When Ajay Picard made the jump to the Super Late Model ranks, he knew it would be a difficult learning curve.

The Palmyra native is enjoying his best season in the Pro Stock division at Wiscasset Speedway.

The former Unity Raceway Late Model champion is second in the standings behind defending champion Andy Saunders through six races.

“We started out really great,” Picard said. “The last couple of weeks, we got turned around. But that’s part of racing.”

Last Saturday’s 40-lap feature was indicative of the type of driver Picard is — while leaders tangled through the first half of the event, Picard recovered from some light contact early to post a top-five finish.

After winning the 2012 Late Model crown at Unity, Picard converted his No. 99 into a Super Late Model. He spent the next three seasons racing part time, finally making five starts at Wiscasset last season before a crash into the tire barrier in Turn 1 ended his campaign early.

There’s no more tire barrier at Wiscasset — the result of track improvements made by owners Richard and Vanessa Jordan — and there seems to be no barrier, either, as to what Picard could accomplish this season.

“I’ve never really raced (Super Late Models),” Picard said, noting the time it has taken for his program to catch up to the competition. “After we raced Late Models, we turned the car over and went down to Beech Ridge and totaled out our race car. We got it back together, went back down to Beech Ridge and realized it was too far for us to haul.”

Picard doesn’t anticipate a true championship run this season, either. With his work for a construction company providing some conflicts for his racing schedule, he’s happy to try and run up front every week.

More importantly, he’s on the cusp of a first career victory in a Super Late Model.

Two weeks ago, he finished second at Unity in a 50-lap event, the first race of that track’s Triple Crown series.

“We put a new clip on it (over the winter) and we changed the whole setup to something way different than we’ve ever done things,” Picard said. “It’s always a learning curve. It never stops. You learn things every week but it’s going good and we’re pretty happy with how it’s going.

“We started off the season on a good note and we’re headed in the right direction,” Picard said. “We’re just looking for that win. We’re close. We can taste it.”

CLOSE COMPETITION: Picard sees some of the recent beating and banging in Wiscasset’s top division as a product of hard racing and not a case of some drivers simply having a lack of respect for fellow competitors.

“I look at some of it as hard racing, but it’s 50-50. It could all be fixed,” Picard said. “Everyone’s got to figure out that the races are long, they can take their time, and there’s plenty of time to get to the front.”

Last week, two separate incidents before the halfway mark of the 40-lap Pro Stock feature took out contenders, including five-time champion Scott Chubbuck, of Bowdoin, among others.

“Everybody’s out here racing hard. You’re going to touch — that’s part of racing,” Picard said. “Somebody’s going to make a mistake, because none of us here are perfect. That’s a true story. There’s not anybody out here on this race track, in any class, that’s perfect. There’s no way.”

As Picard knows all too well, though, wrecked equipment is a huge burden to bear for weekly teams.

“We don’t want anybody to wreck their race cars, that’s for sure,” he said. “There’s way too much money in these things. It was a long winter putting it back together. I couldn’t race after race five (last year) because I put it on its roof. It’s a lot of money for weekly racers — we call ourselves Weekly Warriors for a reason.”

LEFT TURNS: Austin Theriault, 22, of Fort Kent, finished second in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway for his best career finish. Theriault, third in the series standings, has four top fives in eight races this season. The series heads next to New Hampshire Motor Speedway as part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301 weekend July 15-17. … Kamren Knowles, 16, of Readfield, won the 50-lap 4-Cylinder Pro Stock feature at Wiscasset on Saturday night, the fifth win of the season for the two-time defending division champion. … Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Dover, New Hampshire, won a 100-lap event at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday afternoon to give him an automatic starting spot in the HP Hood Oxford 250 on August 28.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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