Popular PASS returns to Beech Ridge on Saturday night

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted July 07, 2011, at 8:33 p.m.

The Pro All-Stars Series returns to Beech Motor Speedway Saturday at 6 p.m. for a Super Late Model North 150-lapper and a 40-lap Modified feature.

“The PASS shows have been really strong. And they’ve been strong right out of the gate,” said Beech Ridge Motor Speedway owner Andy Cusack.

PASS North opened its season at Beech Ridge on April 30, nearly a month before the track began its Saturday night race schedule.

“We always get great crowds there,” said PASS North SLM regular Travis Benjamin of Morrill.

Cusack admitted that he isn’t sure why the PASS tour does so well at his track.

“It’s kind of an anomaly,” said Cusack who speculated that part of the reason is that “we’re the only track in Maine that runs that type of (pro stock) car.”

Benjamin said he really enjoys racing at Beech Ridge and the track has a lot of positive things going for it.

“It’s a great track and they take good care of it,” said Benjamin. “The location is good. And some of their (pro stock) regulars race with us and do very well. At a lot of tracks, the regulars will try to race with us and they don’t do very well. But Bill Rodgers won one of our races last year. The fans like to come and support them.

“And it’s always a great race,” he added.

Three Beech Ridge regulars finished in the top 13 at the race in April.

Trevor Sanborn, who leads the pro stock points at Beech Ridge, finished seventh; Rodgers was eighth and Aaron Ricker wound up 13th.

Benjamin is fifth in the PASS North SLM points but said he should be second if not for some bad luck.

“We wrecked a couple of times while racing in the top three and I was running second at Beech Ridge with 30 laps to go when my shifter broke,” said Benjamin. “We’ve also had a flat tire.”

He said they won’t change the setup on his car because they ran so well the last time at Beech Ridge.

“We should be strong. Now we’ve just got to finish races,” said Benjamin.

Defending three-time champ Johnny Clark of Hallowell and Turner’s Ben Rowe continue to battle for the championship.

Rowe, runnerup to Clark in points the last three seasons, after winning the 2007 title, leads Clark by 12 points. Quebec City’s Alexander Gingras is third, 51 points behind Clark, and Dresden’s Scott Chubbuck is six points behind Gingras. Benjamin is two points behind Chubbuck.

Clark won the April race at Beech Ridge, one of his three wins through the first five races.

In the Modifieds, Andy Shaw of North Conway, N.H., is trying to make it four in a row as he has won the division’s previous three races this season.

Cusack said the track’s regular Saturday night classes will also race with the exception of the Pro (stock) series.

He said one of the interesting twists is that the Saturday night drivers who are leading the Beech Ridge points are the ones who will run the PASS race.

“You’d think they might want to save their cars. They don’t want to wreck their cars if they’re running for a points championship,” said Cusack who speculated that the competition and a chance to test themselves against the PASS racers outweighs the risk of damaging their cars.

Beech Ridge is having a solid year which has caught Cusack by surprise.

“We’re doing better than we should be. Our car counts in our Saturday night and Thursday night series are almost identical to last year,” said Cusack. “I’m thrilled with that considering the economy.”

<span class=”Sports_10tb”>Car counts down at Unity</span>

While car counts have been holding steady at Beech Ridge, George Fernald Jr., who leases Unity Raceway from Ralph and Nancy Nason, said his car counts have been “low.

“We’re down two to six cars in each class from last year,” said Fernald.

He admitted that he has been surprised at the car counts “because we had a lot of interest through the winter.

“But I guess they realized they didn’t have the money to come out,” said Fernald.

He said they are slowly gaining cars each week.

“We’ll pick up one or two per week,” he said.

Fernald has come up with a way to encourage drivers to race and its shows his commitment to the track.

“If we have a class that is hurting, we’ll build a car and put one of my sons in it,” said Fernald. “We’re currently building a car for my older son, George III. He’ll race in two weeks. We did the same thing with my middle son, Alex, in the Pro-Fours last year. And we’ve had more Pro-Four cars this year.”

Jeff Burgess has been helping them build the car for George III.

Fernald himself tried to generate some fun recently when, during a race involving six-cylinder cars, he drove out onto the track with a tractor and raced with them.

“I’m always looking for new ideas,” said Fernald.

Racing in eight classes will be held Saturday night and Fernald said the racing has been “very good” despite the low car counts.

<span class=”Sports_10tb”>Open wheels to roll at Spud</span>

The Atlantic Open Wheels Tour will highlight racing at Caribou’s Spud Speedway on Saturday night.

The series, featuring some of Canada’s best open-wheel drivers, was supposed to race at Spud Speedway on June 19 but it was rained out.

Racing starts at 6 p.m.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/07/sports/popular-pass-returns-to-beech-ridge-on-saturday-night/ printed on July 24, 2014