First sled drag races in Medway a hit

Posted Jan. 17, 2010, at 9:19 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:06 p.m.
Eighty-three drag racers graced the inaugural Maine Snowmobile Drag Racing Association races at the East Branch Sno-Rovers Club in Medway on Sunday, a first effort that impressed volunteer organizers intent on making Medway one of New England?s premiere spots for snowmobile drag races. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY NICK SAMBIDES JR.
Eighty-three drag racers graced the inaugural Maine Snowmobile Drag Racing Association races at the East Branch Sno-Rovers Club in Medway on Sunday, a first effort that impressed volunteer organizers intent on making Medway one of New England?s premiere spots for snowmobile drag races. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY NICK SAMBIDES JR.

MEDWAY, Maine — By virtue of his 129.43 mph, 5.24-second performance, Bob Bower was the first record-setting snowmobile drag racer at the new ice track at the East Branch Sno-Rovers Club on Sunday.

He didn’t expect to remain king for long.

“I am kind of hoping I will break it myself today,” the West Gardiner resident said Sunday of his record. “I knew it was a good run, but we found a bunch of little problems with my sled. I blew off a boost tube and I had a slight leak in a charge tube. It was pretty good for a first time.”

David Violette felt the same way.

Though a few small problems occurred, the club president was very pleased with Sunday’s drag races, the poker run Saturday and the number of people who attended both. About 1,000 people watched 83 racers Sunday and more than 100 sledders Saturday, with as many as 700 spectators that first day, he said.

“We have had a good number of people show up,” Violette said. “The track is in pretty good shape. We were late getting started, but once we get computers set up, things will run very much smoother.”

Registration occurred promptly at 6:30 a.m., ensuring a long day for the more than 30 club volunteers who made the event possible, but it went slowly because the process wasn’t computerized, Violette said.

Snowmobile drag racing is not unlike auto drag racing. It’s loud, very precise and a little amazing to the eyes. From the starter’s light pole to the finish line is about 600 feet of ice, 5 to 7 inches thick. That’s the racing portion of the 2,400-foot iced track. The rest is for slowing down.

Haley Michaud and Jamie Dill, of East Millinocket, were impressed with the racers’ speed.

“It’s very intense,” said Dill, 16, “especially when the races are very close.”

The race was the first in the state; in fact, the first ever as part of the inaugural drag racing season of the fledgling Maine Snowmobile Drag Racing Association. The association formed this year because racers wanted to bring out of the largely unorganized state drag-racing scene a standard set of rules within a series of ice races held from January to March, according to the association’s Web site, www.maineice.com.

Medway will hold three of the association’s six races this season. The next races are Jan. 30-31 at the Norway Trackers snowmobile club on Lake Pennesseewassee in Norway.

Violette was grateful for the volunteers, town Public Works Department workers and others who made the track over the past several weeks. Thanks to a grant from a local economic development board, bleachers for 270 spectators are on order. Besides concessions stands and an indoor clubhouse, the Hathaway Road club bor-ders snowmobile trails and has a steep hill for children to sled or snowboard, helping to make race days family affairs.

Medway’s track is also the state’s first not built on rivers and lakes, thus not prone to the inherent hazards of rising temperatures and undulating water currents.

“They [volunteers] did a pretty good job with it,” Bower said. “If the temperatures were a little colder, the ice would have been a little harder and you would have seen people going even faster because they would have gotten more traction, but that’s nothing you can blame anybody for. They did a good job with what they had to work with.

“This is still a better track, a safer track, than any other,” he added.

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