PHOTO: Travis Stearns enters the TD Bank 250 as one of the local Oxford favorites to keep the trophy at the speedway. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

OXFORD, Maine — Travis Stearns enters the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway with a bit of reassurance knowing he will most likely be a guaranteed starter in the biggest race of the season.

The Auburn, Maine racer currently leads the Oxford Late Model point standings and has two wins to his record at the three-eighths mile speedway.

“It’s definitely comforting to know that we should have a spot no matter what,” Stearns said. “It’s totally different than Saturday night racing. You have to pace yourself (in the 250). With 40 laps, you do what you have to do early and race hard. This one (the 250), you have to save your stuff. It’s real easy to burn it up.”

Stearns has raced in the three previous TD Bank 250s and finished tenth in 2009. Sterns finished 11th in 2010 and 29th last year. The Oxford regular has competed in the American-Canadian Tour races at Oxford Plains Speedway and noted the difference with the extra 100 laps.

“It’s kind of like two of them (150 lap events),” Stearns explained. “You have to have that one spurt where you really go after it. This one is like two of them. You have to change tires, you’re trying to save your stuff but also know when to go. And then you have to do it again at the right time. It’s very easy to overwork it too quick. I’ve done it before.

“It’s difficult. I’ve gotten better at it, but in the past, I’ve tensed up. Mentally, you’re racing too hard and you shouldn’t be, and then the next minute, you’re tensed up and tired. You can’t do that.”

Many of the teams competing in this weekend’s TD Bank 250 are not Oxford regulars. Teams from the American-Canadian Tour and ACT Castrol Series, as well as area track have invaded to claim the TD Bank 250 trophy. Many look to the point leader to defend Oxford.

“It’d be nice to knock them off, that’s for sure,” Stearns said. “There are a lot of good cars, it’s hard to tell. I don’t know. These guys run long races every week, where I only do it once or twice a year.”

Stearns appeared to be quick in Saturday’s practice sessions and was an early race favorite entering the 250. Combined, Stearns may be the favorite to claim the TD Bank 250.

“It’d be awesome,” Stearns said about potentially winning. “I’ve been coming since I was six. I think everybody would like to see a local guy win.”

TD Bank 250 qualifying begins at 2:00pm on Sunday, July 22, with the 39th TD Bank 250 taking place at approximately 6:30pm.