One of the smartest guys who ever lived, Albert Einstein, once said, “There is more to life than just increasing its speed.” Remarks like that help explain why Al never became a color commentator for NASCAR or the Indy 500.
The ability of one thing to go faster than another has always been important to those of us who call this planet home. That’s why we race horses, boats and even our own unsafe vehicles.
You may not know it but one of the most popular racing events in the country today is the NASCAR auto racing series.
To those who don’t know, NASCAR is considered a phenomenon mostly experienced by Southerners. I guess the same is true for those who know.
My point is Maine also has its share of auto racing fans – and I’m not just talking about those hot-dogging commuters on the Maine Turnpike and I-295.
Like in other things, Maine came a little late to the world of auto racing but we’ve done our best over the years to catch up.
There were several simple explanations for this delay: We were still too busy building boats, we had too few flat surfaces to race on and the concept of paved roads would remain little more than a concept in many parts of Maine until late in the last century. Fact is, some sparsely settled parts of our state are still waiting for the first paving crew to come rumbling through. With lots of water and more than our share of boats we always had enough boat races, though.
Elsewhere in the country they say the only reason auto racing didn’t begin immediately after the first automobile was invented was pretty obvious. They had to wait for a second vehicle to be built to race against. While waiting we can only assume the driver of the world’s first automobile spent his time doing interviews for country radio stations, pitching potential advertisers, assembling a pit crew and attaching sponsor’s decals to his vehicle and his racing suit. As soon as Auto No. 2 was ready to go, auto racing in America began.
Although it was by no means the first, the world’s most famous auto race, the Indy 500, was first run in 1909. Actually, it was only a 5-mile race that year and didn’t become a 500-miler until two years later. They say it took that long to make a decent track.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, people like Henry Ford got involved in auto racing as early as 1901. They say he entered a race that year to promote his name and reputation and attract investors for some new-fangled auto manufacturing company he was involved with.
From the beginning the goal of almost every auto racer was to achieve fame and fortune. Henry Ford went on to do rather well for himself.
Maine’s premiere auto raceway, Oxford Plains Speedway, opened in May of 1950, almost 50 years after Henry Ford got involved in the sport.
These days Maine boasts five major raceways – Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Speedway 95 in Herman, Unity Raceway in Unity and Wiscassett Raceway in Maine’s prettiest village, Wiscassett.
I guess you could also count the major roads leading to these raceways as additional auto racing venues, but they would be “unofficial.”
John McDonald entertains with his Maine stories at banquets, conferences and conventions throughout New England. He is also the author of several bestselling books, including “The Maine Dictionary,” “A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar” and “Maine Trivia.” Contact him at 899-1868 or firstname.lastname@example.org.