When Wiscasset Speedway drops the green flag on a new season Saturday afternoon, there will be a notable absence from the starting grid. Fresh off a track championship, Daren Ripley won’t have his No. 09 at the track.

At least not for week one.

“I go to win races,” Ripley said Thursday. “The championship thing, I don’t know. I’m not going to race this weekend. We’re ready… but if I don’t race (week one), it puts me out of the championship and then I don’t have to do it every week if I don’t feel like it.”

Ripley, 52, of Warren, won six races a year ago en route to his first career championship of any kind. After more than three decades behind the wheel, including stints at Wiscasset, Unity Raceway and starts at other tracks and with regional touring series, Ripley finally added the once piece missing from his resume.

A championship.

But even he’s not convinced he deserved it, despite 10 top-two finishes in 2017.

“I didn’t mean to win this one here,” said Ripley, who also missed opening day a year ago. “I was 22 points behind Charlie Colby with two weeks left. I made up 18 points in one night when Charlie wrecked or had some trouble.”

He’s won more than 100 races across a number of different divisions at Wiscasset in his career, but it wasn’t until last summer that Ripley finally secured title No. 1.

“I think it’s kind of self-inflicted,” said Ripley, whose father Doug was inducted into the Maine Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame earlier this month. “I’ve always raced kind of when I felt like it, but I’ve also got enough good people surrounding me that it makes it worthwhile. It’s supposed to be a hobby, not a job.”

Ripley returned from a six-year absence from racing — with the exception of a one-off start in the Boss Hogg 100 at Wiscasset in 2014, which he won — last season. He says he’s enjoying racing more now than he ever has, and he’s got three Pro Stocks, one Modified and an Allison Legacy Series car — scaled-down cars that compete in Wiscasset’s 4-Cylinder Pro Stock class — which his eight-year-old son, Silas, will drive this season.

His brother, Wayne, will come out of a decade-long retirement to split time with Mike Brown in the seat of the Modified.

“I get more adrenaline out of this than going to a basketball game or something like that,” Ripley said of how racing has changed for him over the last 30 years. “But that adrenaline is also making me nervous now. I get butterflies. It comes and goes. I’m more nervous now than ever, but once they throw the green flag, they’re gone.”

On Saturday, he won’t have those butterflies. But, rest assured, the competition will likely have them when they see Ripley return for week two.

• • •

Two-time and reigning Beech Ridge Motor Speedway champion Reid Lanpher of Manchester posted his best career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East finish last weekend.

Lanpher finished 11th in the Zombie Auto 150 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Saturday. That race came just six days after Lanpher finished fourth in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) season opener at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park.

The Bristol race was Lanpher’s second start this season for Jefferson Pitts Racing. In mid-March, he raced as a JPR teammate to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick for JPR, finishing 10th at Kern County in Bakersfield, California, in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race.

• • •

After getting washed out last weekend, PASS will finally get to run the Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday.

The race will serve as the second half of a weekend doubleheader at Oxford. The track’s weekly program, including its Super Late Model division, will compete on Saturday afternoon.

Derek Griffith of Hudson, New Hampshire, won the PASS season opener at Thompson.

Lanpher is the defending winner of the April PASS event at Oxford.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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