Old Orchard Beach native Archie St. Hilaire, owner of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Go Green Racing team, had two cars left over from his days in the K and N Pro Series East.
He explained one of them had an engine with the specifications used by the series’ race cars these days.
And he thought it would be nice to put a young driver from the state of Maine in that car for the K and N Pro Series East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sept. 22, 2012.
He contacted Mainely Motorsports TV host Steve Perry with an idea for having a competition that would put a Maine driver in the 15-21 age bracket in the seat for that race.
That Maine Young Guns competition begins this weekend at the 24th annual Northeast Motorsports Expo at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Expo will be held 5-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Balloting to choose 10 drivers will be conducted at the Expo.
Perry said the contest was announced on his Mainely Motorsports show a month ago and candidates have been promoting themselves to get the necessary votes to make the top 10 this weekend.
Those 10 drivers will keep a selection committee apprised of their progress throughout the racing season with weekly updates and the committee will whittle the field down to three finalists. They will then work with the Go Green team at the July 14 Nationwide Series race at NHMS.
The winner will be chosen in August and will have several days of testing with the K and N series team in preparation for the race in September.
The committee consists of St. Hilaire, Perry, Racin’ Paper owner and Pro All-Stars Series announcer Marco Thomas, former two-time Sprint Cup race winner and ESPN Sprint Cup-Nationwide Series analyst Ricky Craven, four-time K and N East series champ and current competition director for Revolution Racing Andy Santerre and former K and N Series star Brad Leighton.
“I want to give some young kid from Maine a chance to show his stuff in NASCAR,” St. Hilaire said. “There are a lot of quality racing people in Maine. People don’t realize that three of the 43 crew chiefs in Sprint Cup are from Maine: Pete Rondeau with Regan Smith, Slugger Labbe with Paul Menard and Steve Letarte with Dale Earnhardt Jr.”
Rondeau and Labbe are from Saco and each of their drivers won a race last season. Letarte, who was born in Cornish, helped Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualify for the Chase for the Cup and eventually finish seventh despite not winning a race.
St. Hilaire said an impressive showing at Loudon could earn the driver an opportunity because team owners, crew chiefs and prominent drivers will be on hand since there is a Sprint Cup race that weekend as well.
St. Hilaire said the winner of the competition “can’t just be the best driver. They have to speak well and act well. Community service will also be involved. It’s a full package deal.”
Perry said “every New England racers’ dream, especially those from Maine, is to race at Loudon.”
St. Hilaire has second car
St. Hilaire, owner of Old Orchard Beach-based BBI Waste Industries, has added a second Nationwide Series car this season.
He finished 26th in owner points in his first venture in the Nationwide Series last season. He used 14 different drivers in his No. 39 Ford and they had eight top-20 finishes with a 13th (Josh Wise at Elkhart Lake) being the best.
Eiighteen-year-old Joey Gase of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who ran five races for St. Hilaire last season, will run full time in the No. 39 car and St. Hilaire will have “development drivers” in his No. 04 car.
Perry expects successful Expo
Perry, in his third year running the Northeast Motorsports Expo, said attendance at the event increased quite a bit last year over his first year. He is optimistic the trend will continue this weekend.
He said the Expo gives people in all aspects of racing the opportunity to compare notes.
“It’s where you go to meet everybody you want to meet and talk to,” said Perry. “You don’t have to travel to every track.”
He also announced his third annual Mainely Motorsports TV 400 go-kart weekend will be held Sept. 8-9 at the Richmond Karting Speedway.
He had 110 go-karts last year after having 93 the previous year.