OXFORD, Me. -- "I've never been so nervous before a heat race," Brian Hoar said on Sunday afternoon, just after finishing second in the first qualifying heat for the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. And then he grinned. "We made it," he said, and then he looked out the window of his motorcoach to watch the next round of races.
Brian Hoar -- champion five times over and the all-time winner on the American-Canadian Tour, champion at Airborne Speedway, Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, two-time Milk Bowl winner, accomplished superspeedway and road course racer -- was as giddy as a school child over a second-place finish in a simple 20-lap heat race.
The Williston veteran, nearing his 20th season behind the wheel, had just qualified for his first Oxford 250.
"I've tried four times to make it into this race now," said Hoar. "We missed it two years ago in our own car, we came here in 2000 running our old Late Model against the Pro Stocks, and my dad had a Pro Stock that I brought over in the '90s. After all these years, we finally made it in. I'm so excited, I'm pumped."
Driving for the Georgia, Vt.-based RPM Motorsports team for owner Rick Paya on the ACT Late Model Tour this season, Hoar says he's "still learning" how to drive the ACT cars. He made a season-long effort in 2007 in his own family-backed team, but was unable to regain the dominance he knew in the 1990s, or from 1997-2000 during a four-year reign as the ACT champion. After sitting idle last year, Hoar is looking stronger in his new ride this season; many expect a win out of him soon.
"I feel like a backwards rookie, maybe that's why we've got a yellow stripe on the front of the car," he joked. "I'm still learning how to drive these Late Models again. Everything is different than when we ran years ago with big motors and tire softener. All those races and titles I won, that was almost ten years ago, it's been so long. It's totally different now, I'm just starting over."
Overall, the born-again freshman is doing well in his studies this year: he's scored a pair of top-fives in ACT competition, including a runner-up finish at Thunder Road in May, and has had just one poor finish, 22nd at White Mountain Motorsport Park in June after a multi-car wreck. He sits third in points after seven events, just 55 markers behind leader Scott Payea.
And Sunday, he led 39 laps in the Oxford 250 before finishing fourth.
Not a bad effort for a rookie.
(PHOTOS: 1. Brian Hoar works under the hood of his #37 ride; 2. Hoar may have a yellow stripe on his car, but he's no rookie. Photos by Justin St. Louis/VMM)