Racing Preview 2019

Episode 253

February 24, 2019

Racing Preview 2019

Driving home from Portland today in snow, sleet, high winds, and snow, I looked back at the weekend with its high spots and adventure. Visiting my family, kids and grandkids, in Westbrook always reminds me how blessed I am.

The timing of the grandkids visit has allowed me to attend Steve Perry’s Racing Preview at the Portland Expo the last three years. My philosophy has always been that every person has a story and motorsports is no exception.

A view of the Racing Preview 2019 at the Portland Expo. The Expo was filled with race cars, track representatives, kart racers, Mini-Cup cars, race parts and equipment supply companies, and vintage race series cars and of course…racers. (HTF Motorsports photo)

One exhibit caught my eye, The Shop located in Limerick. I noticed the DynoCom banner prominently displayed across the back of their booth area. I know that this is one of three in the southern Maine area, Baxley’s Speed Shop, Chris Moberg’s mothballed dyno and now this dyno.

My son-in-law Marc Cole accompanied me at the Racing Preview at the Portland Expo. We were looking at the Dodge Challenger with Pro-Supercharger that was built and dyno-tuned by The Shop, Limerick. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Being naturally curious, I inquired who owned The Shop and was referred to Les Williams. Les is a former delivery truck driver who has a passion for performance cars. He opened The Shop in 2008 after the economy crashed. He and his wife Jessica decided to enter the repair business since cars need maintenance and in tough times owners may try to stretch the life of their vehicle.

They decided that high performance work would also make up a percentage of their portfolio. The dyno became part of the attraction to The Shop.

They also have a used car sales lot, a 50 X 100 warehouse, auto body shop, in addition to their two bay garage. In the process of hiring, Williams seeks out technicians who also have a love of performance cars. Currently he has four full-time techs.

Les Williams (left) owner of The Shop with his mentor Coburn Benson also from Limerick. The 82-year-old Benson is a world-renowned Vincent motorcycle expert who consulted with Jay Leno on his Vincent bike. Leno wrote about Benson in one of his books. Benson grew up in Concord, Massachusetts where he learned about machinery on his family farm. I hope to be able to do a more in-depth interview and present it in a future episode. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Williams leases Oxford Plains Dragway for 2019

In addition to his ownership of The Shop, Williams has leased the Oxford Dragway after the track faced being shut down for the 2019 season. Williams has renamed the series the The New Oxford Dragway.

He will be upgrading the timing system and performing grounds maintenance projects. The 2019 schedule has been released and can be found at their Facebook page. The season opener will be Friday April 25. The 50th Anniversary of the Dragway will be celebrated July 20. The season will conclude September 18.

Experimental vintage stock car classic on display

Designed to race at Beech Ridge Speedway from 1958-’63 the 1936 Plymouth Modified Sportsman was an experimental race car build by Ray Snell and Charlie Thurston with engines by Gaylen Wilson. The Plymouth featured both a six cylinder Chrysler and later a Chevy V8. I am unsure of the success of the car which featured extreme body setback. The car was driven by Maine Motorsports Hall of Famer Phil Libby. (HTF Motorsports)

Raffle tickets were sold for this GM 602 crate engine at both shows, Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta in January and Racing Preview 2019. Winner of the crate engine was George “Dodo” Brockman. In addition to the engine Brockman received a year’s supply of Amsoil Dominator race oil and filters.  (HTF Motorsports photo)

Tame the Track Tour Snowmobile Race Series back in action in Hermon

After a couple of weeks off, the Tame The Track Tour Snowmobile Race Series will be back in action Saturday March 2 at 11 am for the 3rd Annual Squeeze the Throttle Vintage and Kids Endurance races, The event will be held at Sled Hermon, 795 Bog Road, Hermon, Maine. The event will be hosted by the Penobscot Snowmobile Club and will offer 15 various divisions, with a guaranteed purse of $2,500.00.Concessions will be served on site by the Penobscot Snowmobile Club volunteers.

To find out more information visit

Climb to the Clouds 2020 scheduled

I realize we have barely scratched the surface of the 2019 race season, however, clear your schedule for the 2020 season. The field will feature 80 car limit with some of the best hillclimb racers in the world.

Bangor’s John Cassidy, at the starting line the Last Ditch Racing, Subaru at the 2014 Climb to the Clouds event. (HTF Motorsports photo)

If you have never experienced hill climbing this is one of the premier events to capture. Maybe you have driven the road to the top of Mount Washington. Imagine doing this at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour in certain segments.

