Coastal 200 set to roll off Sunday afternoon at Wiscasset Speedway

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It’s not the Oxford 250 or the Snowball Derby, but the Coastal 200 does serve an important purpose on the racing landscape in the state of Maine.

Where more high-profile races rely on some measure of star power to draw attention and maintain their prestige, the Coastal 200 at Wiscasset Speedway is a throwback to a different era — when weekly short track racers had one or two marquee, extra-distance events on their home track schedules to look forward to.

Dave Farrington Jr.

Dave Farrington Jr.

For Dave Farrington Jr. of Jay, Maine, winning the Coastal 200 last year served as his only win of the season at the track where he first climbed into a stock car nearly a decade ago.

“For our team, that was the biggest moment of the year,” Farrington said. “It was a great feeling to win that race, to be able to do a Polish victory lap to honor (Alan Kulwicki) and to be able to do all of that at the track where I got my feet wet in stock cars was a pretty special feeling for our little team.”

Farrington is entered in Sunday’s Coastal 200 — a straight, 200-lap Late Model race without a mandatory pit stop or halftime break and a six-tire race limit. The Alan Kulwicki Development Driver Program finalist for a second straight season, Farrington expects to contend once again this season for a championship at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, where he won the 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series title.

His Super Late Model program has gotten off to a good start in 2016, with two top fives and four top 10s in four starts on the Pro All Stars Series, but the Late Model he will run in the Coastal 200 Sunday afternoon hasn’t had it quite so good.

He was caught up in a wreck early in the American-Canadian Tour race at Oxford Plains Speedway in April, and he took the Late Model to Wiscasset two weeks ago for some advance testing in a 35-lap weekly feature that produced a 14th-place finish.

Farrington said the team found some things underneath the car that hadn’t quite recovered from the Oxford incident.

“We’re not where we were last year at this time,” Farrington said. “We’ve kind of put everything back to where we were, and hopefully we’ll be ready to go from there (in the Coastal 200).”

While Farrington represents one of the non-regulars at the track who will compete in the 200 — ACT champion Wayne Helliwell entered the 2014 event and 2014 PASS champion DJ Shaw won the race in 2007 — the real test of the 200 comes in the form of the track’s weekly competitors.

Three-time Late Model champion Chris Thorne of Sidney, Maine, finished third last year. He’s won races and titles at the track he’s called home through three different owners, the track’s shutdown from 2010-2012 and a number of other changes big and small, but he’s never won the Coastal 200.

“I definitely want to win it. I’ve been close a couple times,” said Thorne, who won Late Model championships in 2007, 2008 and 2009. “One of them, I should have won. We had the car to win and a broken rear end ended the day. I’ve been chasing it since. I’d like to win it. That’s at the top of the list for stuff to accomplish at Wiscasset.”

A final car count is expected to reach into the mid- to upper-20s on Sunday, and for a track still building up a fan and driver base after closing for nearly three full years at the beginning of the decade, that’s no small feat. The bulk of that number will be filled by teams who are regulars in the track’s Late Model field. In that sense, the Coastal 200 is much like another Late Model race being held in Vermont the same day — the 100-lap Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road International Speedbowl.

That race also has history behind it and the field that rolls to the green flag will feature a number of ACT touring teams, though the majority of entries will be weekly Thunder Road Late Model competitors. Unlike the Coastal 200, the Memorial Day Classic pays points to teams toward the season championship.

“Racing the hometown guys like Nick Sweet, Cody Blake, Phil Scott, and the really talented field of race teams is a challenge,” said ACT driver Brad Babb of Windham, Maine, who won the Merchants Bank 150 at the track in 2015. ‘I guess having some touring experience with longer distance racing helps at most tracks, but not at Thunder Road.

“Those teams have plenty of experience racing longer distance at what is probably one of the toughest short tracks in the country to compete successfully at.”

Four-time Thunder Road Late Model champion Derrick O’Donnell of North Haverhill, New Hampshire, won the Memorial Day Classic last season. Again this year, the event is part of a doubleheader featuring a 150-lap PASS North Series race. Joey Doiron of Berwick, Maine, a former ACT competitor, won the inaugural PASS race at Thunder Road a year ago.

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