

Gordon and fellow Cup champions Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Bobby and Terry Labonte are part of the race’s proud past.

More recent champions Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch and stars Harvick, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have spiced up the roster since 2004.

Keselowski is tackling the 250 on a rare off weekend for Cup. He’ll compete in a Nationwide race at Gateway International Raceway in Joliet, Ill., on the night of Saturday, July 17.

The next day’s competition, though serious, will be a welcome break from what has been an up-and-down, sometimes contentious Cup season. It began with NASCAR promising to let drivers take off the gloves, hinting strongly at reduced penalties for on-track aggression.

Keselowski made headlines and highlight shows in March when a retaliatory bump from Carl Edwards put his car on its roof at Atlanta. That war of words soon cooled and took a backseat to battles between Harvick and Joey Logano, and most recently, Gordon and Martin Truex Jr.

“I think it has created so many feuds that I can’t even keep up with who’s mad at who,” Keselowski said. “They don’t last long enough.”

Not as long as a TD Bank 250 T-shirt, that’s for sure.

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