Mike Hopkins finished fifth in the Oxford 250 a year ago, but he contemplated bypassing the prestigious Aug. 30 race this year because it won’t be the same.
Hopkins was conflicted after losing close friend, workmate and crew member Alan Perkins to an apparent heart attack last Sunday morning at Oxford Plains Speedway.
The Hopkins team was preparing to run the Honey Badger 150 Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Model race when Perkins collapsed. He was 47.
Perkins was one of the team’s tire men.
“If I didn’t race [the Oxford 250], [Perkins] would disown me,” Hopkins said.
He explained that when the paramedics loaded Perkins into the ambulance, he was still conscious and Hopkins offered to go to the hospital with him.
“[Perkins] gave me a fist pump and told me to go win the race,” said Hopkins, who ultimately decided not to drive in the race.
Hopkins said Perkins was one of a kind.
“He was always happy-go-lucky. He was on top of the world,” said Hopkins, who owns Hopkins Paving LLC.
He hired Perkins with the company three years ago and also made him a member of his race crew.
“When we weren’t working together, we were racing together,” Hopkins said, adding that they also rode motorcycles together.
“He was a good man, for sure,” Hopkins said.
Auto racing was one of Perkins’ passions. He briefly raced in the Street Stock division at Speedway 95 in Hermon and also competed in spectator races.
In 1994, he hooked up with Ellsworth’s Andy Saunders, becoming his mechanic and crew chief.
“We were pretty much inseparable for 25 years,” Saunders said. “With the exception of my father, I don’t know anyone as loyal and honest and who has as much integrity as Alan.”
Hopkins said Perkins was a top-notch tire man.
“He was very thorough. He didn’t cut corners,” Hopkins said.
Saunders said Perkins was a jack-of-all-trades in the auto racing community.
“He was a mechanic, a tire guy, he painted cars and he was a sponsor. There wasn’t any aspect of my racing he wasn’t strongly involved with,” Saunders said.
Saunders and Perkins teamed up to win many races and six track championships, four at Speedway 95 and two at Wiscasset Speedway.
Perkins was also a good athlete. In 1991, as a senior pitcher on the Brewer High School baseball team, he was an All-Big East first-team selection.
“He was tough competitor,” former Brewer coach Rich Kimball said. “He never wanted to come out of a game. He had a devastating curveball. And he loved facing Bangor. He always saved his best game for them.”
Perkins was competitive as an auto racing crew member.
“He would definitely get fired up from time to time but he never crossed the line like some of us did,” Saunders said.