PHOTO: Nick Sweet (#88) runs in traffic en route to a runner-up finish in Sunday’s TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

OXFORD, Me. — Nick Sweet almost did it again.

The Barre, Vt., native finished second in the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday night — a career best in the race — coming up just short of winner Kyle Busch.

Sweet, the defending champion at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl in his hometown, led 67 laps in the first half of the race and battled with Jeff White, Jeff Taylor, Ben Ashline, and two-time TD Bank 250 winner Eddie MacDonald. After a four-tire pit stop on lap 135, Sweet restarted 15th in the running order and began a torrid march through the field. Within 45 laps, he had climbed to fourth place and began hounding Taylor, Busch, and John Donahue at the front.

Taylor slipped at lap 227, allowing Busch to take the lead and Sweet to slip into second. A spin by Dave Farrington, Jr., with 16 laps remaining bunched the field and gave Sweet his best chance at taking control. Busch snookered Sweet on the restart, though, and moved to the outside lane after getting a big jump. Sweet took the bottom groove, inching toward Busch as the laps clicked off, but settled for second place.

The result was Sweet’s second “almost there” finish in a major Late Model event — the first coming at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the inaugural American-Canadian Tour Invitational in 2009.

Overall, Sweet was happy with his finish, but was disappointed with losing the race after having an opportunity to win at the restart.

“We had a great car today, but I think I got outdriven at the end of the race,” Sweet said. “That restart, I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again. [Busch] definitely taught me something today. It’s one of those deals. It’s driving me nuts right now, but if I’m going to lose to someone I guess it might as well be Kyle Busch.”

The runner-up showing was the “up” finish to a down week for Sweet; he was involved in a wreck during practice at Thunder Road on Thursday, then encountered more trouble in Maine on Saturday.

“We put in some hours Friday. We worked on [the car] all day long and got up here early Saturday,” Sweet said. “[Saturday] night we had a terrible night, we had our hotels cancelled and we had to go scrounge to get hotels. My dad was cutting lettuce for sandwiches at 3:30 in the morning. I don’t think he’s gotten any sleep in the last 48 hours or so, and we’re going to have to keep his eyes open on the way home. We came here and we’ve just been focusing on the race car, and obviously it paid off. It worked out good.”

Sweet said he wasn’t intimidated by racing against Busch, who has been NASCAR’s most frequent winner since his arrival in the sport a half-dozen years ago.

“In my eyes out there on that race track, he’s just another race car driver, that’s all he is,” Sweet said. “He was flawless, he ran a great race. I just hate losing.”

Sweet got the last laugh, though: “I will beat him down the stairs,” Sweet said, challenging Busch to a race out the exit door of the frontstretch press box. He did, in fact, beat Busch down to the bottom.

“It was just another good race for us,” Sweet said of his TD Bank 250 weekend. “Hopefully we have many more.”