For a short stint, a brief time and a flash of the eye, Sam Sessions was the best in the Northeast Pro Stock world. The Auburn, Maine native grew up around Oxford Plains Speedway and ran the weekly oval before he went on the road and made a name for himself.
In just a few years he made it to the big stage, played the part and pumped up the show before exiting stage left.
“I loved racing, and I still do,” Sessions told Speed51. “I said it at the time and I’ll say it again today, there was not one thing that drove me away. It was a bunch of little things and they all added up. From work, family and time I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
Rewinding the clock a bit, the flying zero and "Sudden Sam" Sessions first became a regular contender and a proven winner in the Northeast with the NEPSA Tour, while beating the best in the region. Racing an old Dave Whitlock car that was built by Junior Hanley, Sessions had fine race cars to work with, and at the turn of the century things got better.
In 2001, he went touring with the new Pro All Stars Series and became the series' inaugural champion. The only hiccup was he didn’t win a race that season and people nagged him about that. The point fund helped Sessions move to another Hanley car, and at that time things were about to take off.
He returned in 2002 and won three-straight races during the summer and won four times that season before ending up second in PASS points. A trademark in those days was his victory lane hand walks that provided great photos and video opportunities. Everything was a show with Sessions.
2003 was not the best of seasons for Sessions, but he made a hard year worth it when he won the season-ending Big Dawg Challenge at Wiscasset Speedway. The victory earned him a rich $100,000 payday, which is the biggest in Pro All Stars Series history, to this date. The race was ahead of its time, as only Freddie Query made the trip north to race and was pretty much a non factor.
“I felt like I was living a dream after I won that race,” Sessions recalled. “You always wanted to win a big one and we got the biggest race of them all that year. Aside from never getting to race a Tour Modified, that race really completed my career.”
Despite driving 400 laps that day, Sessions got out in victory lane and did his famous hand walk around before getting up to spray champaign and take pictures.
“I spent the whole day in the car,” he said. “We had a break at lap 200 and I never got out of the car. I really wasn’t that tired after 400 laps that day.”
The win allowed Sessions to do what many people never did, and that was make money off racing. Sessions put some away for retirement, which is still building to this day.
2004 really saw the change with Sessions as there just weren’t enough hours in the day to make everything work. He won at Speedway 95 in April and only managed a few more top 10 runs the rest of the season.
“I really felt like we were on borrowed time when we were racing,” Sessions said. “It was all we could do to race and keep up with teams that had more budget then we did. It was taxing on my family time as well. It really was hard to do it all.”
Sessions went into part-time mode to work on his business’ which include rental properties and Stripper Delimber, which is popular with the logging industry. Today, both business' are still operating successfully.
The last time that Sessions would climb behind the wheel of his own race car was at the Oxford 250 in 2006 when he finished third on the podium behind Jeremie Whorff and Bill Whorff, Jr.
“It was good to get a finish like that in the 250. That’s what we all want to do is win that race.”
According to TheThirdTurn.com, the last time Sessions strapped in behind the wheel of a race car was in 2013 when he entered the Oxford 250. He qualified 18th and finished 34th that day after dropping out of the race early.
Sessions indicated that he still goes to the races a few times a year and he always tries to make it to the Oxford 250 to watch the best of the best in the Northeast, but he became real honest very quickly.
“I’m a racer,” he said. “It’s hard to go to the races when you're not racing. It’s good to see old friends, but it makes you miss it.
“Part of me wants to go through my car and get it right and go see what it will do on the track now on the stop watch,” Sessions added. “The advancements in technology have been big, but I can imagine that the old car could surprise some people.”
Sessions had a scary fall a few years back and suffered several broken ribs, among other injuries. He said his hand walking days are over, but with the right opportunity maybe he’ll race again, provided it doesn’t take away from family.
- By Elgin Traylor, Speed51 Correspondent
-Photo credit: Pro All Stars Series