County Drag Racer Makes the Trek to the Track

Episode 89

January 17, 2016

Crouseville's Gene Cyr launches hard at Winterport Dragway. Rick Taylor photo

Crouseville’s Gene Cyr launches hard at Winterport Dragway. Rick Taylor photo

 

200+ Miles Commute To Race

Living in Aroostook County has many positive attributes. Distance from a drag racing venue is not one of them. For Crouseville’s Gene Cyr to race his specially set up Ford Mustang it means leaving his shop with trailer in tow on Friday morning to arrive at Oxford Plains Dragway mid afternoon.

A typical race weekend finds Cyr at the 1/8 mile Oxford Plains Dragway, followed by two days at the 1/8 mile Winterport Dragway. Cyr’s weekend accommodations are typically at Ralph Brewer’s camper that is parked at Winterport for the summer. Even with the free overnight stays, Cyr figures it costs about $600 per weekend.

How did the twenty-two year old get the drag racing bug when there are no tracks north of Winterport? “It began when I was a year and one-half old,” reflected Cyr. “My Dad put me in the seat of a modified race car at the Bob Judkins Garage in Berlin, Connecticut.”

His dad, Dan Cyr, worked on the Judkins modified which was campaigned in the hotbed of Modified racing in New England. Riverside, Stafford Springs, Thompson and Seeking which were the haunts of famous drivers like Richie Evans, Ron Bouchard, Reggie Ruggiero, Ryan Preece, and Jerry Cook.

Gene was often brought along to the shop or to the races where he rubbed elbows with future Hall of Fame drivers, their crews, and kids who now hold the reigns in the modified ranks today.

Cyr was so young that he may not recall meeting specific people yet the sounds, sights, and smells stuck. His family moved from their home in Southington, Connecticut back to Washburn when he was five.

His desire to race was put on hold until he was a freshman at Washburn District High School. His shop teacher Benjamin Williams had a 1973 Ford Mustang that was in rough shape. Williams had his class replace the floor and go through the car A to Z.

“This re-ignited my desire to work on cars, ” said Cyr. “My junior year 2009-10 I took the two year Auto Tech program taught by Kevin Keaton at Caribou Tech Center.”

Six months after graduating from Washburn District High School in 2011 he had purchased a 1985 Ford Mustang from Garth Johnson of Mapleton. Johnson had purchased the car because it was from Tennessee and had not been subjected to harsh Maine winters. The purchase of the car allowed father and son to race at Winterport Dragway with their own race cars.

Lebanon Valley Raceway was the site of Cyr's first offical race and first trophy. Photo courtesy Cyriuous Motorsports

Lebanon Valley Raceway, New York was the site of Cyr’s first offical race and first trophy. Photo courtesy Cyrious Motorsports

First Races

The Cyr family was going to a wedding which happened to be near Lebanon Valley Raceway in New York. Like any good racer if one has a chance to race they will take advantage of it.

The Cyr family trailered the Mustang to the wedding. Along the way they stopped at their engine builder’s shop, PMR Performance in Berlin, Connecticut.

Cyr remembers, “The guy who builds my engines (Phil Moski) only lives a quarter mile from the Berlin Police Department. Since at the time I did not know how to do a burnout he wanted me to unload the car in his driveway and do practice burnouts in his yard.”

He admitted that he was a very raw rookie when he took to the 1/4 mile track. He said his fellow racers and track officials were very helpful showing him how to make race passes.

The first trophy came at Winterport Dragway September 9, 2012 in the Pro ET class. Since they had no garage to work on the Mustang race car they were fortunate to gain access to the JR Howlett race shop in Presque Isle. They were very grateful for the help they got from the Spud Speedway Street Stock racer.

At the Elks Club Car Show in Presque Isle  July 2012 where Cyr won the Stree Car class. In the background is his father's 1951 Ford pickup. Cyrious Motorsports photo

With his first race car at the Elks Club Car Show in Presque Isle July 2012 where Cyr won the Muscle Car class. In the background is his father’s 1951 Ford pickup. Cyrious Motorsports photo

A Leaky T-Top Forces Car Change

A leaky t-top on the ’85 Mustang prompted Cyr to look for another car which he could build into a drag racing car. The replacement came from an unlikely source. Cyr was at Tim Cowett’s in Presque Isle when he noticed a junk 1988 Mustang GT bound for the crusher. He bought the car for $200.

“It was a piece of junk,” said Cyr’s Dad! “It was incredibly rusty from the front door posts back. I was not happy that he bought the car.”

Like an artist who sees a beautiful statue in a block of marble, the younger Cyr launched his efforts to make this “junk” a fast race car.

Concurrently with the purchase of the car was the building of a 2,120 square foot shop where he and his father worked on his Mustang and his Dad’s 1951 Street Rod/Race Truck.

Because the unibody car had deteriorated  the Cyrs installed a  S & W Racecars rear kit. A complete tube frame was welded in place with coil over shocks. The floor was replaced with aluminum.

Cyr described his car saying, “It has a Dynamic Comp C4 with trans brake.It is a 428 Windsor small block with a Dart Iron Eagle block, 12.8:1 compression,full roller valve train,AFR 220cc race heads,Comp Cams camshaft topped with a Victor SR race intake with 950cfm Quickfuel carb. I run 28 by 10.5 and 28 by 10.5w Mickey Thompson tire depending on the track prep and conditions.”

The car was painted by Ron Campbell of Washburn in 24 hours.

The Epping Set Back

The 2015 season began with the Mustang race car in mint condition. A  new experience awaited Cyr after they towed to Epping, New Hampshire. Epping hosts a NHRA Nationals race and is the centerpiece of big time drag racing in New Hampshire as well as New England.

