OXFORD — Austin Theriault put himself in some elite company Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway, although it was not quite the group in which he wanted to be included.

In the 41-year history of the race now known sans sponsorship as the Oxford 250, only three drivers — Ralph Nason, Mike Rowe and Theriault — have ever had four consecutive top five finishes. Nason won the race from 1998-2000 and then finished third in 2001, while Rowe was runner up in 2002, fourth from 2003 to 2004 and won in 2005.

Theriault took third in 2011 and 2012, placed fourth last year and was runner up to defending champ Travis Benjamin Sunday. The 20-year-old from Fort Kent will be the first to admit though, being a groomsman does not sit well with him.

“I am disappointed,” Theriault said. “To be that good and perform as well as we did but come up short there at the end…

“The disappointing part of racing is the unknowns and when you can’t understand really what happened and you kind of go home scratching your head. That’s when you find yourself disappointed. It’s one thing to struggle with the handling all day and come home third and come home second, that’s a win. I feel like we lost the race. It wasn’t we didn’t win it, we lost it.”

Theriault did admit that towards the end of the race Benjamin had “a better car” and that the blame does not fall on anyone but himself.

“It’s one of the most disappointing races but by no means should anybody on my team be disappointed — just me,” he said. “They worked hard, it wasn’t anybody’s fault.”

Is Theriault being too harsh on himself? Yes, but that is a characteristic often associated with the great ones — or at least those who aspire to be great.

Listening to Theriault speak about what happened Sunday night the overwhelming tone in his deep voice is not defeat, but rather determination. He is hard on himself because he wants to get better.

“Until we’re consistently running every week and running up front,” Theriault said, “I still have to take in as much as I can.”

Theriault has one more race remaining in the NASCAR Nationwide series this season — the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway — and is hoping to break through with a big performance.

“I definitely feel pressure,” Theriault said. “We’ve ran OK the past two races but we want to be in the top 10 and finally close out a deal and bring home a solid top 10.

“I still have a lot to learn and I’m going to do the best I can to take in as much information as I can and ask the right questions.”

•••

Sunday was quite the roller coaster ride for Richie Dearborn.

After failing to qualify for the Oxford 250 in his three heats, Dearborn was packing up his car and getting ready to leave Oxford Plains Speedway.

“We were pretty disappointed at the end of the last chance race,” he said. “We were actually starting to load up the car and stuff, and they come running over and told us to go to the tech shack. At that time they told us we had a provisional.”

Dearborn was awarded the provisional qualification for the Pro All Star Series North since the nine other drivers ahead of him in the points standings had already made the main event. The Hollis native started the race 40th and finished third. Matt Kenseth holds the record for most positions gained from start to finish after he went from 41st to third in 2004.

•••

Money talks and Saturday night at Oxford Plains Pittsfield’s Ben Ashline was listening.

Ashline took first place in the night’s featured race — the Dave’s Small Engine Repair, PASS Northeast Late Model Series main event — and the win came with a choice: $4,000 or a guaranteed spot in the Oxford 250. He took the money.

“Between our car and a super late model we wouldn’t have been able to compete,” Ashline said. “That four grand will take us to a lot of races.”

At least, so he thought. After the race Ashline and his crew discovered an issue in his motor, and most of the prize money will be going to get it fixed. He had planned on driving in a race on the American Canadian Tour on Sunday in New York, but engine trouble put him out of commission.

Even with the motor issues afterwards, Saturday was still a great day for Ashline as he also buried some personal demons. The last time he raced at Oxford Plains was in the TD Bank 250 in 2012 when he crashed into the wall closest to the pits coming out of turn two during qualifying.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stare down the wall we hit the first couple laps around,” he said. “I had the flashbacks and whatnot but we certainly had a great day. I was really happy to have a good run.”

Ashline will be looking for a similar result when the ACT 150 comes to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Aug. 9.

•••

Two local drivers duked it out earlier in the day prior to the Oxford 250, as the 50-lap NELCAR Legends feature came down to a battle between Newport’s Matthew Bourgoine and Marancook Community High School rising junior Reid Lanpher.

The two traded the lead back and forth throughout the race, but in the end Bourgoine managed to hold on for the victory.

“Just to try and contend with him,” Lanpher told the crowd after the race, “is a win for us.”

Lanpher is currently second in point standings in the Pro Series at Beech Ridge, while Bourgoine is leading the Amsoil NELCAR Legends Tour through 13 races.

•••

Unity Raceway and manager Nick Huff have set a date for their first race of the season.

“I was nervous at first thinking about it because I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said. “It was overwhelming to think of it all at first. Now that I’ve seen the big picture and I’ve slowed down and looked at each of the things little by little, instead of looking at the big picture, it’s not as stressful anymore. I think I can handle it.”

Huff said Tuesday that they will hold twin 100s in a Super Stock Challenge on Aug. 17, where the winning order from the first race will be reversed for the second. Entry fee is $50, $80 the day of and the purse will be $1,000 to win. Racing will begin at 2 p.m. as a 50-lap Outlaw Sportsman, 50-lap Modified Enduro and kids bike races at intermission are also on the docket.

“It will make it more interesting,” Huff said. “Potentially $2,000 if you win both of them.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

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Twitter: Evan_Crawley