OXFORD — Austin Theriault spent his free time this year building himself a toy. That toy debuts for the first time this weekend in the 43rd annual H.P. Hood Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

It’s a fitting debut for Theriault’s shiny new black No. 57 race car. Theriault has made four career starts in the Oxford 250, finishing in the top five in all those attempts, including a career-best runnerup finish in 2014.

“It’s somewhere I want to win really bad,” Theriault said race. “The amount of work we had to do to get this thing done is probably the most I’ve ever had to do in my career.”

Theriault, a Fort Kent native now living in North Carolina, is a full-time driver for Hattori Racing Enterprises in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, a feeder division for NASCAR’s national series, where he is third in the point standings with six top-five finishes in 11 starts. He spent last season driving part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing.

Theriault scrambled to get the new car finished up in time for this weekend at Oxford, and now that he’s here he’s trying to enjoy the experience.

“The only unfortunate part is that it was sort of a last-minute (decision),” said the 22-year-old Theriault. “I don’t think I really took the time to enjoy putting it together. Hopefully, we can enjoy our time at the track.”

Theriault was one of 54 drivers to participate in a three-hour practice at Oxford Plains on Friday afternoon.

He has two career Pro All Stars Series wins, including one at Oxford in 2012. Between that win, a number of American-Canadian Tour starts and other races at Oxford, Theriault has plenty of experience with the flat, .375-mile track.

He did not come to the Oxford 250 last year,

“The track has a little bit less grip, but I still think you can make one go pretty good around here,” Theriault said. “We’ve got plenty of time to make that happen. At the end of the day, we should be having fun — if we’re not having fun, we should be doing something else.”

There is another extended practice session Saturday for the Oxford 250, with qualifying rounds beginning Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

• • •

Defending champion Glen Luce, of Turner, finished Friday third overall on the speed charts, but he was more happy about how his car — the same car that won the 250 last August — was handling in the extreme midday heat.

“We’re getting closer. We just need a little bit more tweaking,” Luce said. “Obviously, Sunday is going to be cooler, and that’s what we’re focusing on.

Luce was among the fastest cars in all of the practice sessions for the Oxford 250 last year, and he believed there was plenty that could be gained from a long practice two days ahead of the event.

“You just want to get in, get the car under you and get a good drive off (the corners),” Luce said. “Usually, you lose that on these hot slick days here. So, we learned a lot about that today.”

• • •

Andy Saunders, of Ellsworth, has a busy weekend ahead of him.

Saunders spent Friday practicing at Oxford and he plans to practice again Saturday. From there, he’ll drive across the state to compete at Wiscasset Speedway on Saturday night, and then he’ll return on Sunday for the Oxford 250.

Saunders is the current point leader in the Pro Stock division at Wiscasset. He won the track championship there in 2015.

• • •

Two-time Oxford 250 champion Travis Benjamin, of Morrill, topped the final practice times Friday afternoon with a 15.583-second lap (86.633 mph) he posted late in the session.

Benjamin, who won consecutive 250s in 2013-2014, was the only driver to break the 15.6-second barrier on the day.

Justin Drake, of Burnham, who has a win at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway this season, ended up second at day’s end. He spent most of the afternoon at the top of the list with a 15.636-second circuit (86.336 mph).

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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