HERMON, Maine — Harrington’s Andrew McLaughlin won 10 races a year ago in annexing the Strictly Street points championship at Hermon’s Speedway 95.
That was two more trips to Victory Lane than a driver in any other class.
But McLaughlin is moving up to the track’s top division, the Late Models, beginning Saturday night when Speedway 95 opens for the season.
“I’m pretty excited and my team, my sponsors and everyone involved with me down here is pretty excited for me,” said the 28-year-old McLaughlin.
“There aren’t a lot of expectations. We’re going to work hard and do the best we can. We’d like to get some top fives and some top threes. It’s going to be a lot harder to win races because there’s a lot more competition. There are some really good, experienced racers in the Late Model division, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
McLaughlin bought a Chevy SS last summer and said his team rebuilt it this past winter.
“We stripped it down to the bare chassis and put it back together. If you’re going to compete with the [2012 points champion] Andy Saunders’ and Mike Hopkins’ [Late Model-high seven wins], you have to have a nice, clean, efficient car and everything has to work well on it,” said McLaughlin. “You have to make sure your setup is spot-on. If something is missing, some guys will take advantage of that.”
McLaughlin tested his car last weekend and said it went well.
“The car seemed to be decent. But there wasn’t much competition. A lot of the other guys weren’t there. It felt fast but I could have been a half-second slow. Until everyone else is out there, you won’t know how fast your car is going. It felt pretty good, but it could be altogether different this weekend,” said McLaughlin.
In addition to Ellsworth’s Saunders in the Late Models and McLaughlin in the Strictly Streets, the other points champions were Hermon’s Andrew Crosby in the Bombers, Carmel’s Ted Ryder in the Sport-Fours and Holden’s Steve Moulton in the Sportsman.
All five classes will be racing Saturday. The heat races will begin at 5. That will follow the Pretty Car competition at 4:30 and practice from 2 to 4:30.
The NELCAR Legends cars will also race.
McLaughlin said his decision to jump up in class involved his entire team.
His dad, Dave McLaughlin, was a longtime racer at Speedway 95 and won 10 races one season in the Super Street division.
“But he lost the championship by two points,” said Andrew.
Andrew said his father, who is also his crew chief, has been instrumental in his success.
“Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Andrew.
His brother, Eric, along with Kevin Robinson, Kenneth Dinsmore and Zac Strout, have comprised his crew, along with his dad.
“The Strictly Street class is supposed to be a class for beginners and we figured if I was going to keep racing, I needed to move up to Late Models within a couple of years,” said Andrew.
Kim (Baker) Allen, office manager and head scorer, said there is a lot of optimism entering the season.
There was an excellent turnout at the Bangor Mall show to check out the race cars a few weeks ago. She also said the fact Wiscasset Raceway is back in business after two years without racing and that Unity Raceway is on solid ground after closing early last season is beneficial for all of the tracks because there is a renewed interest in racing.
“It’s exciting to have racing everywhere again. It’s back to where it was and where it should be,” said Allen, who added that owner Del Merritt proved last season that he is capable of running the track efficiently as a sole owner after buying out Baker’s mother, Alice, a year ago.
“There’s a good corps of people out there [running the track] who have been around quite a while,” said McLaughlin. “They have the best interests of the track in mind. The track is nice and smooth and they’ve cleaned it up. It’s nice.”