PERU — On most occasions, when a race driver moves from his home track to compete at a different venue, it takes a while to get used to the new layout before he or she can contend for wins.
Just don’t tell that to 31-year-old, short-track veteran Dan Brown, of Peru. He used to call Oxford his home but now spends every other Saturday night in Wiscasset. When Oxford switched to Friday nights back in 2013, Brown, who works second shift at General Electric in Auburn, needed a new place to race.
He had raced at Wiscasset on occasion in the past with his Outlaw car, but 2014 was his first year of full-time competition at the popular mid-coast oval. He showed an amazing ability to adapt quickly, with an impressive four feature wins and second place in the final point standings. In his first major effort, Brown was already a legitimate contender for the championship.
“We had a really strong first-year effort down there,” Brown said. “We finished just six points behind champion Corey Morgan, which I thought was pretty incredible. We finished in the top three eight times, plus we got the Sportsmanship of the Month award in August. We also earned Sportsmanship of the Year in our Strictly Street class, which made us very proud.”
This year, things have gone almost as well. Brown kicked off the new season on April 25 with a second-place finish. In eight starts, he’s finished inside the top 10 seven times and notched his first victory of 2015 on Aug. 1.
Since one of his main rivals was disqualified the night he won, and the other finished sixth, Brown now finds himself second to Kyle Hewins by a scant six points in the standings.
“I’ve had two races this year I didn’t finish, but for the most part, we’ve been right there in the top five,” Brown said. “I can’t complain about our performance. The car has been consistently fast and reacts to adjustments the way it’s supposed to. It takes a good handling car to be fast there, and we have one.
“Those Hewins boys (Kurt and Kyle) are always strong, but we’re working hard to challenge them every time out. They’ve been racing all of their lives and are hard-core competitors. I get along with them well. It’s just satisfying to race against them and be so competitive.”
Brown started racing in 2006 in Oxford’s Acceleration Series. He earned the first two of eight career Outlaw wins in 2007, and earned at least one victory the next two seasons. Prior to last year at Wiscasset, 2012 was easily his best year with three feature wins at Oxford.
“I enjoyed a strong season at Oxford that year, but also picked up a victory at Beech Ridge,” Brown added with pride. “I won the Shootout, a special event for this type of car. In fact, the car we won that race with is the car I’m running now. It was brand-new in 2012, and I absolutely love the way it drives.”
Over the course of any driver’s career, they get into cars that, for one reason or another “just feel right.” The current No. 83 entry Brown wheels at Wiscasset is one of those cars.
“Dave Brannon helped me put the roll cage into it for the Outlaw class,” Brown explained. “It was a cage of his own design, so I went down there and worked hand-in-hand with him. I welded every joint in that car. When I converted it over to a Street Stock last year, I had purchased my own tools, so I did all the work here at home. I have a lot of sweat equity in this car, but it’s been very good to me.”
Ask any successful racer if it’s best to just drive or build the cars, and they’ll tell you hands-on is best. The good ones also like to share tips with other racers, saying if it helps them run better and helps the whole class.
“I’m one of those guys that if somebody comes up to me in the pits with a question, I give them the best answer I can. Several people have come over, looked at my car and asked about it. I tell them what they want to know; I don’t have anything to hide. I just want to have fun and get along with all the guys.”
Brown is one of those who “gets it.” He knows this is hobby-level racing, meant to be a diversion from the stresses and headaches of everyday life. It takes time and money, yet it isn’t the big-time.
“We’re not going NASCAR racing in the future. We’re supposed to be out there competing and having a good time,” He said. “I think sometimes people forget that and get consumed by passion. I’m a serious racer, don’t get me wrong. But I take it for what it is, and leave it at that. I’m just thrilled to be having another strong season in the sport I have loved for so many years.”