Andrew McLaughlin, a commercial fisherman by trade, makes a nearly six-hour round trip to Wiscasset Speedway every other week during the season to race his Late Model for one simple reason.

“I want to be wherever the best competition is for my style of car, and when there’s a race I want to be one of the cars that has a chance to win,” McLaughlin said from his home in Harrington this week while preparing for Saturday’s season opener at the Wiscasset track. “Racing Saturday nights at Wiscasset is probably going to be the top of my career, and (track owners Richard and Vanessa Jordan) make it nice for a lot of people to come race in a really great division.”

In one of the healthiest weekly fields in the state, routinely attracting in the low-20s for car counts throughout last season, McLaughlin was the shining star. He won three races and finished in the top-five in all but one of his 11 starts, posting an astounding seven podium finishes. All that consistency added up to the Late Model championship for the 34-year-old McLaughlin, the first in his career at Wiscasset.

His only previous championship of any kind came in the Street Stock division at Speedway 95 in Hermon in the early 2010s.

That he had to hold off former track champions Chris Thorne of Sidney and Will Collins of Waldoboro, as well as nearly a dozen drivers racing every week for points, added to McLaughlin’s sense of accomplishment.

“I’ve raced at tracks where there are maybe only two or three guys racing for points,” McLaughlin said. “It does give you a little bit more sense of accomplishment when there’s so many good cars out there. I think it’s going to be a really competitive class again, too. There’s a lot of veterans like Chris and (Daren) Ripley, who have been doing this for 20 or 30 years. It’s highly competitive and there’s a lot of young talent in the class, too.”

McLaughlin spent little time this winter thinking about last season’s title run. His focus remains, at least from season’s end until Memorial Day, on the annual Coastal 200 at Wiscasset.

“For me, the Coastal is the biggest race of the year,” McLaughlin said of the May 26 event. “I don’t think too much about what I’ve done in the past. Racing is week to week, and you’re always looking forward to the next thing, working hard on what you want to do for that. Right now, the next thing is to try and tune and get my car as fast as I can for the Coastal 200. That’s always the first mindset of the year.

“After that, you can kind of set your goals for the rest of the summer.”

The 50th year of Wiscasset Speedway, after getting rained out last weekend, is set to begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Late Models are slated for a 40-lap feature event. The Strictly Street, Outlaw Mini, Modified and NELCAR Legends divisions are also on the card.

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Oxford Plains Speedway will pull double-duty this weekend, opening its weekly racing program Saturday evening and hosting the Pro All Stars Series and American-Canadian Tour for a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon.

One driver among several who will be busy this weekend is Waterboro’s Curtis Gerry.

Gerry, the two-time and reigning Beech Ridge Motor Speedway champion, is competing weekly this season at Oxford. He is entered in both Saturday’s weekly 50-lap Super Late Model event as well as Sunday’s PASS Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150.

Gerry’s recent history at Oxford would constitute a Hall of Fame career for most drivers. He won the 2017 Oxford 250, at the time his first career touring series victory of any kind. That win touched off a stretch of five straight PASS wins at Oxford for the 48-year-old driver, making him the first driver in series history to win five consecutive races at a single track.

• • •

Hudson, New Hampshire’s Joey Polewarczyk will be back at Oxford Plains this weekend, a track he considers his home away from home. He’s entered in the ACT Late Model Tour portion of Sunday’s 150-lap doubleheader fresh off a win in ACT’s inaugural event at Richmond (Virginia) Raceway last month. It will be one of a handful of starts he makes on a part-time basis with the series in 2019, while also competing part-time on the Super Late Model side.

“We’re carrying some momentum, and that definitely does not hurt,” Polewarczyk said in a press release. “It keeps everyone pumped up. Like I said, it’s been a while since we’ve run the American-Canadian Tour car (at Oxford), but I’m looking forward to it. We had a lot of success in the Late Model-style cars at Oxford, especially when the Oxford 250 was Late Model-style, so I’m excited to get back.”

Polewarczyk, the 2014 ACT champion, won the 2012 Oxford 250 when it was a Late Model race. But he won’t be the only Oxford 250 winner in the field Sunday.

Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Pelham, New Hampshire, has returned to full-time ACT competition this season. The three-time ACT champion won the 2016 Oxford 250 in a Super Late Model.

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