Memorial Day weekend is always exciting at Wiscasset Speedway because it’s home to the coveted Coastal 200. The annual $5,000 to win race is one of the biggest Late Model races in New England.
WRITTEN BY: AMY HARROP – CHASING THE CHECKERED
Sunday’s Coastal 200 was no different, with 27 drivers in the field and nearly 3,000 fans packing the track between the pits and the grandstands. All 27 drivers were fighting to get a piece of the nearly $30,000 overall purse – which included a few contingency bonuses. Survey, Inc. of Windham sponsored a $500 bonus going to the race leader at the halfway mark and St. Clair Racing sponsored a $500 bonus that would go to the 14th car on lap 14 – a homage to their infamous #14.
The St. Clair name is synonymous with Wiscasset and 74-year-old “Boss Hogg” Dave St. Clair, who is both a Wiscasset and Maine Racing Hall of fame member, competed in the race on Sunday alongside 2 of his grandsons, Ryan and Josh St. Clair. Josh St. Clair was the defending race winner going into Sunday, but won his first Coastal 200 back in 2014. The fields of drivers on Sunday ranged vastly, with a 62 year age gap between the youngest and oldest drivers in the field. 12-year-old Daniel Harding joined the field as the youngest driver, but division rookies Jet Decker and Jonathon Emerson were also in the field among the many veterans. Ben Ashline, a two time winner of the race, was eyeing his third. Chris Thorne and Dave Farrington, Jr., two other past winners, also had their eyes on the prize alongside Wiscasset regulars like Nick Reno, Ryan Ripley and Shane Clark.
Shane Clark showed strength early in the day, winning his qualifying heat race. It was a family affair as both Ryan and Dave St. Clair also scored heat race victories. Before the start of the Coastal 200, Dave St. Clair took a “back row challenge” from track owner Richard Jordan – if Dave St. Clair started on the back row and finished the 200 lap race, he would receive a hearty $1,000 bonus. St. Clair willingly took the challenge, dropping to the back row for the feature.
Shane Clark took off with the early advantage in the 200 lap race. But, defending race winner Josh St. Clair was on the move, breaking the top 5 on lap 21 after starting the race outside of the top ten. St. Clair later broke the top 3, but rookie, Jet Decker, made his way around him on lap 69. After a false restart following a caution on lap 73, the front two rows were swapped. This sent Josh St. Clair into the lead for the first time of the day. He held onto it for a handful of laps, but Jet Decker took command on lap 82 and began pulling away.
Around the halfway mark of the race, drivers began pitting for two tires as the Coastal 200 is a 6 tire race. This gave Josh St. Clair command of the race for a brief period before he pitted following another mid-race caution. Around this time, Dave St. Clair’s car began overheating and he was forced off the track, ultimately ending his day prematurely. At this point, Ben Ashline, who also started outside the top ten, had made his way to the front of the field, overtaking the lead on lap 107. Ashline began to pull away, distancing himself from the competition. It seemed as though the game was going to completely change on lap 153, as Ashline’s car began to smoke heavily. But, Ashline continued to power through until the end, picking up his third career Coastal 200 victory and a hearty $5,000 check. Ashline was all smiles in Victory Lane, celebrating the joyous moment with a large group of family and friends. Chris Burgess (1st career Late Model podium), Shane Clark, Dave Farrington, Jr. and Ryan Ripley rounded out the top five.
Following the race, Jet Decker was awarded the $500 bonus for leading the race at halfway and Brent Roy, who unfortunately ended his day with a torn-up race car, collected the $500 bonus for being the 14th place car on lap 14.
The day’s events also included a partial Group 2 racing program. Ryan Ripley took home his third consecutive victory in the 88.5FM Modifieds, Kurt Hewins scored his first win of the year in the Portland Glass Strictly Streets and David Whitelaw captured the victory in the T&L Automotive Roadrunners.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Steven Turner, who was injured following a bad wreck in the Roadrunners.
The 2022 Coastal 200 has now come and gone, but there is still plenty of exciting racing action to come at Wiscasset Speedway! Group #1 returns on Saturday, June 4th with the Norm’s Used Cars Pro Stocks, Market 27 Super Streets, Sweatt’s Concrete Thunder 4 Minis, Brackett’s Market 4-Cylinder Pros and the NELCAR Legends tour. Grandstands open at 3:00 pm and racing will commence at 5:00 pm. As always, adult grandstand admission is just $5 and free for kids 6 & under.
For the full race day schedule and more track information, please visit http://www.wiscassetspeedway.