It would be excusable if running the Oxford 250 became old hat for Mike Rowe. He’s been running it for well over 30 years and has won the thing three times.

But Rowe was wearing a new Oxford 250 hat Wednesday at media day, which might metaphorically represent how he feels about the race.

Mike Rowe waits to be called during the pre-race draw at the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in August 2017. Sun Journal file photo

It’s still new and fresh to him. It isn’t old hat.

“Every time you come into the 250, it means the same thing,” Rowe said. “This race means a lot. It’s like a Daytona 500 for us. It’s our biggest race here, and, man, if I could win this thing and be the only four-time winner, it’d be awesome.”

Rowe’s eternal exuberance for the race has been passed down to his son, Ben, who is a two-time winner.

“The meaning of it, I think it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger every year,” the younger Rowe said.

“I was just saying, I remember in ’84, as a kid, sitting in the stands and watching my dad win, the first Maine driver to win it, and it was huge then,” Ben Rowe added. “The media, seeing it on TV, you know what I mean, that’s the big thing. Read it in the paper, seeing it on TV, that’s when it tells us, ‘Man, this thing’s pretty cool,’ that everybody is getting involved. And the campers that are here. And the amount of people that come to this one race, it’s pretty cool.”

The mere mention of “The 250” (as it’s known locally) brings a twinkle to the eye of any Northern New England driver.

“You can’t really describe it, you know,” Scarborough driver Garrett Hall said. “It’s an awesome race, and I don’t know whether it’s more about winning the money or if it’s just how prestigious it is.

“And a lot of work and time goes into it. Everybody just drops everything that they’re doing, and everybody focuses on this race within a month or two prior to the race. And it’s something that everybody has to work hard toward, and a lot of hard work goes into this.”

Perhaps nobody has put more work into the event than Oxford Plains Speedway owner Tom Mayberry and his son Mike, the track’s vice president.

Mayberry said at Wednesday’s media day that they start planning for the race just after Labor Day — some 50 weeks out from the next year’s event.

“It’s pretty much what we look forward to all year,” Tom Mayberry said. “And, obviously, I raced in it a few times, and, you know, raced here for a lot of years. It’s definitely what we build everything around.”

Mayberry added that the event was “everything” even before he owned the track.

“We planned everything around it back then, too,” he said. “I was fortunate enough in ’97 to sit on the outside pole, and lead some of it. It’s definitely, just like they say, it’s the race you dream to win.”

That dream doesn’t only belong to those who live in the state (or neighboring New Hampshire). It was a bucket-list event for last year’s winner, Georgia native Bubba Pollard, and he’s not the only not-from-around-here driver who feels that way.

“It’s the biggest race of the year, alongside of the Snowball Derby (in Florida),” Nova Scotia driver Cole Butcher said. “We want to show them we are the best and beat the best.”

“It’s always been a race I’ve wanted to race in, and it’s about the biggest race I’ll ever get to run in,” young New Brunswick racer Ashton Tucker said.

The 2017 champ, Curtis Gerry, said the Oxford 250 is still an iconic race for him.

“We won it in 2017, but it still hasn’t changed, it’s still the prestige of it, the magnitude of it,” Gerry added. “To win it again would be just as special as the first time we won it, because it’s that hard, it’s that much of a feat.”

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