Go-kart racers make the turn during a Junior Predator division event on July 13, 2020 at Richmond Karting Speedway. The Times Record file photo

RICHMOND — The Oxford 250 remains the gold standard of auto racing in Maine, both in purse money and prestige, but it might surprise you that the second richest-race in the state won’t be held on any of the three traditional speedways in Oxford, Wiscasset or Hermon.

That honor belongs to LST Motorsports Park with the running of Wednesday night’s Derek Kneeland Racing 100.

“Derek grew up racing karts. He started out at 4 or 5 years old at that track,” said Mainely Karting owner Steve Perry. “Last fall he reached out and wanted to do something, be involved somehow and help give back.”

The result is the DKR 100, featuring a 60-lap feature event for the Senior Champ division that will pay at least $5,041 to the winner at the former Richmond Karting Speedway.

The property is owned by brothers Gary and Casey Nash. Perry, who owns and promotes the annual Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta, previously leased the 1/7-mile oval for one event each season.

This year he, along with fiancee Debbie Dore and general manager Ryan Phillips, decided to take on a full-year of operations. One of three go-kart facilities in Maine, LST Motorsports Park races on Friday nights with six divisions ranging from Junior Box Stock for children to the Senior Champ karts that comprise the premier division.

The season started with a car count in the 20s and has grown to last Friday night’s peak — 47 karts, for an average of nearly eight karts per division.

“This place was struggling. It was bad,” said Perry, who had a $1,200-to-win race at the beginning of the season that drew only seven entries. “This place looked abandoned. (LST) stepped up. They wanted to support us and what we’re doing and they’ve been with us from Day 1.”

Mainely Karting in Richmond will host a 100-lap feature race Wednesday night that will play $5,000 to the winner. Photo provided by Chris Allen

Perry is hoping for as many as 40 entries in the Derek Kneeland Racing 100.

Kneeland, originally from Windham, is a spotter in the NASCAR Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing driver Tyler Reddick. He still maintains a race team of his own, competing in select Super Late Model events around the country when his NASCAR schedule allows — including the Oxford 250 in recent years.

Kneeland is one of only a few of the state’s premier drivers who began their careers in go-karts. Others include multi-time Pro All Stars Series winner and former JR Motorsports driver Reid Lanpher of Manchester. Current Oxford Super Late Model drivers Austin Teras and Max Cookson, the 2021 PASS Modified champion, also started in karts.

“My kids raced there over 10 years ago, and we made a lot of memories,” Perry said. “It’s really a pleasure to watch kids like Reid and Autin grow up on the go kart tracks.”

The Coastal 200 and the Boss Hogg 150, held at Wiscasset Speedway each season, each pay $5,000 to win. Weekly divisions at LST Motorsports Park — and most everywhere else, according to Perry — do not race for purses. Trophies and bragging rights are the only things on the line each week.

That will change significantly Wednesday. The DKR 100 offers more than $12,000 in overall purses and lap bonuses — including a minimum of $100 just to take the green flag.

With the emergence of high-dollar, midweek Late Model and Super Late Model races across New England and the rest of the country, the idea for a premier kart race with no other competition emerged.

“I always like to think outside the box and do things different, and sometimes they seem to end up growing,” Perry said. “I started tossing some ideas around — and the next thing you know I’m raising a ton of money for this.”

Racing begins at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $15 for spectators.

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