PHOTO: Cancer-free, Ricky Rolfe (top) says he’s going to beat Kyle Busch (bottom) to win the TD Bank 250 on Sunday. (Rolfe photo by Leif Tillotson; Busch photo by T.J. Ingerson/VMM)

OXFORD, Me. — “We will celebrate for a week,” says Ricky Rolfe. And win or lose, he deserves to celebrate.

Should the Albany, Me., driver achieve his goal — his prediction, no less — of beating Kyle Busch and winning Sunday’s TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, it would complete an inspiring story 16 months in the making.

Rolfe, a two-time Oxford track champion, was diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2010.

After doctors removed the tumor and one-third of his colon, Rolfe raced during the summer while undergoing chemotherapy treatments. He brought his HANS head-and-neck restraint system into his physician’s office in order to mount his chemo port in a location that wouldn’t affect him while in the race car, and scheduled chemo treatments for Monday mornings so that he could recover during the week in time to race at Oxford on Saturday nights.

And not only did Rolfe race, he won. He picked up a victory during the season and was eventually completely clear of the cancer by the end of the winter. He won again on opening night at Oxford on May 28, and feels he has his best chance ever to win the TD Bank 250 on Sunday.

Winning the race, Rolfe says, “would be big, not only for what I’ve been through last summer, and not only me, but for my crew,” who stepped in for the expert chassis builder during his illness. “They put up with a lot of stuff last summer, too. I couldn’t work on the cars 100% and they filled in.”

During the treatment process, Rolfe also underwent a career change. He moved from his longtime employer, chassis fabricator Race Basics, and started his own RB Performance with team owner Mark Brackett.

“It’s for the better I hope,” Rolfe says. “I get to work on my own cars a little bit more than I used to during the day and I still work on customers’ cars when we’ve got time.”

Working on his car is something Rolfe has put extra time into in recent weeks. Beating NASCAR star Kyle Busch — whose car this weekend, like Rolfe’s, is No. 51 — and winning the TD Bank 250 is his ultimate goal. Busch just earned his 100th victory in NASCAR’s top three national tours last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, taking a Nationwide Series win. He’s in town to race at Oxford for the third time since 2005 and has his eyes on the big trophy.

Rolfe says he appreciates the extra attention Busch has brought to race, and takes his very seriously as a competitor. “I like it, myself. It brings more attention to the race and it brings more fans. We don’t want to race in front of an empty grandstand, we want to race in front of a lot of people. That’s what makes it exciting for us,” Rolfe said.

The experience Busch brings to the race — in addition to his previous knowledge of the 3/8-mile oval — makes him an instant threat for the win.

“He races three times a week, plus he probably goes to test another two times a week, so he’s in the race car four or five times a week, and he can adapt to any race track there is,” Rolfe said. “Just look at his record. He adapts fast, and he’s been to Oxford before, so he knows the place just as good as I do, and I’ve been there my whole life.”

Rolfe says the odds are in neither driver’s favor, and that if it comes down to the two of them during the final laps, he won’t be afraid to get as aggressive with Busch as Busch is known to be with his NASCAR competitors.

“Fifty-fifty, I think we’re even,” Rolfe said. “You gotta do what you gotta do. You can’t make it deliberate, because you can’t get black flagged and get taken out of second place. You’ve got to look at the big picture, and second place is better than getting black flagged and disqualified. But second just sucks.”

Rolfe says the challenge of beating Busch is just as much fun as the challenge of beating the region’s top Late Model stars, like Brian Hoar, Joey Polewarczyk, or two-time defending TD Bank 250 winner Eddie MacDonald, but it probably would mean more.

“For my fans and my family and crew maybe it would feel good to finish second to Kyle compared to them other guys. I can finish second to them other guys any time,” Rolfe chuckles. “You only get a chance to race against Kyle Busch or whoever comes up once a year.”

Rolfe doesn’t want to just race against Kyle Busch, though.

“It would be a bigger story twenty years from now saying I finished second to Kyle Busch, but I’m not going to,” he says.

“I’m gonna beat Kyle Busch.”