Competitive racing had not seen the light of day at Spud Speedway in Caribou since the track closed in 2015. But, that all changed on Tuesday night with the running of the inaugural Pro All Star Series Firecracker 200.
Drivers from both Canada and the United States made the voyage to “The County” on Tuesday for the event, which was a qualifying event for the drivers choice of the Oxford 250 or the inaugural “Commonwealth Classic” at Richmond Raceway. The top-5 finishers in the event received a provisional for the race of their choice. On top of that, the race had a $5,000 purse going toward the race winner.
Chatter about the race exploded last Wednesday when 2017 ARCA champion and Maine native, Austin Theriault, made the announcement that he would be returning to Northern Maine for the event. Wiscasset Speedway’s Wyatt Alexander, a Valvoline “Fast Track to Fame” finalist, also made the trip back to Maine from his new home in Charlotte, North Carolina for the event.
Former Spud Speedway regular, Kirk Thibeau, was the “hometown hero” in the Pro All Star Series event, being greeted by a crowd of cheers as he was introduced to the crowd.
Kyle DeSouza took a massive hit in the second practice when his #10 machine went off track in turn 1, resulting in his car flipping. DeSouza was able to walk away from the carnage, but his car suffered from intense cosmetic damage and he was unable to return to the track.
Fan-favorite Austin Theriault had good speeds in all 3 practices, but he lost a clutch prior to qualifying. Due to this, Theriault was unable to participate in his qualifying heat, forcing him to start at the rear for the feature.
New Hampshire native, Derek Griffith and Scarborough, Maine driver, Garrett Hall, started on the front row for the first 15-lap qualifying heat. Griffith ran away with the lead on lap 3 as drivers battled it out for position behind him. As Griffith ran away with it, DJ Shaw made a last-minute dive to the inside of Garrett Hall for the runner-up spot and succeeded.
Canadian driver, Kyle Reid, started on the pole in the second heat. Greg Fahey stole the lead away from Kyle Reid in the early laps, but Travis Benjamin was on the move behind them. Benjamin quickly stole away the runner-up spot from Kyle Reid, then succeeded in taking over the lead the following lap. Benjamin took home the second heat victory, followed by Greg Fahey.
Ben Rowe and another Canadian driver, Cole Butcher, started on the front row for the third and final Pro All Star Series heat. Cole Butcher pulled away with the early lead as hometown favorite, Tharren MacDougal, pulled off-track in the early laps. Cole Butcher took home the heat win, but after the checkered flag waved, Scott McDaniel took a nasty hit into the turn 1 tires. Both the driver and car were okay, but it was a scary moment for the driver of the #14 machine.
After the Pro All Star Series heats were completed, there was a 50-lap Street Stocks race, which was put on by Speedway 95 promoter, Chuck Hall. The race was also a qualifier for the upcoming Ikey Dorr Memorial Street Stock race at Speedway 95. Bryan Robbins took home the victory on Tuesday night, locking himself into the event.
Garrett Hall and Kyle Reid started on the front row for the main event, the Firecracker 200. It was announced at the start of the race that Austin Theriault would be starting the race with no clutch, resulting in his #57 car being pushed on the track by the push truck.
Garrett Hall took the early lead as Tharren MacDougal retired to the pits in the early laps of the race. Cassius Clark, Chris Duncan and Johnny Clark were all involved in an incident on lap 9 in turn 3, resulting in the first caution of the feature.
Ben Rowe was on the move on the restart, challenging Garrett Hall for the lead. He briefly stole the lead away on lap 12, but suddenly fell back through the pack due to a tire going down. This led to the second caution of the feature. Under the caution the #57 of Austin Theriault faced electrical issues and was forced to retire from the race sooner than anticipated.
It was a heartbreaking moment for the #57 team, but Austin was a great sport about the entire ordeal and joined the PASS announcers in the booth shortly after he parked his car for the night.
Garrett Hall and Wyatt Alexander restarted on the front row as Eddie MacDonald quickly made his way up to the third spot behind them. The #23 of Lonnie Sommerville went hard into the tires in turn 1 on lap 21, going airborne for a moment. Thankfully, Sommerville was able to walk away from the wreck.
DJ Shaw broke the top 5 once the field went back to green, powering his way through the field. By lap 30, there was a 5-car breakaway at the front of the pack. Derek Griffith made his way into the runner-up spot on lap 36 as fan-favorite, Wyatt Alexander, fell back to fourth.
Griffith made his way to the inside of Garrett Hall for the lead on lap 45, with DJ Shaw joining the battle a handful of laps later on lap 52. Shaw made his way around Griffith on lap 58, powering his way into the lead shortly after the maneuver.
Derek Griffith made his way around Garrett Hall for the runner-up spot on lap 87, setting his eyes on DJ Shaw at the front of the pack. Using lap traffic to his advantage, Griffith was inching closer and closer to the #60 car. A competition caution was enforced on lap 125, allowing all drivers to come down to the pits for a fuel and tire change.
Derek Griffith was able to wrangle the lead away from DJ Shaw on the restart, only to have it stolen back from him on lap 133. Cassius Clark was on the move after the competition caution, sliding into the runner-up spot on lap 134. The #42 of Kyle Reid took a hard spin on lap 157, leading to another caution.
Derek Griffith kept fighting, making his way back into the runner-up spot on the restart. The #14 of Scott McDaniel went off-track and into the grass in turn 2 on lap 169, leading to another late-race caution.
Kyle Reid, Greg Fahey, Chris Duncan and Garrett Hall all caught a piece of a wreck in turn 4 after the restart, resulting in another caution.
By lap 177, Griffith had powered his way back into the lead once more. Things weren’t looking too promising as the #12g car began to overheat on lap 188. Somehow, Derek managed to hold onto it to win the Firecracker 200.
DJ Shaw, Cassius Clark, Eddie MacDonald and Mike Hopkins rounded out the top five.
Griffith elected to use his provisional for Richmond, as DJ Shaw and Cassius Clark both elected to use their provisional’s for the Oxford 250.
The 200 was followed by a 50-lap Enduro race, which was won by an Oxford Plains Speedway driver, Josh Knoll.
A beautiful fireworks display followed, rounding out the fantastic night full of racing.
The crowd count was great in both the grandstands and in the pits. At one point, the pit greeters ran out of wristbands and had to run to get more. Crowd counts exceeded the track’s expectations, plus the track was able to raise over $10,000 for the Catholic Charities’ “Feed the County” program.
The facility was unique, the track staff was more than helpful and the competition kept things really exciting. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see where the future lies for Spud Speedway.
Thank you SO much to my incredible sponsor, Drown Excavation, for sponsoring my trip up to Caribou. None of this would have been possible without Scott Drown. PLEASE go give his business a like on Facebook and contact Drown Excavation for all of your excavation and demolition needs!
Please also visit my other website sponsor, Four Season Synthetic, for all of your oil performance needs!