PITTSTON – Spectators and race drivers alike got their share of mudding Sunday.

Rain poured down on the 16th annual Maine 4X4 Festival at the Pittston Fairgrounds both Saturday and Sunday.

The track and parking lots, in some places, were knee deep in slimy, brown mud. People trudged through it. Children had fun playing in it.

And a few people who tried to get closer to the racing track in their vehicles as a way to stay dry got stuck in it.

While waiting to compete in the race, Jason Smith of Brewer had to keep hooking a chain to the bumper of his souped-up Ford Ranger and pull trucks and cars out of the muddy parking lot.

The wet weather was great for the events Saturday, including the deep mud bog competition and side-by-side sand drag, but not so great for the sanctioned mud drag-racing Sunday.

Wayne Heal of Lincolnville, a member of the Maine Mud Boggers Association, was the first to compete in the race in his blue Ranger Ford with an orange-and-yellow-flamed hood.

The three-time state champion has been mud racing for 20 years and has received over 300 trophies.

“We’re driving the faster ones and try to stay on top of the mud skimming,” Heal said. “I’m shooting to finish the 180-foot track under 3.5 seconds.”

In the class eight competition, Heal made his first pass at 4.450 seconds and his second at 3.696 seconds.

Richard Bernatchez, who competed in his stock Cherokee, said not many contestants showed up for the drag race this year. A lot had to do with the economy, he said. People can’t afford the sport.

But also, he said, there are more events held throughout the state. “It’s spreading out, so people are going other places,” he said. “Five years ago, you had to race with us.”

Bernatchez, a Maine Mud Boggers Association member who lives in Auburn, said the $30,000 engines in the trucks don’t do as well in the rain. Also, rain wreaks havoc with the timing light that clocks the races.

Drivers in the sanctioned race competed in eight classes including stock, pro stock, modified unlimited and super unlimited.

About 300 contestants showed up for the major events Saturday, according to Jeremy Bourque, a member of the Pittston Fair Association.

“We didn’t break a record, but there were a lot of people who came to watch on Saturday,” Bourque said. “It always rains in Pittston when we’re having the mud run. You can count on it. It can be nice for weeks and weeks then we’ll have the mud run and it will rain.”

Jim Lilly of Windsor, also a fair association member, said crews don’t have to pump as much water from a nearby pond to muddy up the track when it rains.

As far as he’s concerned, people would come to watch the sport whether it rained or not.

“What else are they going to do on a rainy day?” Lilly asked. “People like playing in the mud. And they think they’ll see better action (on the tracks).”


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