Hailing from the small town of Hermon, Maine, Mike Hopkins is a prime example of a racer who has paid his dues. In a day and age when young racers are getting opportunities of a lifetime before they can even drive a car on the streets, Hopkins is a driver that has earned every opportunity he has gotten.
Hopkins cut his teeth in Late Model racing while competing at Speedway 95, a 1/3-mile oval located in his hometown of Hermon. He is a former Late Model champion at the track and has scored many feature wins, one of which Speed51.com was on hand for in 2011 during the weekend leading up to the Oxford 250.
Hopkins eventually made the transition from Late Models to Super Late Models and he’s been turning heads ever since. He led a large portion of last year’s Mason-Dixon Meltdown at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) and finished second in the PASS South season opener at Greenville-Pickens in February.
Fast forward to the 2016 PASS North season and by the time the Oxford 250 rolls around Hopkins could very well be considered as a favorite.
“I’ve always wanted to drive Super Late Models,” said Hopkins. “They are the coolest looking cars and they are the closest thing I am going to get to Sprint Cup. It’s all a dream come true with the car running well and my business is going good.”
Hopkins ended 2015 with a bang; he recorded several strong runs including a career-best fourth-place finish in PASS action at Oxford Plains Speedway in August. That success carried right over into 2016 when he made the trip to Easley, South Carolina to run the first race in the PASS National Series. He finished second behind Joey Dorion who had his hands full with Hopkins over the final few laps.
”This is my first Super Late Model trophy,” said Hopkins in victory lane after the race. “This means a lot to me and my crew and everyone that helps me out on this car.”
Hopkins, along with his wife Nichole, is the owner, driver and source of income for keeping the car on the race track each week. Nichole has always been there for her husband. Hopkins admits that sometimes she has to put her foot down, but they have done it as a team from day one.
“I can’t thank my wife enough,” said Hopkins. “Her and my in-laws really helped me get my business going when I first started racing. That allows me to do what I do with racing. We have always owned everything and we don’t ask for sponsors and that makes it fun.”
Hopkins has helped out with Gary Smith and former driver Anthony Wilcox who does a lot of chassis work in the Northeast around Speedway 95. Hopkins and Wilcox even helped build a car that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch drove in the 2004 Oxford 250. It was little projects like that and learning the car from bumper-to-bumper that has allowed the two to gain success.
“Willie and I have been together going on 16 years now,” said Hopkins. “We have always built own own stuff. My stuff is at his shop and he’s had a hand in all the racing I have done for many years. It’s people like Willie and Gary Crooks that help you get to where you want to be.”
Crooks sold a Port City car to Hopkins and has helped with the baseline setups for the southern races that Hopkins has elected to enter.
“We had another car that didn’t go as well as the Port City ride,” said Hopkins. “Without Gary we could have not come south to run Hickory and Greenville.”
The No. 15 ride has a paint scheme that many northern race fans may remember. Andy Santerre drove a car that looked like Hopkin’s bright orange No. 15 back in his Busch North days.
“Andy gave me a call and gave me some advice before we came to Greenville,” said Hopkins. “He and Willie are good friends and it was nice to get some advice from him.”
Plans for 2016 are to run the PASS National races including a return trip to Hickory this upcoming weekend for the Easter Bunny 150. With good luck they could perhaps to run the whole series in the north.
Whether he is able to run the full PASS North campaign or not, there’s a very good chance that the next fresh face in PASS victory lane will be that of a 30-year-old from Hermon, Maine.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com