January 11

AUTO RACING: Pit crew challenge draws a crowd

Several dozen teams sign up for event at Northeast Motorsports Expo.

By Bill Stewart bstewart@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Teams compete for money, fuel at Northeast Motorsports Expo

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AUGUSTA — The five team members line up against a makeshift wall about two feet tall inside the Augusta Civic Center. Zach Audet holds a tire gun while Emmy Libby wraps her arms around a tire. The others are in a crouch ready to pounce on a white Pro All Stars Series modified racing car that sits a few feet in front of them.

The timer is in position and the countdown begins.

Three, two, one ...

“There’s some adrenaline, yeah,” says Audet, 28, of Skowhegan.

Welcome to the pit crew challenge, one of the most popular draws Saturday at the 26th annual Northeast Motorsports Expo.

The event is a test of speed and skill, pitting teams of racing enthusiasts against each other and the clock.

The format is simple.

“There are five on a team and they have to change all four tires on the car,” says Lewis Anderson, 43, of Hollis, who helped run the event. “They start at the wall and when they get the signal off they go. When they are done, each member has to come back and touch the wall, which will stop the clock.

“This is pretty competitive. Racing people are competitive by nature anyway. Everybody wants to be fastest.”

Several dozen teams signed up for the challenge, according to expo promoter Stephen Perry. Teams compete all three days of the expo, which concludes Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The fastest team will earn $500 as well as a drum of Sunoco racing fuel that is valued at $500.

While the purse lured competitors, so, too, did the chance to be No. 1.

“Bragging rights,” says Brett Alexander, 39, of Ellsworth, president of the NELCAR Legends tour, who competed Saturday. “This is real competitive.”

Indeed, it is.

As the timer yells go, Audet and team members bolt to the right side of the car and the distinct sound of two tire guns at work fills the back corner of the Civic Center. Lug nuts, five on each tire, are rolling and soaring in different directions.

With the ride side done in 30 seconds, BNS Racing members Audet, Libby, Derrick Farrington, Ted Ryder and John Curtis tackle the left side.

“It’s all about consistency,” says Audet, who won a mini stock points championship at Unity Raceway in 2011.

With the final tire secured and the car dropped, the team scampers to the wall.

The clock reads 59.94 seconds, the fastest time posted in the morning session.

“It’s so much fun,” says Libby, 15, of Glenburn, who will race a PASS Sportsman this summer. “I carried the tires, which are almost as big as me. It’s pretty exciting, though.”

Adds Audet: “It’s fun, it’s different. You get to see how fast you can do it. We take it pretty seriously. It’s about the same rush as racing.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640bstewart@centralmaine.comTwitter: @billstewartkj

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