Harvick to run Oxford 250

Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan can tell pretty early in the conversation when a driver is serious about his entry into Maine's annual summer stock-car racing classic.

"When they're like, 'What's the practice schedule?', I know they're pretty serious about it," Ryan said on Thursday afternoon, moments after confirming that defending Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick has filed an entry for the 35th annual TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains on July 20.

Harvick first approached Ryan about running the race roughly three weeks ago.

"It moved along pretty quickly from there," Ryan said.

The entry parallels that of former NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, who competed in the 250 in 2004. Like Busch, Harvick will prepare his own car for the Late Model event. Kevin Harvick Inc. will field and crew the car on race weekend.

Ryan said Harvick and his wife were discussing his 2008 schedule, deciding which prestigious short-track races they wanted to run. The TD Banknorth 250 was near the top of the list for the driver who runs the No. 29 Shell Chevrolets for Richard Childress Racing in the Sprint Cup Series, according to Ryan.

Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch each participated in the Oxford 250 twice, and other current and former Cup drivers like Kevin Lepage, J.J. Yeley, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Craven and Terry Labonte have also run the race in recent years.


Reverse gear: 2007's Top 10

No. 6

Car of Tomorrow

Obviously, this story would appear much higher on the list if I were focused solely on the national stock car racing scene. But just because we're giving local interests the nod in this space doesn't mean New Englanders weren't affected by NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow.

Two rather uneventful races at New Hampshire International Speedway in 2007 made sure of that. Just ask the 100,000 people who paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 bucks a whack to watch a 43-car parade what they thought.

In that small sample of COT competition, some things became painfully evident. The improved competition NASCAR hoped to produce didn't materialize (at least not immediately) and a few teams (read: Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing) had the early handle on the COT's performance and took advantage of that.

Only a late-race charge by Jeff Gordon in June provided anything in the way of drama during either Denny Hamlin's (June) or Clint Bowyer's (September) marches to victory lane. If NASCAR doesn't get the competition it seeks from the 2008 season -- when the Sprint Cup Series runs the COT exclusively -- then the multi-year project will prove to be a bust.

A big bust.