The sagging economy and shaky weather have taken their toll on Winterport Dragway this season but Winterport Dragway Association president Bucky Chubbuck is hoping this weekend’s three-day race card, including the second of four Gassah Guys Nostalgia Reunion weekends and the 11th annual Jeff Paluga Memorial King of the Street race, will jump start a second-half turnaround.
The Gassah Guys Nostalgia Reunion, which is for touring vintage dragsters from all over the northeast and features old-time flag starts instead of the current electronic starts, will kick off the weekend with time trials beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday.
Time trials will continue for the Gassah Guys on Saturday from 9-12 and eliminations will follow starting at 12:30 p.m.
It will be the Gassah Guys’ mid-season championship races.
Chubbuck estimated that the combination of the economy and occasional weekend weather problems have reduced the car counts by 20 percent and attendance by 30 percent.
They are still getting more than 100 cars for their seven classes, he said.
The classes are the Super Pros with electronics, the Pro Class without electronics, Super Streets, Regular Streets, Motorcycles, Snowmobiles and Lawn Mowers.
“It’s the worst it has been in five or six years,” said Chubbuck. “We had a little spell like this five of six years ago but then it started getting better again.”
He pointed out that the price of gas for a dragster ranges from $7-15 per gallon and the cars in the pro eliminator class require 5-7 gallons of gas on race day.
“You also have to consider the cost of gas required to bring your dragster to the track. Some come from quite far away,” said Chubbuck.
As for the weather, he said the threat of inclement weather is just as problematic as the weather itself.
“If the weather man says on a Monday that the weather is going to be bad the following Sunday, people will make plans to go elsewhere,” explained Chubbuck.
Chubbuck will be hoping the weather will cooperate this weekend and Rick Kopper, the track manager, will be sharing that wish.
“It’s definitely a very important weekend for us,” said Kopper. “There will be a lot of cars. If the weather cooperates, it will be beneficial to us.”
There won’t be gamblers races for the Winterport Dragway regulars on Saturday following the Gassah Guys but the Winterport regulars will race on Sunday, including the Jeff Paluga Memorial King of the Street race, beginning with time trials at 8:30 a.m. Eliminations get under way at 12:30.
Chubbuck said one special event will be a Camaro-Mustang challenge. A Camaro will be paired against a Mustang until a point is reached where one type of car is eliminated and then the remaining cars of the same make are paired with each other.
Jeff Paluga was a former Winterport Dragway racer who died in a motorcyle accident according to Chubbuck. Chubbuck added that the proceeds will go to the Jeff Paluga Scholarship Fund to help youngsters with their college bills.
Hallowell’s Johnny Clark gave new-born daughter Alivia her first present last Saturday night, a win in the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Model 150 at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway.
His wife, Niki, gave birth to Alivia on July 29.
It was Clark’s first win in four career starts at Seekonk and gives him five victories in 10 starts in the PASS North SLM series this season.
He said he had been chided by friend and fellow PASS driver Cassius Clark before the race.
“He said he hoped I wouldn’t become like (Sprint Cup driver) Jeff Gordon, start having kids and then not being able to win another race,” said Johnny Clark.
“It didn’t take long,” quipped Clark.
Clark is off to the best start of his PASS career and the defending three-time points champion has four races left to set a PASS record for wins in a season.
Despite parting ways with crew chief Robert Green after two races, the former Win-Dale (Winthrop/Hall-Dale High School) hockey star has been remarkably consistent.
What has been the key for the 31-year-old Clark?
“We don’t over-engineer ourselves,” he said.
He explained that they are constantly trying to improve their race car but don’t make dramatic changes to it.
“We fine-tune it. I feel a lot of people make too big a swing at (changing) things. They over-engineer themselves,” he said.
Clark said younger brother Bob, who used to be his spotter, has taken on a much more prominent role since the departure of Green.
The next PASS North race will be on Sunday, Aug. 28 at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, N.H.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway has a busy weekend on tap including the return of the IZOD Indy Car series for the first time sine 1998..
There will be a pair of American-Canadian Tour races, a Whelen Modified feature and an Indy Lights race before Sunday’s MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225, which is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.