Don Garlits, Daytona, and Blackjack highlight 2019

Episode 296

December 29, 2019

Best of 2019 in no particular order:

I got to interview “Big Daddy” Don Garlits at his museum

A teaser photo I posted urging  Don Garlits fans to stay tuned to a future episode featuring one of drag racing’s most famous and most written about legends. Garlits posed with us in his workshop where he spends nearly every day working on a host of projects. To the left is one of those projects, the electric dragster. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I want to go back to Garlits Drag Racing Museum in Ocala in a future visit to Florida. I still marvel at the multitude of racing memorabilia in one location. THe projects that he is working on continue to interest not only me but many in the world of motorsports. Speaking to the legend himself has to be one of my best interviews.

Garlits was featured in a 4 part series, March 11, March 18, March 31, and April 8. Episodes 255 -258 in the archives.

Visitation by Christmas Tree customers in a 1933 Plymouth

Jesse Michaud straps his Christmas tree to the roof the same way it would have been done in the 1930s. Note the white wall bias ply tires. Not a hint of a snow tire tread pattern. With mostly bare roads Michaud commented that he had a relatively easy 47 mile round trip. The 19 degree temperatures were a factor as well since the car did not have a heater. A glass cleaner bottle and paper towels served as a window cleaner if needed. Driver and passenger were bundled up for the ride. (Stacy Robey photo)

I was pleasantly surprised when Jesse Michaud and Stacy Robey arrived at Hale Tree Farms in their 1933 Plymouth as described in Episode 293 on December 8, 2019. In my 40 years as a Christmas tree grower I had never seen such a sight.

Lost and now found

I finally located Libra Racing in Colchester, Vermont. The front entrance to one of New England’s most famous rally shops run by the legend John Buffum in the 1980s and early 90’s. (HTF Motorsports)

I first met John Buffum when he was helping to run the Maine Forest Rally as it was called in those days. The event is now called the New England Forest Rally. I was “trapped” on a segment of the rally about noon and had an exclusive audience with Buffum as he explained in detail the line of the rally cars as they sped past us on the way to the end of the stage.

I also saw him at the Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds somewhere near 1995 when his stepson Paul Choiniere driving a Hyundai Elantra won the race. I often wondered where Libra Racing was actually located.

This summer while doing Episode 262 on Luke Moultrop and his restoration of Super Chicken I, he mentioned he was going to Paul Tingaud’s shop, SuperCar Machine in Colchester, I asked if I could meet him at that location. When I found SuperCar Machine, I could not believe my eyes. On the door of the shop was the old Libra Racing decal. The shop truck located next to the entrance sported a faded Libra Racing decal.

When I went in to talk to Moultroup and Tingaud, located under car covers were a few of rally racing most famous rally cars. I had finally located Libra racing and as a bonus was able to interview two very unique rally/hillclimb men. Tingaud who had built Super Chicken I & II and Moultroup who brought Super Chicken I back to life. Both cars will be raced at the 2020 version of the Subaru Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds on July 10-12, 2020.

Touring Subaru Motorsports Rally Headquarters in Milton, Vermont

The shop floor area of Vermont Sports Cars in Milton, Vermont. Who would think a race shop like it would exist in New England? I certainly was pleasantly surprised when this new shop was built. (Vermont Sports Cars photo)

I had visited Vermont Sports Cars in the past at their Colchester location and looked forward with great anticipation to a tour of their new shop on August 13, 2019 led by Chris Yandell the Public relations manager. Yandell sent me several photos since use of my camera in shop area was not permitted. I certainly would like to return for another visit in the future.

My neighbor’s son the race team owner/driver

CORE Autosports Nissan DPi driven by Jon Bennett exiting the bus stop at Daytona in preparation for entry onto the high banked turn three during the start of the 2019 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Jon Bennett, owner/driver of the #54 CORE Autosports Nissan DPi at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Bennett was walking behind the pits on his way to his own pit stall where he prepared to take the first shift in the 24 hour endurance race. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I found out one of my neighbors is the father of Jon Bennett, the owner of Composite Resources and CORE Autosports in Rock Hill, South Carolina, directly across the river from Charlotte, North Carolina.  I had the pleasure of interviewing the father at his home and the son at Daytona as well as several phone conversations. Their story will be in a future episode. You can read some about Bennett in Episode 249 January 29, 2019.

The Daytona Prototype international (DPi) Nissan team was disbanded after the 2019 race season. CORE Autosports continues its association with Porsche USA at the CORE state of the art race facility.  They campaign the Porsche 911 RSR in the IMSA GTLM class.

