Gardiner High School graduate Scott Maxim is certainly enjoying the Sprint Cup season so far.
Maxim is the director of engine support for Hendrick Motorsports, and three of Hendrick’s four drivers are in the top 11 in points.
Jeff Gordon is second, Jimmie Johnson is third and Mark Martin is 11th. The other Hendrick driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is 19th.
They have combined for six wins in 17 races.
Gordon has a win and nine top-five finishes, Johnson has two victories and seven top-fives and the 50-year-old Martin has three wins and four top-fives. Earnhardt Jr. has one top-five.
In addition, Hendrick Motorsports provides engine support for the Stewart-Haas team featuring points leader Tony Stewart (one win, nine top-fives) and seventh-place Ryan Newman (five top-fives).
“Everything has been going good. We’re at a good spot at this time of the year,” said Maxim. “We’re trying to develop our final [engine] packages as we begin to approach the Chase. We’re also trying to develop consistency on a weekly basis. And I think everything has been moving along well there.”
He said the veteran Martin has been a welcome addition.
“Mark has been great to have on board. He brings a lot to our team,” said Maxim. “He’s a professional through and through. He gives us great info. If you ask anything of him, he’s quick to be able to give us the information we need to help us make things better for him and make the car better.
“Whatever it may be that we have to deal with, whether it be an improvement or trouble-shooting, we just get wonderful info from him.”
The Car of Tomorrow designed to improve safety and create more parity has made things more challenging for Maxim and his department.
“The box we can work within is much tighter now. The opportunity to change things … the number of things that we can change is less and the magnitude that we can change them is less. So we can have a smaller impact on performance compared to years past,” said Maxim.
Kurt Busch back in hunt
Up until last season, Kurt Busch had been involved in the Race for the Chase three times in the previous four years.
But he finished 18th in the points in 2008, which represented his lowest finish since his rookie season in 2001 when he wound up 27th.
But Busch, the points champion in 2004, is right back in the thick of the chase this season.
Busch is currently fourth in points, 270 behind leader Tony Stewart. He has a win, five top-fives and nine top-10s in 17 races.
He is in his third year with Roger Penske after a six-year affiliation with Jack Roush.
“I feel good about our chances,” said Busch. “Our consistent eighth- to 12th-place finishes have been really good for us. We just have to bump it up a notch if we want to be competitive for the championship.”
“Things have changed with the new car [Car of Tomorrow]. We’re getting better with the more time we spend with it. Last year we seemed to run into dead ends everywhere we went,” said the 30-year-old Busch, who has 19 Sprint Cup wins in his career.
Montoya vying for Chase spot
Juan Pablo Montoya is having an impressive season as he vies for a spot in the Sprint Cup Chase.
Montoya, in his third season as a Sprint Cup regular after coming over from Formula One, is currently 12th in points.
He finished 20th in his rookie season as he notched one win, three top-fives and six top-10s.
He wound up 25th a year ago with just two top-fives and three top-10s.
He hasn’t posted a top-five finish through 17 races this season, but he has seven top-10s.
“The only difference between this year and the other years has been our consistency,” said Montoya, who collected seven wins in F-1, including the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003. “Our consistency has been good. Once you understand points racing, you can use it to your advantage.”
Montoya, who drives for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, has focused more on top-10 finishes. That has paid dividends as he doesn’t take as many late-race risks these days.
Some of those risks used to result in wrecks that cost him several places.
Busy weekend of racing slated
The state’s six major racetracks will be busy this Fourth of July weekend, weather permitting.
Unity Raceway and Scarborough’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway kick things off tonight at 6:30.
Both will have their regular race cards along with a fireworks show at each.
Unity will have a special 75-lap feature for its Late Models.
Friday night will also be Unity Residents Night at the raceway with half-price admission to the grandstand area for Unity residents with proof of residency.
The raceway will also host a food drive for the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry in Unity. For every item donated at the track Friday, the donor will receive a ticket for a grand prize drawing. The prize has yet to be announced.
Oxford Plains Speedway and Hermon’s Speedway 95 will have Saturday night racing beginning at 6:30. All of their classes will race, and OPS will have a fireworks show.
Spud Speedway in Caribou and Wiscasset Raceway will race on Sunday.
Spud Speedway gets going at 1 p.m. and Wiscasset will begin racing at 5 p.m.
Wiscasset will have Mid-Coast Mini-Cup cars in addition to its regular card and will also feature a fireworks show.