WISCASSET — Chris Thorne had almost forgotten what it was like to win a championship.

Thorne survived a wild 35-lap Late Model feature on Saturday night at Wiscasset Speedway — a race involving a mid-pack pileup on the first lap, a scary incident involving former track owner Dave St. Clair and several restarts — to win his fourth race of the season and claim the fourth championship of his career at Wiscasset.

Thorne, of Sidney, won three straight titles at the track from 2007-2009.

“That’s the characteristic of this car. I always start the year off fast and finish the year fast,” said Thorne, who won two of the last three races of the season and had 11 top-five finishes in 12 starts this season. “Through the summer, it always seems to be just a tick off. Before my last win, about a month and half ago, I made a few minor tweaks and I think that’s what it was. Everything on this car has to be just right. That’s just the way it is.”

Thorne, after winning his heat race, started the feature with a 14-point lead over second-place Nick Hinkley of Wiscasset. He started 14th in the 21-car field and had the lead by Lap 5 after two early restarts helped him gain track position. Hinkley sustained damage when a third of the field was involved in a wreck in the first corner of the first lap.

Once Thorne had the lead, he was in cruise control, opening up a lead of more than two full seconds until caution flew on Lap 30 for a scary incident involving two members of the St. Clair family on the backstretch. Dave St. Clair, a longtime former owner of the Wiscasset track, spun alone in front of the leaders while trying to stay on the lead lap. His grandson, Josh, a two-time feature winner this season, was racing in second when his car hit Dave’s driver’s side at nearly full speed.

It took several minutes for track officials and rescue workers to remove Dave St. Clair from his car on a stretcher. He was reportedly conscious and talking before being taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.

On the Lap 31 restart, Thorne got away as Andrew McLaughlin and Hinkley were left to battle for second.

“I knew (Hinkley) was caught up in that first wreck. After that, I was just going for the win,” said Thorne, whose four feature wins in 2016 led the division. “I wasn’t worried about where he was at all.”

Thorne owns five career Late Model championships, including one at Unity Raceway in 2005. His father, Gary, won four titles at Unity himself — one six-cylinder Charger championship, two Limited Sportsman championships and a Pro Stock title.

“I’ve kind of been thinking about that the last couple of weeks,” Chris Thorne said. “My last championship was seven years ago, and you kind of forget about it, to be honest with you. When you start thinking about it, you realize it’s quite an accomplishment, especially in a division like this with so many good cars.”

In the Outlaw Mini division, Shawn Kimball’s fourth feature win of the season wasn’t enough in the end.

Kimball, of Augusta, took the lead on a Lap 7 restart and cruised the rest of the way to win the 25-lap main event for the division by more than 4.3 seconds over Zach Audet of Skowhegan.

Audet nursed a slim four-point advantage at the top of the standings entering the night, won his heat race and settled in for second in the feature to claim his first career Wiscasset championship.

“We really wanted to win this,” said Audet, who plans to field a car for his son next season at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. “We’re going to play part-time, not full-time, next year. We put a lot of time and effort into this season.”

Audet took the lead on Lap 3 after starting seventh and appeared to be in control. But the race’s only caution allowed Kimball, who had followed Audet’s early move to the front, to restart the race alongside the point leader. Kimball got a great restart and had the lead by the time the two entered turn one.

“I figured, given his situation, he might not push it too much,” Kimball said of the restart.

“I played it a little more cautious tonight,” Audet said. “I knew I had enough points on him, so I didn’t have to worry about it.”

Kimball knew that he would need some help in order to win the championship, but that help never materialized. He and Audet were far and away the class of the field, with Audet finishing more than six seconds ahead of third-place Shane Smith.

“It’s a little disappointing, but if you do everything you can do, you can take comfort in that. We won the race, but we lost the battle,” Kimball said. “I’ve got two championships here, and now I’ve got second twice. Second is nowhere near as good as the championship is.”

For Kimball’s car owner, Pete McCollett of Readfield, said it was perhaps even more disappointing.

“I’ve got 26 years of trying to win a championship,” McCollett said. “I spent the last two weeks working on this car every night. The car showed it, so that at least makes me proud.”

In the first feature of the night, Adam Chadbourne of Woolwich led every lap to win the 30-lap Modified main event over Allan Moeller of Dresden. Harpswell’s Mark Lucas finished third, more than enough to claim his second straight Modified championship.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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