A little luck helps Hermon driver achieve rare feat at Speedway 95

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 01, 2013, at 12:43 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — Hermon’s Mike Hopkins had a memorable Saturday night at Hermon’s Speedway 95.

His second-place finish in the second segment of the annual John Phippen Jr./Allen Fletcher Memorial Late Model race sewed up the win for him because he had the best finishes in the two segments. He had won the first segment, which was run on Thursday, July 18.

He then won the 50-lap Maine State Lottery series race.

The first segment in the Phippen/Fletcher race was 23 laps in honor of the No. 23 car driven by Milford’s Fletcher, who died of injuries suffered in an accident at Unity Raceway in 2002.

The second segment was 59 laps in honor of Phippen’s No. 59 car but it was rained out after two laps and suspended until this past Saturday night. Phippen died of a heart attack after a race at Speedway 95 in 2010.

So the final 57 laps were completed and Hopkins followed Winterport’s Ryan Deane across the finish line. Deane had finished fifth in the first segment.

Because Hopkins had won the first leg and the field was inverted for the second segment, Hopkins started last, but a multi-car wreck on lap three enabled Hopkins to leapfrog from 15th to second just before the rain came.

“I’ve never gone from 15th to second in two laps in my life,” said Hopkins.

And he admitted that “luck was on my side” on Saturday night, also.

“My right rear tire started going flat with eight laps to go,” said Hopkins, who was leading the race at the time. “So Deane went by me. There was a rock the size of my pinkie stuck in it. It was leaking pretty bad. At the end of the race, there was only about 10 pounds of air left in it.

“If it had happened 10 laps sooner, I probably would have had to go to the pits or I might have spun out,” said Hopkins.

The 28-year-old Hopkins said he and car builder Anthony Wilcox love the Phippen/Fletcher race and thoroughly prepare for it.

Hopkins has now won all three Phippen/Fletcher races. The first two were 100-lappers.

“Anthony doesn’t give me any junk. I had a good car. The tires were ready, the car was ready. Then it was all up to the driver. I tried to hold up my end up because Anthony held up his end. It was a team effort,” said Hopkins.

“We get up for the race. It’s something different. Very seldom do you see 100-lap races,” Hopkins added. “I love long races. That’s why we built a brand new PASS [Pro All-Stars Series] car. But we haven’t had time to put the finishing touches on it. I’ve been working 18 hours a day.”

Following the Phippen/Fletcher race, Hopkins put two new tires on the right side of his car and captured the 50-lap series race by passing Smart on a lap-24 restart and leading the final 26 laps.

It was also a profitable weekend for Hopkins as he said he pocketed more than $1,900 for the two wins.

His PASS car is a Super Late Model and he is hoping to run some PASS SLM North races later this season.

He has his sights set on the races at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, N.H., on Aug. 31; Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough on Sept. 15 and at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sept. 28.

However, he is self-employed (Hopkins Landscaping and Paving Co.) and said his work schedule will dictate his future plans.

“I’m also going to race one or two more times at Speedway 95,” said Hopkins. “It gives me some seat time and I like racing the guys in the Late Models. It’s a very competitive class.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/01/sports/auto-racing-sports/a-little-luck-helps-hermon-driver-achieve-rare-feat-at-speedway-95/ printed on November 27, 2014