Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ACT New England Transmission 150 at Beech Ridge Notebook

When I first learned the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) would be returning to historic Beech Ridge Motor Speedway after a 16-ear absence in 2009, I was thrilled.
Not only is the seacoast oval just 45 minutes from my home, I had many great memories of trips to Beech Ridge starting way back in 1988. I was there when Buzzy Bezanson won the New England 300 on one set of tires, and was fortunate enough to be present for every modern-day NASCAR Busch North Series race the place hosted,
as well.
Last year’s ACT return was exciting, with low-buck Thunder Road veteran Eric Williams almost stealing the victory from multi-time champion Brian Hoar. And when the Vermont-based tour rolled back into Scarborough last weekend for another show, fans got their money’s worth, and them some.
Having covered weekly racing activities at Oxford Plains Speedway for the Sun Journal since 2005, I’ve developed a deep respect for several Late Model teams who compete there.
When I arrived at “The Ridge” last Saturday evening, I was elated to see Ricky Rolfe, Tim and son TJ Brackett, Shawn Martin, Corey Morgan and young Ben Ashline on the entry list. Five-time Oxford champion Travis Adams, running a part-time ACT schedule for 2010, and nine-time Oxford Pro Stock champion Jeff Taylor were also among the entrants. Talk about supporting a local ACT race on an off-weekend for Oxford, those boys were out in force.
As most of you will have read by now, Ashline ran second for at least 70 laps before getting put to the rear for spinning somebody out. The young athlete from Pittston limped to a disappointing 15th-place finish, two laps off the pace.
Taylor absolutely blew me away when he took the lead from Polewarczyk on lap 83. The one-time King of the Pro Stocks is finally (and reluctantly, I think) making the transition to a Late Model way of thinking at Distance Racing Products.
To get a handle on what it takes to build Late Models that win, Mr. Taylor has wisely built himself an immaculate version and is learning the car from a hands-on, seat-of-the-pants perspective. He led 13 laps and unfortunately fell victim to a cut tire on lap 131. His position at 22nd in the final rundown fails to show his most impressive Late Model effort to date.
Along with my praise for the ACT race last Saturday, I’d also like to express a few thoughts on Beech Ridge itself. The place has a special feel when the lights come on, and that fog is the wildest thing I’ve ever seen at any track. Only once before had I seen it get so thick that cars looked blurry on the backstretch. How we ever got that entire 150 laps in is beyond me.
I am always amazed at the depth of Andy Cusack’s support divisions. And I must say, his NASCAR Pro Series machines (the last Pro Stock holdouts) put on a whale of a show. They went 40 laps green-to-checkered without a caution at blistering speed. A very impressive feature, for sure. The car count and caliber of racing in the Sport Series is strong, as well.
Overall, the place is clean, the food is tasty, and the racing is pretty tough to beat. Hats off to second generation owner Andy Cusack and staff for maintaining a tradition of excellence fans have come to expect for decades. And speaking of race fans...
For the second straight year, I had a verbal confrontation with one at Beech Ridge. Last year, I was insulted and asked to leave by fans when I sat in the wrong place in the pits. This year, the insults flew when I described the previous week’s 250 as an excellent race.
I realize the mental capacity and unwillingness to accept outsiders of fans who attend Beech Ridge is outside the promoter’s control. I guess all I ask is that folks respect the opinion of somebody who looks at racing from a different angle than they do. We all love the same sport.