WINTERPORT, Maine — Although Winterport Dragway was open Saturday to let the public race as part of Street Nights, an event where all cars and motorcycles can race with no qualifying rounds, the dragway was focused on community.
Each month this summer, the Winterport Dragway is raffling different quilts to raise money in support of four of the track’s members who are each fighting cancer. Each member gets their own month.
“We’re always trying to raise money for good causes,” said Thomasina Watson of Gouldsboro.
Camaraderie is why dragway attendees such as Cassie Greenleaf of Stockton come back to Winterport every weekend.
“Everybody is closer than our own family. It’s good for us to get together every Sunday, we all help each other out,” Greenleaf said.
This inaugural Street Nights race was dedicated to Robin Reynolds, who passed away last October after her battle with cancer. A new driver took Reynolds’ white street car to the track Saturday in honor of the late racer.
“A street car race is a good way to honor her,” said Lani Drew of Hollis.
Street Nights, on most Saturdays throughout the summer, provides an opportunity for the general public to race their cars no matter what the manufacturer, speed or condition of their vehicle.
Rich Kopper, track manager, thinks it’s an opportunity that keeps people from racing on the streets.
“It’s more geared to attract first time racers that might not necessarily come out on a regular Sunday,” Kopper said. “To try to get kids to race down street in a more legal way and keep them from doing it in parking lots. If they want to burn tires at our drag strip they can do it, rather than out on the main roads.”
“Where else can you come for $12 and spend a whole day,” George Wells of Bradford said. “I like the speed, the smoke, everything. It’s a good place to come to do it so you don’t do it on the roads — it’s safe.”
Watching fast vehicles race keeps the interest of many attendees, especially those who work with cars for a career.
Mechanic Jeremy Fowler of Hartland was excited about his first time at a drag race.
“It’s excellent,” he said. “I like watching cars and seeing what they can do.”
“It’s important to build the sport,” said Kopper. “America’s love affair with cars is shown every weekend at the drag strip. There’s a want of kids by all ages, whether they’re 18 or 48, they’re out there drag racing. Everyone wants to enjoy it. It’s good for the sport.”
“Everyone likes to go fast,” he said.
Amanda McGraw of Hartland, Fowler’s friend, said she just likes to watch her son’s face light up as two Mustangs speed by him.
Paul Keaton was the first racer to receive a free pass for having the shortest reaction time, .005 seconds, while going 120 mph.
After racing on the track for the first time today, Tom Richdale said he’s looking forward to racing at Winterport. Justin Philbrick of Belfast, his son, said he’ll keep cheering on his dad, his favorite part of the race.
“Everybody’s really nice, [and] we’re having a good time. They have a nice set up here,” Richdale said.
Next Saturday, the track will hold a benefit supper and raffle to support one of the track members with cancer.
For more information on upcoming events and races, visit http://winterportdragway.com/.