Smiths enjoy family rivalry as father races son

Posted Aug. 21, 2008, at 11:44 p.m.

For several years, Jesse Smith served as the crew chief for his father, Gary.

Gary Smith has raced Pro Stock cars at several tracks in Maine and the northeast including Hermon’s Speedway 95 and he has been running in the Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North tour for several years.

He also runs in important races across the region.

This year, they have had an opportunity to race each other.

Jesse began his driving career in the Pro Stock series a couple of years ago.

This season, Gary Smith has run five races in the PASS SLM North series and Jesse has raced in two of them. Jesse Smith has run several times in the weekly Wiscasset Raceway Pro Stock series and Gary has raced a handful of times.

Gary Smith said he “loves” racing his son.

“It’s a blast. I’ve always wanted to race him. Even though it means we have to split up the crew, we’ll still keep doing it,” said Gary.

“It’s like doing anything with your kid, whether you coach him in basketball or anything else. We’ve been involved in racing a long, long time and now that we get a chance to race together, it’s kind of cool,” added the 52-year-old Smith.

Jesse concurred.

“It’s pretty fun racing against him. But we haven’t been able to do much side-by-side racing because either his car is a lot better than mine or mine is a lot better than his. But it’s still fun,” said the 27-year-old Jesse.

The younger Smith said being his dad’s crew chief for several years has aided his driving career.

“It gives me a different perspective on what goes on [during a race],” said Smith. “I know what my car would be doing [in a similar situation] when I watch his car. And, sometimes, I know exactly what to do to fix it. It also helps as far as setting up the cars.”

Gary Smith acts as his son’s crew chief if he isn’t racing and Jesse continues to serve as his dad’s crew chief if he doesn’t have a race.

Smith is proud of his son’s accomplishments.

“He’s had top 10 finishes every week but one. He’s had a second and a third,” said Gary Smith, noting that his son has missed three races.

Oxford 250 scheduled July 19

The NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule for 2009 has been released and Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan is again going to take advantage of the Cup series’ off-weekend in July to hold the 36th annual TD Banknorth 250.

It will be held on Sunday, July 19.

Ryan began scheduling the 250 on Sprint Cup’s off-weekend in July, 2004 so he could attract Sprint Cup drivers.

And he has landed an impressive list including current Sprint Cup points leader Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Terry Labonte and 2004 points champion Kurt Busch.

Harvick became the first current Cup driver to win the 250 last month.

Ryan said he was “very happy” Sprint Cup continued to schedule an off-weekend in July.

“It’ll serve us well again, I’m sure,” said Ryan. “Given the hype we received from [Harvick’s] entry and his talking it up among his Sprint Cup friends, I’m sure we’ll have a lot of interest from the guys down south. It’ll jog a lot of interest from fans and competitors.”

Ryan said Harvick’s accessibility endeared him to the fans and he has been a great ambassador for the race.

“I gave him an Oxford 250 program from five or six years ago and it had an old picture of Jeff Gordon and the thin little moustache he wore back then,” said Ryan. “It was making the rounds in the Sprint Cup garages in Michigan last weekend. People were getting a big kick out of it. It’s always good when they’re passing around an Oxford 250 program.”

Harvick played an Oxford 250-related prank on Hamlin last weekend, added Ryan.

“When Denny was here [2006], he finished 36th and asked me [tongue-in-cheek] where his trophy was for 36th,” said Ryan. “I had one made up for him [as a joke] but I never had the guts to send it to him.

“I told Harvick the story and he asked me if I still had the trophy. I told him I did and Kevin said he would give it to Denny at Michigan. Harvick put it on top of Denny’s car at Michigan last weekend and Denny got a big kick out of it,” said Ryan.

Ryan said adding Sprint Cup drivers to the race “has made the race even more special than it was in the past.”

Special night at Speedway 95

M.J.’s Cap’s Connection Relay for Life will hold a fundraiser at Hermon’s Speedway 95 on Saturday night.

It will begin at 5 p.m. and last until the start of racing at 7.

The proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society. There will be two dunk tanks, a blowup slide and a ring toss for the children.

The benefit will honor the memory of the late Mary Jo Sekera.

The event has raised over $100,000 in five years.

Anyone wanting to be involved should call Del Merritt or Pat Tait at 478-4795.

Credit Now! will sponsor the evening and fans can win a $10,000 2005 Ford Explorer; two free tickets and two pit passes to Loudon, N.H. to the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 14.

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