250 PITS SHORT TRACK RACERS AGAINST CUP STARS by Mike Twist
Big Names Draw Fans and Make For Good Compeition
Current NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers Kyle Busch, J.J Yeley and Denny Hamlin are all entered in this year’s race along with Ricky Craven, who is one of only 17 drivers to have won in NASCAR’s three highest divisions. It gives the little guy a chance to race against the big guys. It also gives fans who might never make it to a Cup race, the chance to see a few of the top stars racing at a nearby track.
And of course, all of these guys are racers, so beating their fellow racers is the top priority.
"I'm just a hillbilly from Farmington,” said PASS regular Cassius Clark. “It's fun to be out there on the same track with the guys we watch on TV every week. It makes you want to beat them."
The TD Banknorth 250 is one of only a handful of short track events in the country where touring stars and Saturday night heroes get the opportunity to race against a handful of NASCAR personalities.
Denny Hamlin is one of the Cup drivers going to this year's 250. (NASCAR Photo)
“It’s really not that different racing against these guys,” said PASS Rookie Alan Tardiff. “There are the names and you see these guys on TV. To race against those guys is the cool thing about it. But I don’t see it as a special event really. They’re not really different than us other than the fact that they get paid to do what they love to do.”
"It doesn't matter to me if they're here or not,” said 2001 250 winner Gary Drew. “They wake up and put on their pants the same way we do. We started outside of Kyle Busch in our heat race last year. There's a lot of respect back and forth. They're there to race and to win, and so are we."
"Kyle [Busch] told me he's going to move me out of the way,” said Mike Rowe. “I told him I hope he's not leading on the last lap and I'm behind him.
The 250 competitors who have raced against the Cup competitors have found memories of the experiences.
“We raced Jimmy Spencer pretty hard at Thompson [in a PASS North race] a couple weeks ago, but this is a whole different deal,” said Ben Rowe, a two-time 250 winner. “I look back to Matt Kenseth [in the 250] two years ago. When we caught him, he knew we were faster than he was, and he just waved me by. They do this week in and week out and make a million dollars, but it's just fun to race against them. We're in pretty much the same equipment and know we're on equal footing.”
“Two years ago, we looked over a couple of rows while we were lined up for our heat race and noticed Kurt Busch,” said PASS regular Travis Khiel. “That was kind of cool, but once you're out there on the track you forget who's in which car. You're just trying to make the show.”
"We always dreamed of racing against these guys,” said Oxford regular Bill Whorff, Jr. “We'd never get to race down south full-time at this point in our career, so what better place to do it than here on our home track? There are a lot of talented guys that race in Maine who just won't get that opportunity to race down there."
The added prestige that the Cup drivers bring to the
event is a good thing too.
“Of course it brings more attention to the race,” said
Tardiff. “There are a lot of hardcore fans out there who
might come out to the racetrack to get an autograph or
to see their favorite driver firsthand. It does help out the
race a lot. They’d pack the stands anyway, but this
really assures them of doing that.”
Speed51.com will have a full lineup of coverage for this
year’s TD Banknorth 250. Stay tuned for updates and
stories throughout the weekend.
Tickets for the TD Banknorth 250 are available but going quickly. Call the Speedway box office now at (207) 539-8865 to reserve your seat. Qualifying begins Sunday at 2 p.m.
The TD Banknorth 250 is the final installment of a three-day race weekend, all presented by New England Dodge Dealers. Friday and Saturday night action begins at 6:30 pm.