Chris Thorne of Sidney climbs out of his car after winning Saturday night’s Late Model feature at Wiscasset Speedway in Wiscasset. Staff photo by Travis Barrett

 

WISCASSET — Two weeks before the biggest race of his season, Chris Thorne wanted a test. The five-time track champion passed it with flying colors Saturday night.

Thorne, of Sidney, held off opening day winner Josh St. Clair over two late-race restarts and drove off to win the 40-lap Late Model feature at Wiscasset Speedway. Thorne had finished a disappointing seventh in the first race of the season with handling issues, issues he’d corrected in fine fashion this time around.

“The first race was kind of a fluke, but we’re back on track now,” Thorne said of the winning effort prior to the track’s next Late Model race — the Coastal 200 on May 30.

Thorne now has 28 career wins and 78 top-3 finishes at the track.

The real test of Thorne’s car didn’t come with St. Clair to his outside for restarts on laps 25 and 31, respectively.

Instead, the exam period came much earlier. After starting 11th in the 17-car field, the race took shape over the course of the first 10 circuits as Thorne, St. Clair, former champion Andrew McLaughlin and others all navigated traffic in an effort to find a clear path to the front.

Thorne advanced eight spots in the first eight laps, while St. Clair and McLaughlin found it harder to slice through the pack. By the time Thorne had passed polesitter D.C. Alexander for the top spot on lap 15, he’d gained more than enough track position to pull away.

“I was going to stick to the inside line, but I decided to jump out,” Thorne said. “That turned out good, because (Ray Dinsmore III) kind of held everybody up. Once we got around that, it was pretty clear sailing.”

St. Clair finished second, with Frank Moulton of Clinton winding up third. McLaughlin crossed the stripe in fourth and Will Collins completed the top five.

“I was a little too loose to go on outside initially, but then 10 laps in the car really kicked in,” Moulton said. “By then Chris and Josh had gotten by me. That’s just the way it goes, I guess.”

St. Clair benefited from the race’s two caution periods, but on each of the ensuing restarts Thorne pulled clear by two car lengths by the time the field hit the backstretch.

Thorne couldn’t have been happier with the result given no driver has been hotter at Wiscasset to begin 2021 than St. Clair, who later in the evening won his third feature event of the season by taking the Strictly Street 25-lap event.

St. Clair won the Pro Stock feature on opening day in April before claiming Late Model honors on May 1.

“If I could have had five laps on the car when I restarted, I might have had a shot,” said St.Clair, who started 15th. “I don’t know. It was a little tight to get going, but we’ll take second from the back all day.”

“When I saw (St. Clair) got up to second before the caution, I knew I had to keep my distance because he’s been really fast,” said Thorne, who won the 2016 Coastal 200. “I was kind of surprised I was able to drive away from him on the first restart, and on the second one it was even better.

“It was a good test for me to see how good this thing really was, because he’s been so fast this year.”

In the Strictly Street feature, St. Clair took the lead from cousin Ashton Reynolds with five laps remaining. Jonathon Emerson of Sabattus finished third.

Jimmy Childs of Leeds made it 2 for 2 to open the season, holding off a hard charge from Skowhegan’s Zach Audet to win the 25-lap Outlaw Mini feature. The race nearly took a dramatic turn less than 10 laps from the finish, when Audet got into the back of Childs off of turn two — but Audet slowed and allowed Childs to gather his car before mounting his next attack into turn three.

“That’s what racers do,” Childs said. “That’s what you do when there’s respect. The next time we’re racing together we’ll race with respect, because that’s what you do.”

Former champion Adam Chadbourne of Woolwich won the 40-lap Modified feature, holding off opening day winner Ryan Ripley and Mark Lucas. The victory was the 53rd career Wiscasset win for Chadbourne, whose father Dale Chadbourne is a member of the track’s Hall of Fame.

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