February 19, 2018
200 Episodes of UpNorth Motorsports
Bangor Daily News Sports Editor, Joe McLaughlin, told me January 2014 that they were no longer accepting freelance submissions due to budget cuts at the newspaper. I was bummed that I would no longer be part of that team.
Joe suggested starting my own blog at www.bangordailynews.com. I had zero experience, yet I said I would give it a try. Now 200 episodes later and 4 years of writing about people, places, and events I am humbled.
Humbled that you would join in with me on this journey. Humbled that UpNorth Motorsports was named by the Maine Press Association (MPA) as the number one sports blog in Maine in 2016. Maine Press Association no longer include awards for blogs after that year, I have no idea why.
Humbled that some of you put up with my late Sunday evening questions for episodes I am working on usually until the early hours of Monday morning. Thank you. Thank you for all those photos that you gave me permission to utilize. My photography skills are getting somewhat better, however, some of you folks produce some quality work.
Most of all, I want to thank my wife who puts up with a pile of papers for current and future episodes, grouchy writer syndrome on Monday mornings, and my field trips when we travel to see places that she never would have ventured.
My Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ is the one who needs to get the credit and honor for whatever skill I possess and I freely admit that. Thank you Lord.
Kevin Grass commented,” The air was electric in Daytona last night before the race began. With temps in the 80s , I was ready to get the NASCAR season started.”
“Race was follow the leader until after the first two stages. Final stage was a crash fest as rookies pushed the veterans. Ended with a veteran winning. Good way to start the season. Wish Austin had been racing.”
Beech Ridge Speedway super late-model stock car driver, Legends racer, and owner of Nitro Designs, Evan Beaulieu, West Durham, attended most of the SpeedWeeks events at Daytona International Speedway. As a racer himself he seemed to agree that the racing was good, the crowds were large, and the track was a sight to behold.
The Xfinity race on Saturday was won by Tyler Reddick beating Elliot Sadler by only .05 seconds in the closest race in NASCAR scoring system history,. The race finish was as close to a dead heat as one could be. The race concluded after a record five overtime attempts.
Beaulieu summed up his experience on Saturday saying, “Couple of takeaways from today’s race. First of all, what an incredible race and finish.”
“When we were going through the ticket and security line, the National Anthem started playing and EVERY employee stopped, and waited for the anthem to finish. That was awesome to see.”
“Also, there were a lot of little kids at today’s race, I’m thinking since kids 12 and under are free for Xfinity races, hope those kids all watch tomorrow. I remember being a little kid and going to my first race, that got me hooked.”
“Everyone at the Speedway was beyond nice when we left too, they’re doing a great job and I can’t wait for the 500 tomorrow!”
After the Daytona 500, social media erupted with hundreds of posts stating the wide range of opinions about the final lap when Austin Dillon moved the Aric Almirola car out of the lead by spinning him out. My unofficial tally has Dillon’s move was a bad racing maneuver.
Typical remarks ranged from this one by Evan Beaulieu, “Hell of a race from where I was sitting. Drama from start to finish, can’t ask for much more,”
“NASCAR has been around for 70 years, and for 70 years someone has dumped another for a win. Don’t think it was Dillon’s intention, Aric wasn’t even mad about it in his interview. Just hard racing for the win in the biggest race.
And this from Todd McCollum, “Chump move, Earnhardt (Dale Earnhardt Senior) would have moved him not intentionally wrecked him. Difference between talent and someone who got handed the seat by his grandfather.”
Dave Moody, motorsports commentator for Motor Racing Network (MRN) said, “Take a deep breath and read Almirola’s post race comments. If he’s ok with it, maybe you could be, too.”
Almirola did take partial responsibility stating that he did block Dillon all the way down the back stretch.
There will be stock car racing in The County this summer
When the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) released there 2018 schedule several weeks ago the July 3rd time slot was listed as TBD, to be determined. Rumors flew when this opening showed up. Several people got in contact with me to inquire if I had heard anything about a race at Spud Speedway.
PASS removed all doubt when they announced Tuesday February 13th that the last open spot in their 2018 schedule would be filled by a 200 lap race at the Caribou track.
The race will be the night before the Fourth of July and will feature the super late-model race and an enduro race. Negotiations are underway to possibly include another race series that evening. Any announcements about that effort will come later.
Spud Speedway will be the third leg of the four race “Roads to Oxford and Richmond” which guarantees the winner in each of the selected four races a starting spot in the Oxford 250 in August or the Richmond Commonwealth Classic in October.
The remaining top five finishers will guaranteed a starting position at half start money for the Oxford or Richmond race. The winner of the 200 lapper at Spud Speedway will earn $5000.
The ” Roads to Oxford and Richmond” begins Saturday March 31 with the “Easter Bunny 150” at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway.
Race number two on the “Roads” tour will be an international event. Petty International Raceway located at River Glade, New Brunswick, west of Moncton, will host a 150 lap event Saturday June 2.
