HERMON, Maine — Last year at this time, Hermon’s Mike Hopkins fattened his wallet by winning the John Phippen Memorial Late Model race at Speedway 95.
He will look to defend his championship on Thursday night when the John Phippen Jr./Allen Fletcher Memorial race will take place at Speedway 95.
“I’m hoping to defend it. It’s the biggest race of the year,” said Hopkins, who pocketed $1,459 a year ago.
It will be a 100-lap race — Late Model features at 95 are normally 35 laps — and the winner will pocket $1,200. A 35-lapper pays $700. Drivers also will receive $25 for every lap led.
Racing will begin at 7.
Hopkins has had a strong year in the Late Models with four wins, a second and two thirds. He leads the series in victories even though he hasn’t run all of the 10 races.
“I’ve taken two or three weeks off,” he said.
Duane Seekins of Stockton Springs said running a 100-lap race compared with a 35-lap feature involves a change in strategy.
“You have to pace yourself. You can’t burn the tires off,” said Seekins. “You set up your car for a long run and hope you’ll be there at the end and everyone else has burned up their tires.”
“You have to be patient,” agreed Hopkins. “Patience is a virtue in a race car. You’ve also got to have some luck. You’ve got to keep your car in one piece.”
Hopkins said he would love to be sitting among the top three with 30 laps to go and then he can go all-out at the end.
Hopkins said he intends to go through his car thoroughly before the race to make sure it’s ready for the 100 laps.
“I’ll double-check everything,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins and Seekins vary in their opinions about running 100 laps.
“I wish they had a 100-lap race every weekend,” said Hopkins.
“I used to enjoy them. But I’ve done this for 36 years and I get tired,” said the 55-year-old Seekins.
Seekins feels Hopkins is one of the favorites to win it.
“He’s been dominant all year,” said Seekins.
Late Model points leader Andy Saunders of Ellsworth is on the list of serious contenders. He has three seconds, two thirds and two fourths but hasn’t won yet.
“I’m very discouraged. We have a good solid car, but it blows my mind that we don’t have three or four wins by now,” said Saunders. “We’re going up there intending to run very well. Worst-case scenario, if we don’t run well, is we use it as a practice that will cost us a lot of money.”
“It should be a good race. Mike [Hopkins] is, no doubt, the guy to beat,” he added.
Carmel’s Phil Richardson, who is third in points and has a win, two thirds and a fourth, also should be in the mix along with John Kalel II of Orrington and Deane Smart of Bradley, who are fourth and fifth in points.
There is also Seekins, who was second in a 35-lapper 10 days ago.
Smart and Seekins finished second and third, respectively, in last year’s race.
Winterport’s Ryan Deane, who is second in points, won’t run because he is going to save his car for Sunday’s TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, according to Hopkins.
“And I’m pretty sure we’ll be getting drivers from other tracks because no one else is racing on Thursday,” said Kim (Baker) Allen, the head scorer and office manager at Speedway 95. “It’ll be fun. Hundred-lappers are always crowd pleasers.”
Allen said they still are seeking sponsors for the race and anyone interested can call 945-9595.
The race honors the memories of Town Hill’s Phippen and Milford’s Fletcher.
Phippen died of a heart attack after collapsing following a 100-lap race at Speedway 95 in 2009.
Fletcher suffered a head injury during a wreck at a race at Unity Raceway in 2002 and died three days later.
Moffitt wins Samuel 150
Brett Moffitt, who visited Maine and Speedway 95 last week along with Hattori Racing teammate Sergio Pena and HR competition director Andy Santerre of Cherryfield, led from start to finish in the K and N Pro Series East’s Samuel 150 at CNB Bank Raceway Park (Pa.) Saturday night.
Moffitt’s second win of the season catapulted him from fourth into the top spot in the points standings. He has a four-point lead over rookie Kyle Larson with six races left.
Pena had electrical problems with his car and wound up 17th, although he did move up from 10th to ninth in points.
Moffitt was making his first visit to Maine last week for the second annual Ikey Dorr Memorial Race and he said the atmosphere reminded him of his native Iowa.
“You’ve got a lot of small towns all pulling together and they all go racing in one spot,” said Moffitt, who joined Pena and Santerre in signing autographs before the race. “It reminds me of my grass-roots racing.”
Pena actually got in a street stock car and took a few laps around Speedway 95. ESPN sent a crew to Speedway 95 to do film a segment with him.
“It was a lot of fun. It’s cool to race for Andy Santerre and get a chance to do some laps on Andy’s home track. The track was really flat but it was pretty quick. It would be a blast to race here,” said Pena.
Pena, a native of Winchester, Va., was making his second visit to Maine after coming up for Santerre’s charity snowmobile ride last winter.
Santerre took the 19-year-olds lobster fishing and they said they enjoyed their stay in Maine.
“I had never been on a lobster boat. It was cool. All the traps were set up, they pulled them up, got the lobsters out and we cooked them right there on the boat. They [tasted] really, really good,” said Pena.
“It was really cool to see how they do it. And we had great weather. We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Moffitt, who doesn’t eat seafood.
Moffitt observed that Santerre is very popular in his home state.
“Andy seems to know everybody and it didn’t matter where we were,” said Moffitt, whose nine career wins in the series are most among all active drivers and tie him for 12th all-time among all drivers.
Moffitt and Pena will race in the Jegs 150 at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway on Saturday.