The stands are empty and the roar of racing engines has faded as the second annual Spud 150 is in the books. This year's edition was dedicated to the memory of John Phippen Jr., driver of Late Model Stock car No. 59, who passed away earlier this summer. The pole position was left open, a 59-second moment of silence was observed before the race, and the race was stopped at the end of lap 59 to invert the field.
Frenchville native Shawn Martin, now living in Turner, continued the St. John Valley's win streak in the Spud 150. Last year, Fort Kent's Austin Theriault won the inaugural, event thrusting his name into the regional racing scene as an up-and-coming driver.
This was Martin's second win in special races held since the re-opening of the Aroostook County track. He won the 100-lap race in 2008.
Commenting on this year's Spud 150 Martin said, "I'm just happy to win this thing. It's great to come back home; to take the checkered flag is unbelievable. We tried to keep the car clean and stay out of the wrecks.
"There's not a single dent in this thing. That's the way you've got to race these long races, just be patient."
Martin continued saying, "It's unfortunate for Austin (Theriault) who had the fastest car (Sunday) until blowing a right front tire and losing a couple laps. He should have won and we should have been second. It is what it is. We got lucky."
The break of the race for Martin came early when a spinning car in turn four stopped directly in front of the Oxford Plains Speedway regular.
"Absolutely, that was my break. I did not know which way he was spinning. I turned right and my car spun sideways and we did not get any damage on that one," Martin said.
The return of Fort Kent's Theriault to defend his title of Spud 150 winner at his home track had the people in the pits and grandstands buzzing. Theriault is eighth in the American Canadian Tour (ACT) driver standings and leads the rookie-of-the-year standings by three points over Windham's Bradd Babb.
When asked if this year had a steep learning curve, the 16-year-old Fort Kent High School student said, "Yeah, it's been an up-and-down year. I think we will finish this year knowing we have learned a lot being a new team on the ACT Tour. There have been a few races when we struggled. Any team knows there will be those times.
"We have one race to go and we have three points up on the second-place guy (Babb). It will come down to last race at Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut."
This weekend Theriault will be competing in one of the most famous races in the Northeast, the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Speedway in Barre, Vt. When asked if he has his homework done during this harvest break, the high school junior and National Honor Society member replied, "I haven't done my math homework yet. It is still in my book bag."
The Spud 150 fifth-place finish for Josh St. Clair of Liberty assured him of his second straight Maine Racing Alliance Crown. A third-place finish at Wiscasset and his win at Speedway 95 put him comfortably at the top of the three-track alliance. St. Clair said, "My car ran pretty good to the 59-lap mark when we had to make the mandatory stop. I had a right front tire go down, forcing me to come back through the field."
The New England Transmissions "Hard Charger Award" for the car which passes the most cars in the race was awarded to Puncin St. Clair of Liberty. St. Clair, the father of champion Josh St. Clair, also won the overall Alliance "Hard Charger Award."
Racing stories were not limited to just the Late Models. Fort Fairfield's Dana York won the Street Stock Championship by three points over Limestone's Bobby Anderson. York and Anderson battle at the top went back and forth all season long. They came into the final week tied for the point lead. York sealed the championship after finishing fourth in the feature race with fifth place Anderson right on his bumper.
Danforth's Mike Kinney, in the Super Street class, drove with his left arm heavily braced, stapled and taped after cracking and cutting to the bone his left forearm the week before. Kinney said "I was grinding on a car when the high-speed device kicked back and cut my arm and cracked the bone. Driving in the practice was a little rough when my power steering belt flew off. I dodged several incidents in the heat race and the feature to finish a strong fifth."
Track owner Troy Haney summed up the race stating, "The Spud 150 was a good race despite having to postpone it from our usual Saturday night spot due to rain. It was neat to see Shawn, a St. John Valley native, win the second-highest-paying race in Maine, second only to the Oxford 250. He is a class act."
When asked about the season Haney replied, "I am pleased with many things. We had more car counts and more fans than in the past. We look forward to bigger and better things in 2011. Stay tuned."