June 25, 2018
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Gassah Guys bring ’60s race cars to Winterport Dragway

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

WINTERPORT, Maine — The Gassah Guys Nostalgia Reunion racing series has expanded to six races at Winterport Dragway and Vaughan Stevens, president of the Gassah Guys, couldn’t be happier.

The Gassah Guys tour is for drivers in cars that were built primarily in the 1960s.

“We have some up to 1974 but that’s the cut-off,” said Stevens. “We started out with three races and now it’s grown to six.

“Most of us are in the same age bracket and we have common interests. This has turned out to be something way beyond what I envisioned when we started [six years ago],” said Stevens. “It’s unbelievable. People get here a day or two before the racing. It has become a big party. There’s a lot of camaraderie.”

“It has been a godsend for us,” said Winterport Dragway Association president Don Joy. “They’re very good people to deal with.”

The Gassah Guys come from across the Northeast.

“It’s a great club and they bring the people in,” said Winterport Dragway track manager Rich Kopper.

Stevens said there are a number of drivers who build their dragsters specifically to run at Winterport Dragway.

“There are a lot of people involved. Some are older, retired people and some aren’t quite retired. They all have some money to spend and they use the money to build a race car, believe it or not,” quipped Stevens.

He pointed out that while the Gassah Guys also race at other drag strips across the Northeast, it is usually just a one-shot deal every year as opposed to having a race every month at Winterport Dragway.

They have continued to do their flag starts, which is how they used to begin races in the 1960s and ’70s. Someone stands at the end of the one-eighth-of-a-mile track and drops a flag to start the race.

And everybody starts at the same time when the starter drops the flag.

These days, a series of lights starts the race and a dragster with a slower time gets a time handicap so they actually start before their faster rival.

Stevens said the other piece of nostalgia is that Winterport Dragway is an old airstrip and that’s what the Gassah Guys used to race on during their primes.

The Gassah Guys already have held their first race at Winterport Dragway. They have time trials on Friday nights and race on Saturdays.

The next race will be on the weekend of June 15-16. The others will be held July 13-14, Aug. 10-11, Sept. 7-8 and Oct. 12-13.

Adding to the camaraderie of the races is the availability of free camping on land around the Winterport Dragway.

Stevens said two women involved with the track, Sally Joy and Charlotte Knight, put together a potluck dinner for the racers after the races on Gassah Guys weekends.

“It’s quite an affair,” said Stevens.

There were approximately 50 dragsters at the last Gassah Guys weekend but Stevens said he expects 80 for the next one.

“A lot [of drivers] weren’t ready for the first one,” he said.

There are 18 classes although Stevens said most of the activity is in 11 classes.

“The competition has really increased,” he said.

The Aug. 10-11 weekend is special because that is the weekend tabbed the Gassah Guys Mid-Season Championships.

They don’t have a points series so they decided to have one weekend designated as the championship series.

“Dave MacMaster called me and said he wanted to get involved so he’s going to put on a pig roast that weekend,” Stevens said.

MacMaster owns Butler and MacMaster Automotive and Engines based in Hallowell.

When the Gassah Guys come to Winterport in June, they probably will be greeted by a new timing system.

“Some folks who race with us [weekly] have stepped up and sponsored the money for that,” said Joy. “Our current system is antiquated.”

The price tag will be $5,000, according to Kopper.

Joy said the dragway association is going to try to build up its junior dragster class for youngsters ages 8-17.

They drive a half-scale model of a rear engine dragster with a 150-inch wheel base. There is a 5-horsepower engine for beginners and younger drivers but that can be increased.

“It’s a good entry-level class. They’re really neat little cars. We have a limit on how fast they can go depending upon how old they are. The older kids can go up to 80 miles an hour,” said Joy.

Racing began in April and it has been a “decent start,” according to Kopper.

Kopper and Joy said the most popular of their four classes is the Pro class.

It is a step up from the Street class but not as expensive as the top class, the Super Pros.

“I race in the Pro Class and it would cost me $2,500 to $3,000 to upgrade it to Super Pros,” said Joy. “I like the Pro Class because there’s more emphasis on the driver and less on the technology. I like that.”

They have been getting 40-50 cars in the Pro Class, 18-20 in the Super Pros and six apiece in the Street Class and the Sleds/ Bikes (snowmobiles and motorcycles).

“A lot of people are moving up from the Streets to the Pro Class,” said Kopper. “They want to go faster. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

The Pro Class involves more electronics and speed than the Street Class.

There will be six Gamblers Racers where drivers in the Super Pros, Pros and Streets have their names drawn out of a hat and they race each other regardless of class. They put up the money for it.

Winterport Dragway has its races primarily on Sundays with time trials starting at 8:30 a.m. and the elimination races starting at 12:30 p.m.

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