Final preparations are being made for the Northeast Winter National Ice Drag Races, scheduled for Jan. 18-19, in Medway. The annual event, organized by the East Branch Sno-Rovers and Katahdin Area Snowmobile Racing Affiliates, is an opportunity for riders to push their sleds to the limit on a professional dragway.
Pumping water from the nearby East Branch of the Penobscot River, Maynard Michaud and his “crew” — all members of the East Branch Sno-Rovers — have been working since early in the season to build the 2,200-foot-long track, one of the only land-based, ice-covered dragways in the country.
“They’re so dedicated to get the track the way it is,” said Brian Wiley, president of the East Branch Sno-Rovers. “We started earlier this year than we’d ever started because we had the cold weather. They do it very scientifically, building berms to hold water … Thank God for Maynard and his crew.”
The KASRA Dragway is located at the east end of Hathaway Road in Medway, beside the East Branch Sno-Rovers Clubhouse, which will be warm and filled with food and hot drinks during the big event.
Public admission to the event is $5 each day; Children younger than 12 get in for free but must be accompanied by an adult. And pit passes are $5 each.
“It gets very competitive,” Wiley said, “especially in the high performance pro-stock classes. We have some of the most capable, high performance sleds in the northeast come to our track to race.”
In a matter of seconds, racers will reach speeds of 130-150 miles per hour, Wiley said.
Racing will adhere to International Snowmobile Racing rules on a two-lane shaved 660-foot ice track, expertly maintained and frozen daily with river water. Times will be recorded by a Portatree Timing System, provided by the KASRA.
Prior to the competition, the East Branch Sno-Rovers will host a radar run 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 11 on the dragway for riders to learn how fast their snowmobiles can go in one-eighth of a mile.
For the radar run, one lane will be for trail sleds, and a second land will be for race sleds. Riders can pay $5 for one run, $10 for three runs or $30 for unlimited runs. After, trophies will be awarded to first and second places in each class.
“Everyone in the club pitches in,” Wiley said. “It’s a complete volunteer effort by the club — the kitchen crew, the people who run the race electronics, the announcers, the lighting.”
For such events, safety is the top priority, said Wiley. Riders are required to wear helmets and eye protection, and their sled must have an operating tether switch, snow flap, windshield and must pass a safety inspection.
For the Northeast Winter National Ice Drag Races, registration begins at 7 a.m. Saturday, Jan.18, at the East Branch Sno-Rovers Clubhouse.
For a team of four, the registration fee is $40; additional team members are $10 each. Riders must also pay class entry fees ranging from $20 to $35, plus a $15 insurance fee. There is also a one-time $5 tech fee for each sled. Class entry fees are split 60-40 and awarded to the first and second place winners of each class. The 120cc Kids Class registration includes a waiver of liability and a $5 insurance fee.
Safety and technical inspections will extend until 10:30 a.m., and there will be a driver’s meeting at 10:45 a.m. Qualifying rounds begin at 11 a.m., with two runs per sled and class.
Races will continue throughout the day, then begin again at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, after a drivers meeting. Eliminations and final races should begin by 11 a.m. And by noon, children will take to the track to compete in the 120cc Kids Class. (Trophies will be given for all 120cc entries.) At 5 p.m., riders will gather in the clubhouse for awards — plaques and plenty of prize money.
For a detailed schedule and to learn about the different classes, visit snorovers.com. The Maine State Championship Ice Drag Races are scheduled for Feb. 8-9 at the KASRA Dragway.