30 Bright orange with a 440 cubic- inch motor, Jerry Hatch’s Dodge Challenger race car has a way of drawing attention. It also gives the veteran racer an outlet to share a positive message to the youth in his native Maine. It’s through a program he and a good friend, Sidney Hughes, an officer in the Washington County (Me.) Sheriff’s Department, developed after talking about ways to reach local youth. “I call it the Healthy Choices program,” he said. “I take the race car and equipment to the schools where we talk about drug and alcohol abuse. It’s something I’ve done for 27 years. When I walk into the classroom, I use the race car to get their attention. I show them a little guy like me from small-town America can do spiffy things.” Hatch, 63, has done plenty of “spiffy things.” He hails from Lubec, Maine, where Quoddy Head State Park is the easternmost point of the United States. He has worked jobs from construction to logging as he claims, “Doing whatever it takes to put a biscuit on the table.” But racing is his passion and he has been very successful at it. He has compiled 12 track championships and four championships with smaller drag racing organizations. Now racing in the International Hot Rod Association Summit Sportsman National Championship, he won the Super Stock division on Feb. 5 at the season-opening event in Immokalee, Fla. Much of his success was due to a quick reaction time. With that in mind, one tool he uses in the classroom is a full-size drag racing tree with a console and a couple of steering wheels. “The console I have is actually the very first prototype that Al Smith built,” he said. “We pit the students against each other in reaction-time contests. I will usually sign a huge piston, connecting rod or something else from the race car as a prize for winning.” The program is mainly for fifth and sixth graders as Hatch explains, “We like to get to them before they head down the wrong path.” However, his goal isn’t so much about getting them to the race track. It’s to convey a message that whatever decisions are made in life, they’re truly about healthy choices. “It’s not just about racing,” he said. “One thing I tell the kids is you put good things in your body, you get good results and you put bad things in your body and you harm yourself. But, I explain how competitive it is out here. We’re dealing with tenths of thousandths of a second between winning and losing. The healthier you are and the sharper you are, the better chance you have to be successful.” Hatch Shares Racing FOR A GOOD CAUSE BY JEFF BIRCHFIELD DRIVER SPOTLIGHT jerryHATCH