While defending his record at the Climb to the Clouds 2017 event, Vermont Sports Car’s David Higgins puts a wheel off-line and goes over the edge during the Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds, Higgins will be back to attempt to wrest the record from his team-mate Travis Pastrana. (Scott Bryson photo)

“We’re incredibly excited to once again welcome back the Climb to the Clouds event! This race has been a part of the Auto Road scene since 1904 and we’re proud of this racing tradition and our place in automotive history,” mentioned Mt. Washington Auto Road General Manager, Howie Wemyss. “We love the action, the fans and the drivers with their teams—it’s such an amazing and colorful weekend filled with individual stories and drama. And we’re always happy to see competitors test themselves and their machines while they go for a win or the chance of a new record!”

Also known as the “Climb to the Clouds,” the Mt. Washington Hillclimb is one of North America’s oldest motorsports events, first run in July 1904, seven years before the first 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and twelve years prior to the inaugural Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. The Climb to the Clouds was run sporadically from 1904-1961, then not again until 1990 when it was run consistently until 2001. Following a ten-year hiatus, the Mt. Washington Hillclimb returned in 2011 as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the Mt. Washington Auto Road which first opened on August 8, 1861. Since the 2011 event, the Hillclimb has taken place in 2014 as well as 2017.

The 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb will celebrate 30 very active years of growth and popularity since it was brought back in 1990.
“The Sports Car Club of New Hampshire is delighted to once again partner with the Mt. Washington Auto Road to host the 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb,” stated SCCNH President, Nick Wilson. “Formed in 1955, the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire has a long history of successfully organizing and hosting a variety of top-level motorsports events and is proud to be the returning organizer of the Climb to the Clouds, the oldest motorsports event of its type in North America.”

The current record time of 5 minutes 44.72 seconds for the 7.6 mile course to the top of Mt. Washington was set by multi-time X Games Gold medalist, Nitro Circus creator and 5- time US Rally Champion Travis Pastrana at the 2017 Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb. Driving a Subaru Rally Team USA / Vermont SportsCar-prepared 2017 Subaru WRX STI rally car with over 600 horsepower, Pastrana crushed the previous course record time of 6:09.09 which was set in 2011 by his Subaru Rally Team USA teammate, David Higgins from Wales, by nearly 30 seconds! Averaging close to 90 miles per hour along the 7.6 mile course in 2017, Pastrana also recorded speeds in excess of 130 mph above tree line.
Following his record-setting drive, Pastrana stated “This record means a lot to me. To get the record here at Mt. Washington is real close to everyone’s heart at Vermont SportsCar and Subaru Rally Team USA. To go up there with nearly double the horsepower (600 hp) by yourself, without a co-driver, having to memorize the 150+ turn course has taken months of work and memorization, it means a lot, it’s really cool.”
Pastrana went on to say “I would love to see other drivers and manufacturers come over and see what they can do against us because I think we have the best car right here. This Subaru is the best car I’ve ever driven! That run up the hill is going to take some work. I’m not saying the time I set can’t be beat . . . but Ken Block, Rhys Millen, get your butts out here and let’s have some fun! The next time they open this mountain, bring what you’ve got!”

There’s truly no question that the 7.6 mile Mt. Washington Auto Road is one of the ultimate challenges for driver and automobile alike anywhere in the world. The serpentine road is lined with trees on the lower half and dramatic drop-offs above halfway as it winds its way to the 6,288-foot summit of the Northeast’s tallest peak. The drivers selected to compete in the 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb will race on the very same road as the original 1904 Climb to the Clouds competitors. Of course, the surface has changed a lot since those early years with nearly 90% of the road now covered with asphalt and a mere 10% of the road’s surface remains hard-packed gravel.
For 2020, the Mt. Washington Hillclimb will also retain the same competition classes that were developed for the 2017 event which include the extremely popular Unlimited Class as well as Open, Prepared, High Performance Showroom Stock, America’s Rally Cross (ARX), 2WD & 4WD Rally, Modified Electric, Stock Electric and Vintage. Other event specific details, such as competitor registration, entry fees, car construction, safety rules,
event schedule and volunteer information will be shared in the coming weeks on the event’s official website,

CONGRATULATIONS Caribou Vikings Basketball Team!

I would be remiss if I did not mention how pleased I am to see the Caribou High School Boys basketball team win the Eastern Maine Class B championship last Saturday. As a CHS Alumni, teacher at the school for 38 years, and present at the last Eastern Maine title in 1983, I hope the team can bring home the gold ball Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

I was a junior in high school and a member of the CHS Band when the Vikings last won the “Gold Ball” beating Westbrook in 1969 on a half-court shot by Mike Thurston 50 years ago. I know I join many folks wishing this team success at Portland.

2019 Eastern Maine Boys Class B basketball champions, Caribou Vikings. (Shelley Massey photo)


Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:13-15)



Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine