OXFORD —The quietest Oxford 250 title defense in history is happening this weekend.

Last year’s event ended with Nova Scotia’s Cole Butcher emerging from a tangle late to claim the Oxford 250 win, handing Canada its first triumph in the race since Dave Whitlock took the trophy  in 1995.

The oddest silence surrounding Sunday’s 50th annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway has been the lack of buzz about Butcher.

“It really is weird, because Cole is fast everywhere he goes,” said Brad Hammond, who is working as the tire specialist for Oxford Plains Speedway weekly competitor Kate Re this weekend. “He’s been racing more now, racing more on a weekly basis. I think he’s racier than he’s ever been. His racing IQ, he gets it now. He paces himself, and he’s got a really good feel for a race car.”

Butcher may not have the career credentials of some other drivers in the field for Sunday’s race, but his victory was not a fluke. Having driven for Donnie Wilson Racing since 2016, one of the most well-respected driver development organizations in the country, the 26-year old Butcher owns significant Super Late Model victories at Hickory (North Carolina) Motor Speedway, Indiana’s Anderson Speedway and Scotia Speedworld in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Butcher’s also earned three top-five finishes in December’s annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida — arguably the lone short-track race in the nation to have surpassed the Oxford 250 in terms of both prestige and competition.

Butcher himself doesn’t care much for attention.


“It’s kind of like that every year,” said Butcher, who has five career Oxford 250 starts. “You put your head down, and you go do it again the next year. The pressure’s kind of off (after winning). If you do it again, great. If you don’t, who cares? You’ve still got the trophy at home.”

Just like in last year’s win, Butcher is driving his own car this weekend and not one prepared by Donnie Wilson Racing. Throughout Saturday’s two Oxford 250 practice sessions, Butcher ran laps times consistently among the quickest.

Hammond, who works select races for Donnie Wilson, believes that should make everybody nervous.

“I would be. He’s lethal here,” said Hammond, who grew up racing at Oxford Plains and owns 16 career feature victories as a driver at the track. “Cole’s one of those guys that everyone feels like he’s an underdog, but he’s fast everywhere he goes. He runs against the best Super Late Model guys anywhere and competes.”

Hammond has some insight into Butcher’s abilities. More significantly, he also has insight into how overlooked Butcher is. Even when Donnie Wilson Racing brings three or four cars to races, most of the outside focus is on drivers like Jesse Love or Giovanni Ruggiero — two drivers firmly entrenched in the NASCAR pipeline — despite often out-performing his teammates.

Hammond said he’s always eager to be assigned tire work for Butcher’s No. 53.


“I’m like, ‘Cool, I’ll work with Cole anytime,’ “ Hammond said. “He’s so good. He’s a really great kid, and parents and family are great, too. “

If the outside world is understated in its praise of Butcher’s Oxford 250 win in 2022, it’s in part because the driver himself is so understated about it.

He said that nothing really stands out as spectacular about the victory. He didn’t feel like there were unreasonable expectations to perform at Oxford — though he’d won a Pro All Stars Series race at the track in the spring of 2022 — nor did he feel like he had something to prove.

“None of that stuff really bothers me,” Butcher said. “If you win, you win, and if you don’t, you don’t. Last year was definitely nice to get it off the bucket list, but it’s just like the Snowball Derby. If you win, great. No matter what happens, we’ll keep trying and we’ll keep coming back.”

If anything drives Butcher toward a repeat effort this weekend, it’s the significance of the golden anniversary of the race.

“You still want to win the race and make everybody proud, and this being the 50th year, it makes it even more special. You want to be the guy that wins the big five-oh,” Butcher said. “We’ll see what happens. We have a decent car, but a lot can change between now and (Sunday) night.”

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