The story of low bucks Bangor drag racer, Cliff Warren

Project Blackjack owner Cliff Warren, Bangor, with his 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII in the Winner’s Circle at Winterport Dragway. The season finale was Warren’s second victory of 2019. (Cliff Warren photo)

Episodes 289 and 290 published November 10 and 17th, 2019 contained the story of grassroots racing including family issues, health problems, limited finances, and more. The story provided what I consider the heart of the weekly racer whether they are a drag racer or a RC Club racer. Real life happens and made my list for 2019.

Ashland Grass Drags were new for me

Big Woods Grass Drags 2019 in Ashland September 21 & 22, 2019 (Poster by Big Woods Grass Drags)

I had never attended an actual grass drags event until September 21st of this year when I was able to cover about 1/2 day of the Big Woods event. I was impressed with the facility, the announcing, the starting area, and the access to the racers. I had to rush somewhat because of a prior commitment and was unable to see the finals in many classes.

My contact was Lendell Buckingham who handled my many requests for information before, during, and after the race very well. Sometimes race events are difficult to report in a timely fashion when results are not available. Not so with these folks.

From all reports the attendance was near 1000 with number of competitors doubling since the inaugural race in 2018. The grass drags seemed to be a community event supported well by local businesses and nonprofits.

Full report found in Episode 282, September 22, 2019.

A question for the snowmobile racing folks; how come there is not a grass/snow drag racing facility in the route one side of central Aroostook of the Big Woods caliber. I wonder if several area snowmobile clubs and/or dealers combined forces if such a race track could be carved out and used in the fall and winter? Just asking…

Speaking of snowmobile racing

Poster for Mega Meltdown Tame the Track Tour race at Northern Maine Brewing in Caribou, March 23, 2019.

Junior racers at the start of the Tame the Track finale The Mega Meltdown in Caribou, Maine. (HTF Motorsports)

It seems like Tame the Track Tour promoter/organizer Jere Humphrey, Houlton, seems to be filling the snowmobile endurance race scene quite well with his tour. The number of competitors that raced the series in 2019 seemed to be substantial with close racing in most classes.

The vintage sled classes appeared to have the largest number of entries. Humphrey does an excellent job of reporting results from each of the classes ensuring his results will be published if room permits. Reports were featured almost weekly in January, February, and March 2019.

Find out the complete 2020 race schedule at

Kody Swanson wins fifth USAC Silver Crown title

“The record books were rewritten once again by 34-year-old Kingsburg, California’s Kody Swanson who, it seems, is able to withstand and thrive in every challenging situation thrown at him. After joining a new team (Nolen Racing) and fighting through mechanical woes at certain points throughout the season, he won five times and led a staggering 404 laps, just under half of all laps run in the series this year, en route to an unprecedented fifth Silver Crown driving title.” from USAC Racing (Dave Olson photo)

Firecracker 200 raises nearly $10,000 for Feed the County

Second annual Firecracker 200 featured PASS North, PASS Modifieds, along with Spud Speedway enduros. (Black Dot Photography Jim Leighton photo)

Many folks enjoyed the 2nd Annual Pro All Stars Series (PASS) stop at Spud Speedway on August 4, 2019. If you asked each person in attendance why they were at this race, you would get a wide variety of answers.

Since I cannot ask every person, I will offer my reasons for supporting the Firecracker 200.

  1. The 2018 and 2019 editions of the PASS race brought in nearly $20,000 in donations for Feed the County, a joint effort between WAGM TV, Aroostook Savings and Loan, and Catholic Charities. Plain and simply, a race which was not only entertaining but helped feed many in the County is great by me.
  2. THe two years that the race was run at Spud Speedway, owner Troy Haney made many improvements to the Caribou track in order to improve the experience for the fans and drivers. (Disclaimer portion, I am the groundskeeper for Spud Speedway)
  3. I would like to see more stock car racing or other motorsports events during the summer, however, I do realize that County racers may not have the money to spend on weekly races. Maybe a once a month calendar would be plausible. With the Firecracker race at least we see some local racing.
  4. How about changing the name to Aroostook Savings and Loan Feed the County 200?
  5. Bring back the PASS Mods. They put on a great race and Spencer Morse is a great spokesperson for the group as attested by his Victory Circle speech. Though finishing third, he certainly exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm.
  6. Keep them County and New Brunswick affiliated racers such as Austin Theriault, Wyatt Alexander racing, Kirk Thibeau, and the Canadian Maritimes racers like Hal O’Neal and Chris Duncan.

Thank you readers!

Unfortunately with a list like this, I would like to include many more who I spent time with in 2019. My dedicated race sponsors help make some portion of this blog exist. Most of all I want to thank the more than 262,000 readers of UpNorth Motorsports in 2019. I am both honored and deeply humbled that you would read and often share any and in several cases, all these episodes.

What 2020 brings, I am unsure of at this time, however, at the end of the year I hope I have met and talked with many, many of you. God bless and Happy New Year.

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)

PS enjoy this Christmas jingle someone found

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