Cyr describes his Epping trip, “Well that’s something we really try to put behind us. It was May 2, 2015 the first day we had the car out.”

“It ran absolutely perfect. It was brand new. It ran great all day, running consistent 142-143 mph 9.40 passes all day.”

Cyr had to make two half passes and four full passes at full speed in order to obtain track and NHRA certification.

Cyr continued saying,”The following day the car was running great, very competitive. I lost my first run in the Pro class in a close race. Then in Super Pro I passed a dragster to get into the staging lane.”

“I watched two cars run. They went through then the guy (race director) turned around and gave us the thumbs up to run.”

“I did my burnout, the tree came down, I took off, and went through the gears. I knew I didn’t catch the guy at the lights, I was watching him then straightened out.”

I looked over and there was a car about 300 feet past the finish line right in the middle of the lane. I thought I could go around her but didn’t. I clipped the wall which mashed the front end all to pieces.”

“I got out of the car. I probably missed hitting that dragster head on at over 100 mph by 15 to 20 feet.! I had to go to the ambulance to get checked out.”

By taking the guard rail, Cyr avoided a head on collision with a dragster that was still on the track when Cyr made his pass. Quick action on his part probably prevented serious injury. Cyrious Motorsports photo

By taking the guard rail, Cyr avoided a head on collision with a dragster that was still on the track when Cyr made his pass. Quick action on his part probably prevented serious injury. Cyrious Motorsports photo

“We brought the car home, it sat in the corner a week or so, I didn’t even want to do nothing.”

“Dad dug it out and within 10 days we had put it back together. We went racing Memorial weekend.”

Damage was estimated at $9300. The industrious duo were able to save money by repairing or fabricating parts made in their shop. The only real expensive parts that needed to be replaced were the headers which were torn off and wrapped around the transmission.

“We refurbished the firewall,” said the younger Cyr. “That type of stuff happens and we are moving on. Hopefully it will never happen again.”

One thing that caught my attention was the common experience shared by father and son when they were in high school. As previously described Gene’s experience in high school shop class with Benjamin Williams helped get him interested in cars.

Dan Cyr was  born in Grand Isle,however, the family moved to Southington, Connecticut where he went on to graduate from Southington High School, Class of 1979.

Cyr was a self described hands-on kind of student who flourished in Dave Germano’s metal shop class. Mr. Germano would bring in pieces of his modified racer such as nerf bars, headers, sheet metal, and other assorted parts in need of repair. The students would then learn how to make those parts useful again.

The walls of the Cyr home are lined with photos of race teams with which Dan was associated. Some of the teams were championship winning teams which left an indelible mark on the work ethic of Cyr which shows in the the quality of preparation that goes into his son’s car as well as his racing pick up.

Plans for the 2016 race season include attending 10 to 15 races. This includes the season opener April 12 at Epping Dragway in New Hampshire, Lebanon Valley in New York, Oxford Plains Dragway, Winterport Raceway, and Miramchi Dragways in New Brunswick.

Cyrious Motorsports would like to thank Mike Cowett Autobody, Fastenal of Presque Isle, AroostaCast, Mike Holmquist of Mike’s Moonlighting, DC Auto Electric, Bosa Nova II Racing, Fusco Family Racing, and PMR Performance for the power plants. He would also like to thank his employer Thompson Tree Service for allowing him to have the flexibility to race weekends during the season.

2016 Caribou Snowmobile Drag Races slated for next Sunday. HTF Motorsports photo

2016 Caribou Snowmobile Drag Races slated for next Sunday. HTF Motorsports photo

2nd Annual Snowmobile Drags Rumble Into Caribou

Once again Caribou will come alive with the sounds of racing snowmobile engines next Sunday January 24. The Caribou Snowmobile Club hosts their third snowmobile drag races at the track located at at 416 Van Buren Road.

Scene in the Pit /Paddock at the 2015 Snow Drags. HTF Motorsports photo

Scene in the Pit /Paddock at the 2015 Snow Drags. HTF Motorsports photo

According to Race Director Kurt Dumond, ” We have sleds coming from Southern Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec. We expect to match or exceed last year’s registration of 163 sleds.”

“We have a 8 to 12 inch snow base with two lanes of racing using our new Christmas Tree lights.”

Registration begins at 7:30 am at the venue. Racing will get underway with the junior classes first. There will be 100 percent payback.

The long range weather appears to be more pleasant than last year’s bitter cold. I expect good crowds and lots of racers. I will be there after church so say hello.

Spud Speedway Stock Car Racing in 2016 Back To Square One

They say it always look the darkest just before the dawn. The last couple weeks look dark in regards to stock car racing at Caribou’s Spud Speedway in 2016. The ink was about to flow onto a lease between track owner Troy Haney and Chuck Hall of Cherryfield when Hall was stricken with serious health issues which preclude him from leasing the track.

Where does that put the racers? Basically they have decisions to make whether it be a cooperative group effort to lease the track, or attempt to persuade someone with money to take the reins, or let it go dark in 2016.

Typical finish in the Junior Champ karts at Spud Speedway. Spud Speedway photo

Typical finish in the Junior Champ Karts at Spud Speedway. Spud Speedway photo

One group will be racing at Spud Speedway, the kart racers. Word has it that three new or used karts have been purchased with the possibility of a more in preparation for the season. The organizing group involved with the karts will be meeting soon to finalize rules and organizational matters.

I have an announcement that will be made in Episode 90 next week. Exciting times ahead!

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing.