Location: Scarborough, ME
Track: 1/3-mile semi-banked oval
# of ACT Races Held: 39
ACT Pro Stock Tour – 25
ACT Late Model Tour – 12
ACT Sunoco Regional Series, Region 1 – 2
ACT Pro Stock Tour – Dave Dion, 5
ACT Late Model Tour – Eddie MacDonald/Brad Babb/Nick Sweet, 2 each
ACT Sunoco Regional Series – Ralph Nason and Mike Rowe, 1 each
A Brief History of Beech Ridge
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway opened its gates for the first time on May 20, 1949. Scarborough’s James B. McConnell owned a timber cutting and sawmill business – one that was surely very profitable, given the amount of trees in Maine – but his real dream was to bring auto racing to the state of Maine. In 1948, he began work on realizing that dream, carving a 1/3-mile clay track into the woods outside Portland with the help of about 15 other men. (Incidentally, real horsepower came along the following year when the Scarborough Downs horse racing track was constructed nearby.)
Funding the track out of his own pocket, McConnell continued to run and develop the facility for the next two decades. George Hartley was the first feature winner, while Dick Garrett quickly emerged as the biggest early star, winning the first three track championships and eventually totaling six overall. But he was soon challenged and even surpassed by others who became Maine household names. Ralph Cusack would win an astounding 12 championships between 1953 and 1980, while Dick Wolstenhulme took 10 titles in various divisions. Roger Shaw, Homer Drew, Phil Libby, and Ray Leach were among the others who took charge on the track.
In the fall of 1973, McConnell decided to get out of day-to-day operations and sold the track to Cal Reynolds, a 35-year-old former track champion and flagman. Reynolds ran the track for the next seven years with the primary goal of creating a family-friendly atmosphere where fans of all ages could enjoy a night of racing. However, his own motorcycle and snowmobile dealership was demanding more of his time, and he decided to sell the track following the 1980 season. The buyer he chose was none other than Ralph Cusack – the same one we mentioned earlier, and who had just won his 12th track championship. (As you can see, buying the track was what prevented him from adding to this total.)
While Cusack’s first five years in charge were largely “business as usual”, he made a decision following the 1985 season that would forever reshape the track’s role in Northeast racing. The next spring, Beech Ridge debuted a new asphalt surface. Immediately, this prompted the return of NEMA after a long absence, and it attracted the newly-formed American-Canadian Tour (more on this later). Eventually, the track’s success with asphalt also caught the eyes of NASCAR. After six years of saying “no”, Cusack finally said “yes” in 1995, making Beech Ridge a NASCAR-sanctioned facility – and bringing with it events for the NASCAR Busch North Series and Featherlite Modified Tour.
Today, Beech Ridge is still operated by the Cusack family, with Ralph’s son Andy currently serving as CEO. The annual schedule includes NASCAR Nite on Saturdays with the track’s three Whelen All-American Series divisions as well as the weekly Thursday Thunder Series for lower-budget divisions. They also hold regular “Car Wars” and “Day of Destruction” events along with kids karting and other series that keep Beech Ridge busy all summer. While the Busch North Series and NASCAR Modifieds have long been gone from the schedule, the track hosts multiple events annually for the PASS Super Late Models, and they have also welcomed the Valenti Modified Racing Series in recent years. The North East Mini Stock Tour, Northeast Classic Lites, PASS Modifieds, and other series make regular pilgrimages to Scarborough, too.
Random Track Fact: Only two drivers in Beech Ridge history have won multiple championships in one season – and one of them, Dick Wolstenhulme, did it twice. Wolstenhulme took both the A-Class and B-Class championships in 1966, and in 1974, he stood atop the Super Modified and Late Model classes. The other driver to pull the double is Homer Drew, who won the A-Class and B-Class championships in 1968.
ACT at Beech Ridge
As we alluded to before, Beech Ridge and ACT came together at the perfect moment for both. The first year of Beech Ridge as an asphalt track was also the first year for ACT after NASCAR North was discontinued, and the pairing of the two was both logical and mutually beneficial. The ACT Coors Tour made its first trek to Scarborough on August 24, 1986 for a 100-lap event won by Robbie Crouch. The event was so successful for both parties that, in 1987, Beech Ridge had THREE dates on the ACT schedule.
Every year thereafter through 1994, there were 2-3 ACT Pro Stock Tour stops at the track, with Dave Dion becoming the top dog. He eventually won five events there, including two in 1990. Beech Ridge also had dates for the first two years of the ACT Late Model Tour (née Late Model Sportsman International Series) and hosted two events during the lone season of the Sunoco Regional Series (appropriated won by Maine legends Ralph Nason and Mike Rowe). However, 1995 was a sign of things to come. That year, Beech Ridge gave two dates to the Busch North Series, leaving ACT with just a single stop. The Pro Stock Tour shut down the following year – and as is the case with many tracks, it led to a long ACT absence from Beech Ridge.
ACT finally made its return in 2009 with a mid-summer date for the ACT Late Model Tour. The Coastal 150/100 remained on the schedule through 2017, with drivers ranging from Brian Hoar to Jeff Taylor visiting Victory Lane. The track even had two dates in 2016 with the Fall Foliage event, which had been held at Beech Ridge from 1988-1990, coming back to Maine. But a disappointing 2017 outing in terms of both team and fan attendance led to Beech Ridge falling off the ACT schedule once again, freezing the records at the track for the foreseeable future.
Random ACT Fact #1: Three drivers combined to win more than half of the 25 ACT Pro Stock Tour events at Beech Ridge – and none of them were from Maine. Dave Dion was the all-time leader with five wins while Robbie Crouch and Junior Hanley won four each.
Random ACT Fact #2: Brad Babb was the first driver to win more than one ACT Late Model Tour event at Beech Ridge – and he did it by going back-to-back in 2015 and 2016 (the 9th and 10th Tour events at the speedway).
ACT’s Future at Beech Ridge
Beech Ridge remains absent from the ACT Late Model Tour schedule as of 2019, and without any Maine tracks running ACT rules in their weekly divisions (as there were in 2009), it will be a tough road to get back in again. But the 12 events held there often produced strong car counts and exciting, unpredictable racing, and many teams looked forward to the trip every year. ACT remains hopeful that its haulers will eventually find their way to Scarborough once again.