June 18, 2018
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Hopkins takes control in Phippen/Fletcher race before rain causes suspension; makeup set July 27

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

HERMON, Maine — Hermon’s Mike Hopkins won the first two John Phippen Jr./Allen Fletcher Memorial Late Model races at Speedway 95. They were 100-lap features.

Hopkins is primed to make it three in a row but he will have to wait until Saturday night, July 27 due to rain that resulted in Thursday’s night race being suspended.

There was a new two-segment format this year. There was a 23-lap Late Model feature honoring the No. 23 car driven by Milford’s Fletcher, who died of injuries suffered in an accident at Unity Raceway in 2002.

After Thursday’s 23-lap race, the field was inverted with the winner starting the 59-lapper in last place and so on. Town Hill’s Phippen Jr., who drove the No. 59 car, died of a heart attack after a race at Speedway 95 in 2010.

The drivers for the memorial races are given a point total based on their respective finishes and the driver with the lowest number wins the $1,200 first prize. Hopkins won the 23-lap race so he received one point.

Hopkins beat Bradley’s Deane Smart by 12 car-lengths with Orrington’s John Kalel II, Corinna’s Paul White and Winterport’s Ryan Deane rounding out the top five and putting themselves in position to challenge for the win.

A multi-car wreck on lap three of the 59-lap segment stalled the action as wreckers were summoned. By the time the track was cleared, the rain had begun.

Kim Baker Allen, the head scorer and office manager, said the cleanup and drying process would have been “too excessive” to continue racing and there was no indication that the rain was going to let up anytime soon.

When the event resumes with 57 laps remaining on July 27, White will be the leader followed by Hopkins, Smart, Kalel II and Stockton Springs’ Duane Seekins, who finished 13th in the first leg.

Eighteen cars started the first segment.

The race card was delayed at the outset by a rain shower and, due to the delay and the lateness of the evening, the Phippen/Fletcher race, which was supposed to be the fifth and last feature of the evening, was moved up to fourth past the Street Stocks.

So the Street Stocks feature will also be held on July 27.

But all the heat races and the Bomber, Sport-Four and Sportsman features were held.

There were five Bombers but just four started the race as Clinton’s Chris Blanchard’s car had crankshaft issues.

Carmel’s Dennis Burns pulled away to a comfortable lead in the early going but Brewer’s Sam Betts closed the gap dramatically and appeared to be in position to contend for the win over the final two laps of the 15-lap race. But Betts’ car got loose and slid up the track on lap 13 and that gave Burns some valuable breathing room as he took the checkered flag for the third time this season.

He beat Betts by two car-lengths with Bangor’s Scott Bonney and Newport’s Mark Lane rounding out the top four.

“I think if we had another lap or two, [Betts] definitely would have given me a run for the money,” said Burns. “He was right there. He always gives me a good run for the money.”

Betts said his car got loose because he was trying to close in on Burns, who was driving a Honda Prelude.

“I was going for the win and I pushed it a little too hard,” said Betts, who was in a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

In the Sport Fours, Hudson’s Donny Silva turned in an impressive performance, leading from start to finish and surviving four restarts caused by four cautions within a span of two laps.

The wrecks caused Allen and track owner Del Merritt to shorten the race from 25 to 20 laps.

Silva’s first win of the season came by 20 car-lengths over Carmel’s Ted Ryder. Rounding out the top five were Cornville’s Jayson and Brad Bosworth and Hermon’s Jeff Overlock Jr.

In the Sportsman, race leader Joe Legere chose to start on the inside groove for a lap-22 restart in the 25-lap race and Hermon’s Kris Watson took advantage of the outside groove to pass him for his seventh win in 10 races.

Holden’s Steve Moulton also passed Legere to capture second with Legere finishing third. Bradley’s Bradley Smart was fourth and Franklin’s Mike Overlock was fifth.

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