Yes, this is our final installment of Around the Track for the season. No, that doesn’t mean the checkered flag is ready to fly over the local racing scene just yet.

You still have a few weeks to catch the action at your local short tracks and the region‘s lone superspeedway before motorized entertainment is reduced to fall foliage rides and winter snowmobile sojourns.

But where to go? And when? And what to watch for?

We’ve got you covered. Here are the five home-stretch scenes you shouldn’t miss:

1. OPS points battles. After a few years of foregone conclusions, there’s a strong chance that all three Championship Series divisions won’t be settled until the final lap on Saturday, Sept. 11.

The widest margin but most uncertain playing field is Strictly Stock, which is the home to the speedway’s two comeback players of the year.

Kurt Hewins and Gene Hatch have been one-two on the track and in the standings for most of the summer. Hewins, who hadn’t run a full season at Oxford since 2006, used a five-race winning streak early in the season to build his lead. But Hatch made a habit of finishing second during that same span and kept pace in the points.

Hatch returned to Oxford this season after a decade away from the scene. He was champion of the old Limited Sportsman division in 1998 before graduating briefly to a Pro Stock, then hanging up the helmet.

The Winthrop driver made only a smattering of starts at Wiscasset Raceway in recent years.

“We weren’t planning to run for points this year, but we’re taking what we get,” Hatch said.

Hewins (602 points) leads Larry Emerson (566), Hatch (562) and Zach Emerson (554) with four races remaining.

However it settles out, the Strictly Stock championship will be a historic one.

Hatch and Hewins each are bidding to become the first driver to win both Limited and Strictly titles at OPS, Larry Emerson hopes to become the first four-time Strictly champ, while son Zach is trying to run down his first championship in any division.

Elsewhere, seven drivers are separated by 29 points in an intense Late Model championship scramble. The top four — Tim Brackett, Shawn Martin, Don Wentworth and Scott Luce — have reached that level without winning a feature event. With the exception of Wentworth, all are past Oxford champions.

Tommy Ricker, Dennis Spencer Jr. and Corey Morgan, all of whom have taken their turn as the driver on the most sweltering hot streak in the division this season, hold down the fifth through seventh spots.

It’s shaping up as a two-man battle for the Mini Stock title, where 2008 champion Ashley Marshall leads Calvin Rose Jr. by a slim 18-point margin.

2. Legend chases double digits. Mike Rowe is in the midst of another championship battle in 2010.

Surprise, surprise, right?

The reigning king of the NASCAR Pro Series division at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway actually is the one playing catch-up at present. Rowe is 12 points back of Dan McKeage with four races remaining.

Rowe’s resume is stacked with more race victories and championship hardware than any active driver in Maine, but there would be special significance to another crown. Combined with seven championships at OPS and one at Wiscasset, a second straight at Beech Ridge would put Rowe at an even 10. Of course, that doesn’t count his championships in PASS and ACT.

3. Another PASS dogfight. They are one-two in the Pro All Stars Series in every significant all-time statistical category, so why shouldn’t Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark settle the 2010 PASS North championship among themselves?

Clark and Rowe have combined to win five of the first nine races on the circuit this season. Clark currently leads by 10 points. Third place Cassius Clark isn’t even within 100.

It’s all over for everybody else, but the friendly fracas between the two multi-time champions won’t be settled until a tense, six-day stretch in the final week of summer. The annual 300-lap race at Beech Ridge on Sunday, Sept. 12 and another visit to the challenging quarter-mile at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, N.H., on Friday, Sept. 17 will wrap up the chase.

Hey, speaking of chases …

4. Cup runs over. One more time, NASCAR’s Sprint to the Championship begins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 19. Leading the list of likely scenarios: Jimmie Johnson starting yet another chase with yet another win after lulling the competition to sleep with an unspectacular summer. Johnson, if you haven’t been paying attention, is chasing an unprecedented and almost unthinkable fifth consecutive championship in the elite series.

NHMS and New England racing fans learned their fate Wednesday and found out that, for now at least, the tradition of two annual Sprint Cup dates will remain unaffected by changes in the sport and empty seats in the grandstand. Loudon will play host to 2011 events on July 17 and Sept. 25. The encore event will remain part of the championship chase, although no longer the opening segment.

5. Second ACT. It was said to be an experiment in 2009, but the American-Canadian Tour Invitational appears to have earned its place as part of the annual racing scene in New England.

Promoter Tom Curley invited 78 late model teams to a pair of test sessions at NHMS next week. The data from those practice sessions will help set the field for the race on Sept. 18.

The race will grow in stature this year, expanding to a 43-car starting grid and increasing from 50 to 60 laps. Eddie MacDonald, who recently repeated as TD Bank 250 champion at Oxford, will try to pull off the same double dip at New England’s flagship racing facility.

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