Wiscasset’s Mini Stocks division marked by change, longevity, family feel

Like grieving, there are stages to a winless drought.

A race car driver thinks that another win is, quite literally, around the next corner. Then he wonders if he’s ever going to win again. At some point, he’s come so close he simply cannot believe that he hasn’t put his name back in the win column. And, finally, comes the rare acceptance that perhaps one’s better days are long past.

For Brent Roy of Vassalboro, his 34th career victory at Wiscasset Speedway came 10 years after No. 33. Roy won last weekend’s Outlaw Mini Stock feature, taking the lead late in a wreck-filled race that was shortened by 11 laps due to an excessive number of caution flags.

Shortened or not, Roy doesn’t care.

“I was quite happy to get the checkered flag,” Roy said. “A win is a win. I’ll take it any way it will come.”

Now 34 years old, Roy took a few seasons off when Wiscasset Speedway closed following the 2010 season. The 2004 track champion in the Mini Stock division, Roy took a few years away from racing to focus on things away from the sport, including his family. He raced a few times at Unity Raceway, but when Richard Jordan purchased Wiscasset and reopened it late in 2012, Roy felt that familiar calling.

“My grandmother and grandfather used to take me down to Wiscasset when I was very young, when I was six or seven years old,” Roy said. “I fell in love with the atmosphere at Wiscasset. It’s like a home base, and there’s a feeling of ‘home’ there. I love racing there. I love the environment.”

Roy is not alone. The division that has now morphed from its traditional Mini Stock beginnings into an Outlaw Mini Stock division — with a more liberal rules package that steps away from the cars being true, four-cylinder stock models — features a number of drivers who have been racing at Wiscasset in the very same class for nearly 20 years.

Rob Greenleaf of West Bath, Shawn Kimball of Augusta, reigning division champion Zach Audet of Skowhegan and Tim Collins of Farmingdale are fixtures of the Mini Stock ranks at the speedway.

Another fixture is Pete McCollett. McCollett, whose familiar No. 20 Volkswagen Rabbit was as much a part of Wiscasset Speedway as the ticket booth, the staggered pit area and the turn one grandstands, raced himself for 23 years. Where most drivers at weekly short tracks sell off all of their equipment and step away from the week-to-week grind of the summer racing season upon retirement, McCollett — as always — did things his way.

He is now the car owner for Kimball, who finished second last season to Audet in the championship standings.

“I’m like the Mark Martin of Mini Stocks,” joked McCollett, who won more than 30 races as a driver and finished runner-up in the final point standings on more occasions than he cares to count.

McCollett simply loves the sport too much to just walk away.

“I love it. I’m passionate about this class,” said McCollett, 56, of Readfield, who hung up his helmet in 2013. “The class has grown over the years. I can’t believe the speeds we’re up to now. I love everything about it. I’m just passionate about this class, and I want to see it keep growing. I want to see some younger kids in it, because it’s a stepping stone for them to move up to bigger classes.”

The division has changed significantly from even a decade ago, when a driver simply needed to change his oil between races and make sure everything on the car was still bolted together before heading back to the track. McCollett said the biggest change came when the Pro-4 Late Model class left Unity due to low car counts, and the Outlaw Mini Stocks began to take shape as a way to mold that division in with the Mini Stocks. The result: A faster car with adjustable suspension parts and more aerodynamic body packages.

“I spend probably 40 hours every two weeks prepping this car now,” said McCollett, who used to do everything himself. “It’s a team sport — before it wasn’t. There was no adjusting anything, but you can’t do that anymore. You can’t do it all by yourself and run up front like we used to.”

Ironically, many Mini Stock drivers never do move up to other classes like Late Models or Super Late Models, or even Street Stock-type divisions. The advance in technology and speed has helped bridge the gap to the upper divisions while making the brotherhood that exists in the Mini Stocks stronger.

Roy said he’s always wanted to try a Late Model or a Modified, but there’s something about his division that he’s not willing to walk away from.

“I know a lot of guys have moved up, but a lot of us have stayed true to it, too,” Roy said. “It’s affordable compared to other divisions. And I like racing with the guys I’m racing with. Robbie Greenleaf and I have been racing each other since the late 90s together. There’s more of us that like to race together and like our class. It feels like a family.”

Roy, who began racing in 1999 while he was still in high school, points to a race last year as a perfect example of the true bond of the Mini Stock drivers. When Bryan Lancaster got into the back of Roy’s No. 26 car and sent him into the wall, Lancaster was the first person to show up in Roy’s pit stall after the race to offer a helping hand.

“He came right over and said, ‘Bring the car to my house and we’ll get it all back together,’ ” Roy recalled. “That’s what I like about this division.”

And after 17 years, including an eight-win championship season in 2004 in which he needed to win both the heat race and the feature race on the final two nights of the season to earn enough points for the title, Roy is a survivor. He showed that again last weekend, pulling into victory lane for the first time in 10 years after avoiding all the carnage around him.

“When you do have a good race like I did last weekend, it makes you feel good that all the hard work and help you got from family and friends — that all that hard work did mean something and it did pay off,” Roy said.

It was the feel-good story of the early season at Wiscasset Speedway. After all, the Mini Stock drivers are in this together.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC