The fate of one of Maine’s premier short tracks has taken a sudden and unexpected turn.
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway owner Andy Cusack informed teams and track staff Saturday night that he is under contract to sell the speedway his family has owned since 1981.
And while no details have been confirmed, the third-mile oval’s future as a race track looks bleak.
News of the sale emerged on social media last night following the conclusion of Beech Ridge’s weekly championship program. While rumors had circulated in recent weeks regarding a potential sale of the speedway, the notion of closing the track altogether blindsided just about everyone in attendance.
“Who knew this may have been our final time at Beech Ridge,” Super Late Model racer Evan Beaulieu shared on Twitter. “I made so many lifelong friends there, I met my wife there, I won and lost races there. Sad for our racing community, but grateful for the memories made.”
The track has yet to release an official statement regarding details of the sale. A report by Shawn Courchesne of RaceDayCT.com added that the sale was to a land developer, with the possibility that the track may still operate in 2022 if the transaction does not proceed quickly.
Regardless of the pace, the Scarborough speedway’s remaining days as a race track are few.
Opened in 1949 as a dirt track, Beech Ridge was purchased by multi-time track champion Ralph Cusack in 1981 and paved five years later. The track thrived as a paved oval, hosting the American-Canadian Tour Pro Stocks for several years and earning NASCAR sanctioning in 1995. NASCAR’s regional Busch North Series debuted at the track that season, with Scarborough’s own Kelly Moore winning en route to the series championship.
NASCAR’s regional touring divisions stepped away following the 2005 season. Maine’s Pro All Stars Series hosted its first PASS 400 weekend that fall, anchored by a 300-lap PASS Super Late Model (then Pro Stock) feature. The PASS 400 weekend quickly became one of Beech Ridge’s signature events. ACT returned to Beech Ridge a few years later with its Late Model Tour.
At the conclusion of the 2018 season, Beech Ridge refocused on weekly competition, eliminating touring racing save for the Modified Racing Series as a nod to the track’s rich history of Modified competition. Gary Smith won PASS’ final event at the track that September.
Beech Ridge, Cusack, and weekly competitor Dan McKeage were featured nationally in 2019 on “Drivers And Dreams: Grassroots Racing In America,” a special televised feature narrated by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and broadcast on NBCSN.
The COVID-19 pandemic hampered tracks throughout the state in 2020. With a shortened season and limited spectators at hand, Beech Ridge opted not to run for NASCAR Weekly Series points, instead hosting a series of open Pro Series features. Touring racing returned as well; the Granite State Pro Stock Series debuted with a well-received 150-lap feature won by Wyatt Alexander.
Some of the pandemic adjustments were retained in 2021, with the track’s Thursday entry-level program and its Saturday “NASCAR Nite” program merged into one weekly show headlined by the Pro Series (Super Late Model), Sport Series (Street Stock/Super Street) and Wildcat (Hobby/Pure Stock) divisions.
The GSPSS also returned for two events, won by Pro Series stars David Oliver and Corey Bubar, along with the Modified Racing Series and NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour. August’s Rumble At The Ridge 200 was the first NASCAR touring race at the track since 2005.
Joe Pastore, Jr. won Saturday’s Pro Series season finale, with Gary Smith clinching the track championship. Like Smith’s PASS win three years ago, it may prove to be the final one.
What could become of the track’s grounds can readily be imagined. Only a short drive from I-95 and the bustling coastal city of Portland, the town of Scarborough represents fertile real estate. The former Scarborough Downs horse racing track, only a mile from Beech Ridge, closed at the conclusion of 2020 and is being recrafted into a mixed-use development. A similar fate would seem likely for Beech Ridge.
The bigger question is what will become of the racers who have called Beech Ridge Motor Speedway home.
Two main alternatives exist, each a short drive from Scarborough. Oxford Plains Speedway, an hour north and the home track of PASS, hosts weekly divisions roughly equivalent to Beech Ridge, including the headlining Super Late Models. A little more than an hour east is Wiscasset Speedway, billed as Maine’s fastest track. Wiscasset runs alternating weekly programs headlined by Pro Stocks and Late Models. Wiscasset also worked alongside Beech Ridge this year to cross-promote major events, including a Sport Series/Super Street mini-championship.
But for drivers who grew up with a race track in their backyards, even an hour’s drive can feel like a long way from home.
Charlie Sanborn III grew up in Scarborough. In a racing sense, Sanborn grew up at Beech Ridge. A fixture in the Sport Series for several years, Sanborn also co-hosts the Black Flagged Podcast, an irreverent radio program modeled on the aura of Beech Ridge’s own Turn 5 Tavern.
This year, Sanborn took steps both forward and back to seek a new challenge, acquiring a Super Late Model from Austin Theriault. Sanborn stepped back from his Sport Series program, joining track announcer Andy Austin in the booth on select Saturday nights. He also made a few touring starts in his new ride, all in anticipation of a 2022 Beech Ridge Pro Series rookie campaign.
All of that is up in the air now.
Sanborn, one of so many drivers stunned by Saturday’s news, shared his thoughts on the sale of a track that has shaped every facet of his life:
“What is there to say? I’m one of few who got to win on both the little track and the big track. It is where I wrecked my first car. Where I won my first race. How I learned to become the person I am today. The actual art of turning the steering wheel is less than five percent of why we go to the races. We go for the people, the atmosphere, and the sense of belonging.
“I am 28 years old and I have never had a year of my life that Beech Ridge Motor Speedway was not involved in a huge way. Not only have we lost our race track, but we lost our home away from home. We’ve lost a community and a historic staple to our state. Gone are the weekends of fires in a parking lot with not a single worry in the world.
“I began racing not because of the speed or the adrenaline. I started because being in the car created something simple. In the loud engines and hard-fought racing came silence to the rest of the world. It was my escape. Now it is gone.
“I just hope it was worth it.”
Sanborn’s peers are, no doubt, pondering the same.