WISCASSET — Drivers at Wiscasset Speedway didn’t have to worry about the hot weather, the slick race track or even mechanical failures Saturday night. The one thing they really needed to worry about was their competition.

In a race better suited for a quarter-mile bullring, point leader Nick Hinkley took advantage of a fast start to win the rough and tumble 50-lap Pro Stock feature and earn a guaranteed starting spot in the U.S. Pro Stock/Super Late Model Nationals at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway on July 18. Hinkley, of Wiscasset, beat reigning champion Daren Ripley of Appleton and Kevin Douglass of Sidney to the checkered flag. It was the third victory of the season for Hinkley, who last season claimed Wiscasset’s Late Model title.

Though the U.S. Nationals promise $10,000 to win the midweek event, Hinkley was unsure following Saturday’s win if he would be making the trip.

“It’s tough with my guys doing the weekday thing, but you never know,” he said.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Jamie Wright of Woolwich (84) and Cody Tribbett of Richmond race in the early going of the Pro Stock feature Saturday night at Wiscasset Speedway.

He wasn’t wavering on any decision-making once taking the green flag for Saturday’s feature. After starting sixth in the 16-car field, Hinkley hopped to the outside on a lap four restart to challenge early leader Jamie Wright. But Wright offered no resistance when his car hopped the infield curbing and skidded up the track and slowed well off the pace.

That handed the lead to Hinkley, and he never relinquished it.

“The car was definitely good, but anytime you get out front you can use the whole track,” Hinkley said. “You can pick up that extra tenth you wouldn’t be able to if you couldn’t use the track like that.”

On a tricky surface with little grip in the outside lane, Hinkley thought it was important to take advantage of the top groove while his tires were still at their freshest.

“You’ve got to use the outside to pass,” Hinkley said. “But you’re better off to do it when the tires are fresh to try and get it out of the way and get down (to the bottom).”

Ripley and Douglass each took longer routes to podium finishes.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan People stand and face the flag in the Wiscasset Speedway infield before a Pro Stock race Saturday night.

Ripley was battling inside the top five when he got together with Kevin Morse on lap 19, opting to utilize the speedway’s “gentleman’s rule” after getting into the rear of Morse. That allowed Morse to restart the race in fourth position — where he had been running at the time of the caution flag — while Ripley restarted at the rear.

Ripley got all the way back to second place at the finish, but not before narrowly avoiding the lapped machine of Jamie Peaslee as it spun right across the bumper of Ripley’s No. 09 car with 21 laps remaining.

“I think it’s a lot of inexperienced guys out there that just are not staying in the same line,” Ripley said. “You’re just getting chopped off, and maybe they should be in different classes before they come up through (to Pro Stock). I’m sorry to say that, but it’s just the way I feel.

“It was just, in all, a rough night.”

Ripley was not alone in his assessment. It seemed any time more than two cars were racing together on the track, there was plenty of dodging, wiggling and bouncing off one another. It kept cars on the outside from using an already dicey lane to gain any momentum forward, while also keeping the cars on the inside pinned against the curb separating the track from the infield grass.

Every pass appeared to be an adventure for virtually every spot in the field.

“A lot of take and not much give out there,” said Douglass, who was spun from behind on lap two and had to restart at the tail of the field. “You don’t really want to beat up $30,000 race cars. I think it might just be inexperience on some people’s part. They’ll get it straightened out.”

Joe Decker of Chesterville and Cody Tribbett of Richmond completed the top five.

The best challenge to Hinkley never even saw the checkered flag. Nick Reno of Bath had erased a more than three-second deficit to get to Hinkley’s bumper just past the midway point, but his car slowed and pulled into the pit area almost immediately following a lap 30 restart. Reno returned briefly — sans hood — near the race’s conclusion, but he was scored 12th at the finish, 16 laps down.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Wiscasset’s Nick Hinkley (15), leading Kevin Morse (29) and Nick Reno (77) won the Pro Stock feature on Saturday at Wiscasset Speedway.

Hinkley’s finish was his division-leading fifth top-five of the year and extended what had been a 20-point lead atop the standings over Wright entering the weekend.

Per track procedure, Hinkley’s engine was impounded following the race to ensure its legality.

In other races Saturday, Oakland’s Zach Audet was credited with the Thunder 4 Mini 25-lap feature win after Albion’s Spencer Sweatt failed post-race tech. Connor Wenners of Edgecomb won the 25-lap New England 4-Cylinder Pro Stock main.

The night concluded with a win in the Super Street division for Harpswell’s Mark Lucas.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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