Frenchville’s Shawn Martin had a busy winter.
The Late Model driver at Oxford Plains Speedway said the time was right to build a new racecar and that’s exactly what he did.
“I built a brand new chassis. It’s an [Chevy] Impala body. The old car is still pretty good but it was time for a new one,” explained Martin. “An interesting note is that Austin Theriault built a car identical to mine. They’re sister cars.
Theriault is the 16-year-old driver from Fort Kent who will be racing in the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All-Stars Series features.
Martin, who now lives in Turner, obtained the chassis from Race Basics in Andover.
The 31-year-old, who works for Oxford Networks, a communications provider, will debut in his new car on Sunday when the ACT 150 will be held at OPS.
It will be opening day at OPS and racing will begin at 2 p.m. Oxford Championship and Oxford Acceleration Series features will also be held.
He said he has made a bunch of adjustments on his new car based on the knowledge he obtained from driving his previous cars.
“This one is easier to work on. It’s more user-friendly,” said the Wisdom High School of St. Agatha graduate.
He has tested his new car and said, “It felt pretty good. It was a hot day so the speed wasn’t super fast. A lot had to do with the track conditions. The real test will come with the other cars on Saturday.”
Drivers will be able to practice on Saturday.
Martin, who started his racing career at Caribou’s Spud Speedway, has strung together some solid seasons.
He won the Late Model points championship at OPS in 2004, has back-to-back top five finishes in the TB Bank Oxford 250 and was fourth in Late Model points at OPS last season.
He finished fifth in the 250 after starting 29th. Two years ago, he was fourth after starting 25th.
“I had a fairly good year last year,” said Martin. “I started off really well. But I had a lot of horrible luck in the second half. It seemed like every week I got a flat tire.”
His main focus this season is to qualify for the ACT race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. on Sept. 18.
“That can be accomplished two ways: win the [points] championship at Oxford or win an ACT-sanctioned event,” said Martin, who prefers longer races.
So he will run in the weekly Late Model class at OPS and also race selected ACT events.
“I’m ready for another [points] championship,” said Martin.
He enjoys racing with the ACT drivers, saying, “I love it. Those guys are some of the best racers in the region. And they’re some of the most respectful drivers you’ll find. You can race side-by-side with them and never get a dent in your car.”
He said it is more challenging than the OPS Late Model class.
“Instead of having 10 drivers capable of winning the race, you have 30 in the ACT race. You definitely have to step up your game,” he said.
Martin is looking forward to Sunday’s race and is confident.
“I feel like I can win every time I’m in a race car,” said Martin who also recognizes that it will take a little time at adapt to his new car.
He does intend to return to race at his home track in Caribou as he has the past two years.
“I try to keep the tradition by racing there every year. It’s exciting to go back,” said Martin who also has sponsors with ties to Aroostook County.
Unity gets under way Saturday
Unity Raceway will kick off its season on Saturday at 4 p.m.
There will be nine classes of racing and George Fernald Jr., who leases the track from Ralph and Nancy Nason, said he is optimistic.
“We’re looking good,” said Fernald, who is in his third season leasing the track. “We have 200 cars signed up. I figure we’ll get between 100-120.”
That would mean an average of 11-13 cars per class.
“And the way things are looking, we’d have 15-20 cars in each class by June,” said Fernald. “We’re looking for ways to find room so we can park everyone [racecars] in the pits.”
In his first two seasons, Fernald held his races on Friday nights, but that will probably change.
With nine classes, Fernald said the biggest complaint he heard is it “goes too late” on Friday nights.
His Friday night race cards began at 6:30 and he had to finish racing by midnight due to a town ordinance.
“We went [past midnight] a few times,” he admitted.
If he moves to Saturday night, he would start at 5:30.
He couldn’t start too early on Friday because drivers and fans have to get out of work.
He will make a decision within the next few weeks after talking to drivers.
“I don’t think I have much choice [but to move to Saturday night],” he said.
If Fernald goes to Saturday night racing, he would be in direct competition with Hermon’s Speedway 95, just 40 miles from Unity.
Speedway 95 holds its races on Sunday afternoon before switching over to Saturday nights on June 12.
“I’m friends with Del [Speedway 95 co-owner Del Merritt] and I don’t want to tick him off. But I’ve got to do what I have to do to survive,” said Fernald. “I’ve got to pull out all the stops to make money. My wife [Sherry] said if we don’t make money, we’re out of here.”