It’s going to be hard for Mike Hopkins to top the season that he experienced in 2019. The Hermon, Maine Super Late Model driver accomplished things he never thought he would do behind the wheel of a race car.
Racing and winning at tracks he’d only seen on TV and video games all became a reality on his way to winning the 2019 PASS National Championship.
“I’m just a kid from Hermon who grew up planning to race at Speedway 95,” Hopkins told Speed51. “I was okay with that. Racing is fun no matter where you do it.”
Hopkins grew up watching Maine racers such as Dana Graves and PASS veteran Gary Smith. In fact, the No. 15 that Hopkins carries on his car today is the same number that Graves carried during his career.
Before having climbing behind the wheel of a race car, Hopkins worked with Smith and his son Jessie. From there, he put his own stuff together to run Mini Stocks at Speedway 95. That eventually led him into Late Models and a climb up the ranks.
Over the last few seasons, with a combination of support, Hopkins has ventured south to run well and win at venues he’d never visited previously. It started in 2016 with a trip to Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) where he finished second in a PASS National event. That confidence slowly worked into other chances.
From there, that led to a full campaign in 2019 for the PASS National title. Hopkins, along with Gary Crooks and Shane Tesch, were able to park their Port City ride in victory lane at Richmond Raceway in Virginia to kick off the season.
But the good runs didn’t stop there. A runner-up finish at the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway and another runner-up finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June made things clear: this team was capable of winning the PASS National Championship.
“I figured when we started getting good runs that we had a chance at the national title,” Hopkins stated. “We wanted to be winning races, but we kept being so close to the top that the points took care of themselves. It was hard to be frustrated because we weren’t winning, I think that just kept us motivated.”
A victory at Seekonk Speedway (MA) in October all but sealed the deal before a runner-up finish in the season finale at Lanier Raceplex in Georgia earned him the championship.
“It was a great feeling,” Hopkins said. “To come and run at these places and run well is enough some days, but to be a National Champion is something special.”
The 2019 PASS National Championship schedule featured the most races in history of the series, and Hopkins made it hard for anyone to beat him after he posted an average finish of 3.43.
It’s hard for Hopkins to have ill feelings about his success, but the ones that got away from him are the races that he remembers most.
Hopkins had a strong car at the Oxford 250 and believes a mid-race pit mistake led to them giving the race away.
“I felt like we had the best car at the 250 in August,” Hopkins said. “Nothing against Travis (Benjamin), he did a great job and I am happy for him. I think we could have won the race.”
Oxford was the one race in his own car and he ran well before ending up fifth at the checkered flag. He’s now completed every lap at the Oxford 250 in the last four versions of the historic race.
Looking forward to the 2020 season, one of Hopkins’ goals will be to win at Oxford Plains Speedway, and he hopes that win will come in the biggest race of them all: the Oxford 250.
Other plans for Hopkins are still coming together. He confirmed this week that he will be racing the Easter Bunny 150 on April 11 at Hickory, looking to join Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe and Corey Williams as winners of the race from the state of Maine.
Hopkins will continue to work with Crooks and Port City, but the complete details are still being worked out at this point.
-Story by: Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com