WINTERPORT, Maine — Gil Brundage and his wife Debra make the trip to race at Winterport Dragway at least six times a year — even though it is a 143-mile drive from Buxton.
Gil started drag racing in the 1960s, took a long hiatus to raise a family, then returned to racing four years ago.
He drives a short-chassis, front-engine dragster that has reached 128 miles per hour on the one-eighth-mile asphalt track at Winterport Dragway, a former airstrip that first hosted racing in 1967.
“I guess you’d have to say we’re all a little bit adrenaline junkies,” 64-year-old Gil Brundage said. “It’s a thrill going down the track and it’s always fun to compete.”
“Driving a front-engine dragster, you’re living a bit of life on the edge … you’ll never feel more alive than when you lift up your shield at the other end,” he added.
Maine has another drag strip, Oxford Plains Dragway in Oxford, while New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, is the only other drag racing facility in New England.
Debra began racing late last season and now, at 64, she is in her first full season racing a 1970 Chevy Nova that her husband bought for her.
The Brundages attend all six Saturday events each season that feature the Gassah Guys Nostalgia Reunion Tour at Winterport Dragway. The tour features cars from the 1960s and 1970s, or replicas of those vehicles.
“My personal enjoyment now is from trying to keep the spirit of drag racing the way it was in the ’50s and ’60s alive,” he said.
A drag racing family
Debra Brundage loves the adrenaline rush of racing, but said the experience at Winterport Dragway goes beyond what takes place on the dragstrip.
“We have a lot of great friends and have made a lot of new friends,” she said.
“I have been to drag strips all across the country and met a lot of nice people but I’ve never been to another track like this one. When you come here, you are accepted as family immediately,” Gil Brundage said.
Three years ago, when the Brundages were new to the track, Winterport Dragway drivers found out Gil had recently lost his daughter in an automobile accident. The community raised money and established an annual event in her name: Jacee Johnston Memorial Footbrake Day.
It is one of several memorial races held for people with ties to the track.
“That tells you about the quality of the people here,” said Gil. “It costs me $120 every time I haul cars up here, but it’s worth every cent of it.”
Dennis Greene of Clinton, 65, races a motorcycle. His resume includes three national records and five national class victories in the 1980s. He started racing in 1979 when a friend suggested he try it because he was driving too fast on the streets.
“I tried it and I was hooked,” Greene said.
Brittney Marston of Winslow races a snowmobile and an AMC Hornet. Her father, Jim, used to be an ice racer but made the transition to to asphalt in 2008.
“It’s a nice stress reliever from work and regular life,” Marston, 28, said.
“It’s a good thrill ride,” said 17-year-old Leavitt High School senior Danielle Fusco of Turner whose dad, Paul, also is a racer.
Debra Brundage said Lou Pisanello, who waters down the starting lane and teaches the inexperienced drivers the ropes, has been a huge help to her.
Lobsterman Jonathan Coffin of Steuben races a 1966 Nova. He enjoys being part of the Winterport Dragway community.
“I’ve been to a lot of tracks but I’ve never been to one like this where they all treat you like you’re a relative,” Coffin said. “I’ve never seen a tighter group of people.”