VAN BUREN, Maine — Joey Dumond’s garage is one step shy of a NASCAR stock car racing hall of fame.
Collectible model cars line up around a track mounted high on the walls, shelves are stocked with hundreds of archival racing magazines, and racing jerseys festoon the ceiling. Among the collection: a Goodyear NASCAR tire and the hood of a race car.
Maine and Vermont are two of the only states in the northeast where stock car racing is still popular, but those two states rank in the top 10 of states where people watch NASCAR.
Dumond is not just the biggest NASCAR superfan in Van Buren. He has been collecting racing memorabilia since he was a racing driver at Spud Speedway in Caribou in the mid 1970s.
Racing has been part of the Dumond legacy ever since, and over the course of five decades, he’s turned his four-car garage into a tribute to the sport that bonds his family together.
“Once you race a few years you get it in your blood,” Dumond said.
Dumond’s uncle first took him to Spud Speedway when he was a child, where he saw local legend Ernie Levesque race, and got inspired to get into the sport himself.
In 1975, Dumond bought his first race car for $400, and was named rookie of the year in his first season. He raced until 1978, when he married and started a family, and racing became too expensive and dangerous for his new lifestyle.
Although Joey Dumond never won a championship at Spud Speedway, his brother Ken Dumond picked up the reins and won several championships and races at tracks around the state.
The shelf in Joey Dumond’s garage that displays Ken’s trophies is so laden, it has begun to buckle in the middle. And Ken said he has more at his house he needs to bring to his big brother.
Ken Dumond started joining his brother at the track when he was just 7 years old: he was too young to work in the pit lane, so he watched from the sidelines and helped work on the car between races.
After convincing Joey Dumond to get back in the car for one season in the mid-1980s, the brothers finally made their full return to racing when Ken aged into the sport in 1991.
“I still remember Joey telling me you’re not going to be able to do this, I’ll have to drive for you,” Ken Dumond said. “And I won my first heat race.”
Ken Dumond finished in the top five in the two-cylinder bracket for the first four years he raced.
In 1994, Ken Dumond’s mentor, John Albert made a deal with him: if Dumond bought the tires and gas, Albert would let him race his faster, four-cylinder car at one of the big 100-lap races. In 54 laps, Dumond had muscled the car from his 16th place start-up to eighth.
“I hauled wood all night, all winter long so I could buy my race car,” Dumond said.
Dumond won back-to-back championships in 1995 and 1996.
“I had less in my race car than most guys had in their engines, but we did it,” Dumond said.
His strategy was to stay away from the scrap out front, and gobble up all the best-of-the-rest points he could. It was not only an efficient points-winning strategy, but a way to save some money.
The Dumond team — made up of family and friends — worked on the car out of a tiny two-car garage in Van Buren, and did all the maintenance themselves. There was no budget for big repairs or to buy a new car after a wreck.
“The better you get at it, the more addicting it is,” Ken Dumond said. “We didn’t go to the lake anymore, we didn’t go to camp anymore. We worked on the race car and got ready for the weekends.”
Spud Speedway changed ownership several times over the decades, often closing for a season or more in between. The Speedway, like many of the classic auto racing circuits in Maine, is now closed. But Ken Dumond went on to race at other tracks across the state, and still helps out friends who race from time to time.
But while Ken was the breakout racing star of the Dumond family, all of them have a passion for the sport.
Joey Dumond’s son, Rob, worked for NASCAR as a registered nurse for several years before leaving the sport after he got married. In Joey Dumond’s garage, pictures of his family members at race tracks around the country are framed and displayed proudly alongside his collectibles.
Joey Dumond has never had his collection appraised or valued by an expert — though with some of his collectible cars still in their original packaging and his antique Dale Earnheart merchandise, the collection certainly has monetary value.
That’s not why he got into collecting though. Some of Dumond’s favorite items were given to him by other local racing fans, or found in-store: he has two model racing drivers from the Dollar Tree that make man-made engine-revving and crashing sounds when you push a button on their stands. Those still make him laugh.
Meanwhile, Dumond still follows NASCAR regularly. The sport has changed in the past decades — Ken Dumond stopped watching NASCAR as regularly when the league changed the playoffs system. But nothing beats going to a race in person, especially when you once sat behind the wheel.
“I love it,” Joey Dumond said. “It’s a sport [where] you have to go to a real NASCAR race to see what it’s about.”