PALMYRA — Ajay Picard has been around race cars for as many days as he can remember and all the ones he can’t, too.
“I grew up in it,” he said. “My dad was racing ever since I was born. I’ve been around it all my life. I guess you can say it’s in the blood. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Picard, 33, of Palmyra, did indeed get into racing, and just this year won a Late Model points championship at his home track, Unity Raceway.
The long-awaited title comes about 10 years after the soft-spoken Picard traded in his snowmobile for his first race car.
“I was 23 when I started racing,” he said. “When I was 19, I broke my back in a car accident and I wondered if I would ever do it. But then I got my first race car.”
Louie Picard, 58, who raced for 35 of those years, figured his son wouldn’t pursue racing after he was in the car accident.
“I sold everything out,” he said. “He busted up his back and I figured he wouldn’t do it again.”
He was wrong.
Ajay Picard traded his snowmobile for a late 1970s Chevrolet Camaro and informed his father he was going to race in the Super Street division at Unity.
Louie remembers that day well.
“All of a sudden he came up with this car, and I said, ‘what are you doing?’” he said. “He said, ‘I’m racing with or without you. And I said, ‘well, it won’t be without me.’”
With that, the Picard racing tandem was born.
Louie Picard taught Ajay how to race and handle a car, particularly at Unity.
“Ajay is a good, smooth racer,” he said. “He started a little late, but he’s one of the smoothest racers out there. It’s something we do well at. We did the Super Streets together. We went to Wiscasset (Raceway) and took them down there. I built a (Late Model Sportsman) car for him, too. I attempted that for awhile, but it’s time for me to step out and let him go for it.”
Louie Picard raced a Late Model as late as 2010 before deciding to step aside.
“He’s had his glory days,” Ajay Picard said. “He had quite a run. It was interesting. Now that he’s out of it, he just works on my car.”
Ajay Picard first started driving a Late Model in 2007.
For much of the last decade, he raced a sporadic schedule thanks in part to a busy work schedule at Pike Industries that often included nights.
However, he finally decided to chase the points title this season.
“In my 10 seasons, I’ve only raced a full schedule like three or four times because of my job,” he said. “I lost a (points title) in 2006 because I missed a race. I came close and I’ve always wanted to win one. It’s still an adrenaline rush.”
Unity Raceway manager George Fernald halted driver payouts for the remainder of the season, citing financial burdens. Fernald also suspended points races for the remainder of the season.
Ajay Picard held a nearly 100-point lead over chief pursuer, Brian Whitney, and was crowned the division champ.
“Winning the points championship is nice but it’s too bad we couldn’t keep going with it,” Picard said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I hope to continue to race.”
Fernald said this week the track may close should his financial situation not improve.
A closure would dent Picard’s racing plans the remainder of the summer.
“I live 15 minutes to the track,” he said. “It’s so much easier going to Unity. Who knows what we’ll do. I just want to keep racing.”

 

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