Spud Speedway will be round three of the “Roads” tour July 3. Later that same month on July 29th, the final race of the tour will be held at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Needless to say, the air was filled with excitement for the race at the Caribou track. The track has sat idle, except for Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) Friday night Summer Series races the past two years. The last stock car races were held 2015.
Locals who may race at the track include Presque Isle’s Kirk Thibeau who races in several PASS events as well as Speedway 660 in Geary Woods, New Brunswick. Thibeau has been the Pro Stock champion at Spud Speedway in the past and must be looked at as one of the favorites for the race.
” Great news”, said Thibeau! “This will be an exciting event for the County. These are some of the best super late-model racers in the country. I am looking forward to competing at my home track this summer.”
Tim Todd of Caribou who is a long-time member of the Kirk Thibeau crew remarked, “I hope that any fans of stock car racing will come out and support this effort by the promoters and the teams. The purse and PASS affiliation along with the qualifier for the Oxford 250 will make this a strong field and exciting racing.”
“We don’t normally get too wound up about racing until after the Daytona 500, but considering that is this weekend and the parts for the new car are starting to be delivered, we are going to have to step things up. Spring isn’t too far away.”
” I have said this several times, everywhere we race people still talk about racing at Spud Speedway. The racers enjoy the track and they don’t seem to tear cars up there like other places.”
“We are always asked if they are still open and if racing is going on. Our team has had a lot of success there in past years and it’s always nice to come home.”
“Kirk and I rode out by the other day on our sleds and talked about racing there, a few days later the announcement was made. Very excited.”
RYAN Motorsports’ owner Robb Messer was optimistic when he heard the good news. ” I’m really happy for Troy and Spud Speedway,” said Messer! “We’ve really enjoyed racing there and Troy is great to deal with.”
Messer continued “I hope the event is a huge success!! We certainly have discussed racing at this event. We will have to wait and see how the sponsorship goes this spring and for further details to come out regarding the race.”
“At 200 laps, I’m not sure if this will be a 4 tire or 8 tire race? 8 race tires, plus 4 practice tires may push the budget for the event out of our reach… but we certainly will try!”
Fort Fairfield’s Connor Thibeau is always a favorite to hang around that top spot. Though he and his team have been away from racing a couple of years he replied, “We are excited to get behind the wheel again! Still need to follow-up on the rules to see what changes need to be made to race”.
Former track champion on both sides of the border, Glenn Rasmussen has put his son Ian behind the wheel of his super late-model. Ian has raced at Spud Speedway where he was track champion in the 4 cylinder class.
Glenn remarked that the announcement by PASS was, “Very exciting for Spud Speedway and the local area stock car fans. The track is too nice not to be utilized.”
“We are hoping to be able to race on July 3rd. There are always variables with racing but hopefully we have a damage free race at Speedway 660 on June 30th which will allow us to race the PASS event. As far as rules go 660 rules and PASS are very close.”
You cannot talk about super late-model races at Spud Speedway without including Frenchville native Shawn Martin. Martin lives in Auburn and competes on a regular basis at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Martin has won the Spud 150 a couple of times at the Caribou track. Any time he has raced at Spud Speedway is in the front of the pack. His experience and smooth driving technique make him another “local” favorite.
Martin has concerns about the high grip of Spud Speedway and remarked, “I don’t think a stock crate motor car will win that race. Spud has so much grip. It’s one of the few tracks that you can really use the HP (horsepower). I suspect a cam change crate or a big motor will be the way to go on that track.”
Another “County rooted” team, Wyatt Alexander racing, has to be another favorite with the experience of crew chief Hall of Fame member Bob Alexander helping to call the shots for his grandson Wyatt. The team will be bringing their new Clattenburg Racing Fabrication chassis super late-model #96 to Spud Speedway.
The team was one of the first to commit to the July 3rd race once the official announcement was made by PASS. Though they had released their 2018 competition calendar, it was amended immediately to include the Spud Speedway race.
” That is fantastic,” said Bob Alexander. “I hope the fans and racers will give it their support, good deal.”
His grandson Wyatt was recently announced as one of the 21 semi-finalists in the 2018 Kulwicki Driver Development Program. He and John Peters, Westbrook, are the only Mainers to make the cut. Both will be undergoing extensive interviews between February 28 and March 3 for the selection of the final seven.
The seven finalists each receive $7,777 to help with publicity, driver development, marketing, and racing industry development. The overall winner for 2018 will earn $54,439.
Alexander, a freshman at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte majoring in mechanical engineering with a specialty in motorsports engineering, was very interested in the race at Spud Speedway.
“He would love to have a chance to race at Spud again” said crew-chief and grandfather Bob. “Should be able to attract some Canadian teams also.”
Several other teams have inquired about the Spud Speedway race. Track owner Troy Haney will make official announcements about further race details soon. One area of opportunity is for a title naming sponsor and fireworks display sponsor. Haney mentioned that the fireworks display will be a first class show.
Let’s Go Racing,
Soli Deo Gloria