Do you sometimes, especially during those balmy summer days and nights, feel the need for speed? You’re not alone. Watching stock car races is one of the top spectator sports in the country. First, what is a stock car? It’s a car that has been altered from its original factory specifications. A bigger motor to provide high speeds, being an important such alteration.

As for the history of stock car racing, one source credits Prohibition, the very act that prohibited selling alcohol, to the formation of the sport. What’s the connection between booze and car racing?

Stock car racing was developed in the days of Prohibition and began to spread in the 1920s. …stock cars were modified during this time to help alcohol producers outrun law enforcement while transporting liquor, which had become illegal to sell. The cars looked like all the other automobiles on the road, but they had been altered slightly to make them capable of reaching high speeds. “Moon runners” as these individuals were called, began bragging about their 120 mph exploits, and soon after they began racing on the weekends. Thus, stock car racing was born.

Stock car racing provides a great outlet for fun and competition for the many racers, who Ken Minott of Wiscasset Speedway says, “…can be your mailman, electrician, banker. During the day these people are everyday folks. At the speedway, they can be champions.”

Minott, who worked for years in local radio as a disc jockey, now announces the races at Wiscasset and is proud of what they offer.

“We are family-friendly with a five-dollar admission fee that is affordable. Kids under age six are free.”
And yes, Minott says, he makes a point to announce to the crowd that there’s a significant amount of noise and ear protection is available at the concession stand, a must for young kids and probably most of the adults.

Most tracks have monster truck events, where gigantic modified trucks usually run a race around junk cars in the middle and are judged on how well they execute certain tricks.

“The big draw for us is Greg Winchenbach. He’s from Jefferson but competes on the national level. His truck looks like a lobster.”
Minott’s favorite part of announcing is a good, hard-fought race, where the drivers get out of the cars and shake hands. That’s when I’m happiest.”
Vanessa Jordan owns Wiscasset Speedway with her husband.

“When we bought the track, he told me, “ ‘I bought you a job.’ ” She laughs and adds, “It’s a lot of hard work putting on a race day. We have a volunteer staff of 50 people who come for the day and help out because they love the sport.”

George Thomas is the major multi-tasker at Speedway 95 in Hermon.
“I’m the announcer, I do the public relations and mow the lawn.”
The now-retired Thomas, who had a career with the State of Maine, joked about his role at the track, which bills itself as “the family fun track.”
Describing the layout, Thomas said, “It’s a flat track, 1/3 mile around, asphalt, not dirt.”

The races are based on numbers of laps driven around the track and the types of vehicle involved.
“They go from starter cars off the street to completely custom built by one of the race shops in the state.”
What’s the most popular event? “Fans like the faster cars – late models, custom cars.“Speed costs money. We like to say, ‘How fast can you afford to go?’ ”
Thomas is proud of Speedway 95’s kids’ program.

“It’s run only after school gets out and stops when school starts in the fall, so kids aren’t tempted to skip school to go to the track.” Girls as well as boys participate in this program. “The kids run Wednesday nights: basic cars off the street, and they’re not allowed to alter them much. Road runners, they’re called.”
Oxford Plains Speedway is the grandfather of the Maine tracks. Celebrating 70 years of racing, they host what some consider the crown jewel of events: the Oxford 250. With 14,000 seats, it’s among the biggest sports venues in the state and people come from all over for this event. Join the crowd for the 45th running of this great race August 24-26.

What’s to eat at the races? You’re not going to find a kale Caesar salad, for certain.

“It’s fair food,” as George Thomas puts it, “deep-fried Twinkies, jalapeno poppers, things like that.”
At some tracks you can bring your own food or fire up a grill. Pack that kale salad in your Tupperware and tote it along.

There’s fun and excitement at the races. But there’s more to those monster trucks than meets the eye. Last year, after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Texas, people driving monster trucks, the only vehicles that could traverse higher flood waters, helped first responders with rescues and deliveries of food and other necessities. That’s a mechanical “evolution” that has positive social implications. Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines.
Check the tracks’ website and/or Facebook page for the 2018 schedule of races and special events.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

OXFORD PLAINS SPEEDWAY
877 Main Street (Track address), Oxford call 539-8865
or check oxfordplains.com

SPEEDWAY 95
1070 Odlin Road, Hermon
call 945-9595
or check speedway95racing.com

WINTERPORT DRAGWAY
141 Airport Road, Winterport;
call 223-3998
or check winterportdragway.com

WISCASSET SPEEDWAY
274 West Alna Road, Wiscasset
call 491-3720
or check wiscassetspeedway.com

 

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