LIMESTONE, Maine — Racers from across the country have been traveling to Loring for 10 years to share their love of high-speed driving. This year, about 85 racers came all the way from Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Florida, Mississippi, and the greater Toronto area to push their vehicles to the limit during the Land Speed Races on the former Loring Air Force Base runway.
The event began on July 10 and will run until July 14, with races beginning around 8 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday.
In 2008, organizers Bob Jepson of Milton, Massachusetts, and Bob Wanner of Yorktown Heights, New York, began planning the first race on the Loring runway for August 2009. Before then, Land Speed Racing was most popular at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Many racers on the former base stated that they try to attend both the Bonneville and Loring events, adding that they’re usually greeted by familiar faces at each event.
Now, Race Director Tim Kelly and Event Director Joe Daly lead the event with the help of about a dozen volunteers.
Kelly said Jepson originally came up with the idea to hold races at Loring after “looking at a website of abandoned Air Force runways,” and decided Loring would be a great location.
Daly said Wanner was inspired to look for a new venue because the “future of the East Coast Timing Association in North Carolina was in doubt.” Concerned about the association’s future, Wanner met with Loring Development Authority President Carl Flora to discuss holding land speed races on the runway. Since then, Land Speed Races have been going strong for 10 years.
“From the first day I was the motorcycle tech director,” Daly said.
Much like one of the high-speed vehicles on the runway, each land speed race involves careful organization of numerous moving parts.
“There’s about 500 things that have to be done,” said Daly. “You have to coordinate with fire and ambulance, set up the Porta Potties, make sure everything’s insured. It’s hard to describe everything that goes on, and Tim does most of the heavy lifting.”
Daly drives up from his home in Long Island every year to run the races, adding that “there are so many hours” put into organization before then. The Loring Timing Association website, for example, posts race statistics “almost in real time,” using software that Kelly wrote.
“We’re a little soft on entries this year because of the potentially crappy forecast tomorrow,” Daly said, “but all the fast cars and bikes are here. We got a couple bikes with 300 mile per hour potential, and right now Bob and Ron Keselowski have both hit the 250 range.”
Ron Keselowski, a former NASCAR Winston Cup driver whose nephew Brad Keselowski currently competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, said this is his fourth or fifth year coming up to Loring for the Land Speed Races.
Keselowski said he’s been building and modifying cars since he was 10 years old, a hobby his father introduced him to.
The driver regularly enters races across the country, including the Texas Mile, the Ohio Mile, and the Bonneville land speed races, and said he always looks forward to coming to northern Maine.
“If I’m going to race anywhere in July,” Keselowski said, “it’s gonna be here. They’ve got a mile and a half runway here, the weather is great, and the best thing is that you don’t have a 250 car count. You go to Texas and you have to wait three or four hours just to make a run. Hell, I just towed up here and I’m probably only going to be waiting 20 minutes.”
Keselowski has hit close to 250 miles per hour before, and said that it’s often hard to notice once a vehicle hits such a high speed.
“You can’t really tell how fast you’re going because everything is wide open,” he said. “Then you decide to turn off and find out. Whoa! I’m going a lot faster than I thought I was.”
Daly added that the Keselowski brothers are among his favorites at the Land Speed Races.
“We have some racers who I would describe as high maintenance,” Daly said. “Bob and Ron are no maintenance.”
A little further down the line was racer Marcia Barker in her modified Ford Model T featuring a plethora of parts from other vehicles.
Barker has attended every land speed race at Loring and said she first started seriously racing at Bonneville in 2006.
While she spent a couple years collecting parts for her vehicle, Barker said it came together in about four months. Her vehicle tops off at around 75 miles per hour, however she has hit 193 miles per hour before racing in a Corvette.
Like Keselowski, Barker said it’s hard to notice anything while traveling close to 200 miles per hour.
She said she views the races as an opportunity to see how her engine stacks up against the same type of engine, and also to try and top her own personal speed records.
“I’d like to hit 200 miles per hour someday, but it won’t be in this car,” she said with a laugh.
Barker is drawn to land speed races primarily because of the camaraderie amongst her fellow racers.
“It’s like a big family,” she said. “You see the same faces you’ve known for years at events all around the country.”