Location: Epping, NH
Track: ¼-mile semi-banked oval
Also Known As: All-Star Speedway
# of ACT Races Held: 8
ACT Pro Stock Tour – 2
ACT Late Model Tour – 6
ACT Pro Stock Tour – Dana Patten and Mike Weeden, 1
ACT Late Model Tour – Six drivers with 1 each
A Brief History of Star Speedway
Star Speedway – unofficially the home of Big Block Supermodifieds – owes its existence to the trio of Charlie Elliott, Ken Smith, and Russ Conway. Smith and Conway founded the New England Super-Modified Racing Association in 1965, and along with Elliott, they decided to build a new track in Southern New Hampshire – one that could both show off these high-powered cars in companion with the nearby Lee Raceway. It also aimed to continue the tradition of previous tracks in the area such as Dover’s Granite State Park and Maine’s Sanford Speedway. On June 26, 1965, they purchased Star Brick Yard in Epping, NH and set about transforming it into a race track.
Star Speedway first opened its doors in August 1967. The ¼-mile asphalt oval quickly became internationally famous, attracting big series and legendary drivers. In addition to their own NESMRA Supermodifieds, the ownership trio also hosted a number of NEMA midget events every year and several major Late Model/Modified races. Drivers such as “Dynamite” Ollie Silva, Doug Henderson, Dick Batchelder, Eddie Witkum Jr., and Jim Chaney regularly did battle in both weekly and special events. In the mid-1970s, Star also held several events for the Yankee All-Star Series, a short-lived modified tour that featured future NASCAR stars such as Geoffrey Bodine plus regional standouts like Richie Evans. The track eventually replaced Lee Raceway as NESRMA’s home track (exact date unknown); as part of this, the NESMRA Super Classic was moved to Star and renamed the Star Classic. when the International Supermodified Association (ISMA) was founded in 1976, they took over sanctioning of the Star Classic, which is still run to this day. Along the way, Elliot/Smith/Conway expanded their racing empire by purchasing the Hudson Speedway, making it a sister track to Star (a role it has continued to play for decades).
In 1980, the trio decided to cut back on their involvement in racing and sold Star Speedway to Bobby Webber. (Just two years later, they’d get the bug again, buy the now-defunct Lee Raceway, and turn it into Lee USA Speedway). Webber continued what the track’s founders had started, bringing in the biggest series and stars around. After acquiring the NASCAR sanction, Star held events for the new NASCAR Modified Tour from 1985-1987 and again in 1990. Also in 1987, the track became a regular stop for the new NASCAR Busch Grand National North Series, sometimes hosting two or three events a year through the early 2000s. Along the way, Webber also purchased Hudson Speedway in 1989, reuniting the two tracks under the same ownership umbrella.
However, Star fell on hard times in the 2000s, even as the on-track racing continued to impress, with the Modified Racing Series and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) joining ISMA and NEMA as regular guests. This culminated with the track sitting dormant for much of the 2010 season. After the issues the track faced were resolved, Star reopened that year in time to run the Star Classic and Halloween Howler Enduro in October. Since then, it has carried on under the Webber family, regaining its prominent place on the New England racing scene. In 2011, they introduced a new Small Block Modified 125 event, which would eventually be made part of the new Tri-Track Open Modified Series in 2014. The track has welcomed more than a dozen other major touring series this decade, including PASS, ISMA, NEMA, the ProTruck Series, the NELCAR Legends Tour, and the North East Mini Stock Tour. Unfortunately, Webber passed away on January 26, 2018 after a long battle with cancer. His son Bobby Webber Jr. is the current promoter of Star Speedway, which has a packed 2019 schedule that includes many of the series mentioned along with weekly racing for the 350 Supermodifieds, Late Models, Street Stocks, and Six Shooters. Star has also joined the New Hampshire Short Tracing Racing Association along with Lee USA, Hudson, Monadnock, and Claremont speedways.
Random Track Fact: In the 1970s, Star was known as much for its promotional events as it was for actual racing. The track hosted celebrity races for Boston Bruins players – and Don Awrey continued to participate even after being traded to the St. Louis Blues (and later joining the Montreal Canadians). Other promotions included the world’s largest wedding cake (more than 700 lbs.) and a visit from Choppers the alligator. Memorably, Choppers wandered off while his handler was on a coffee break; he was eventually found near a food stand.
ACT at Star Speedway
The American-Canadian Tour has had, to put it mildly, a stop-and-start history at Star. Tom Curley’s series first visited the track in 1985 on Independence Day weekend during what turned out to be the final year of NASCAR North. When ACT was formed the following year, they again visited the Southern New Hampshire oval. Mike Weeden and Dana Patten were the winners; it was the first career ACT win for both. In fact, it would be Patten’s only win, while Weeden would win only one more event in his ACT career (the 1993 Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road). However, NASCAR introduced the Busch North Series in 1987 as a competitor to ACT. As a NASCAR-sanctioned track, Star naturally hosted that series, marking the end of the ACT Pro Stocks at Star.
In 2001, ACT returned with the Late Model Tour. The series was looking to expand thanks to a new sponsorship deal with New England Dodge Dealers, and Star Speedway was one of the tracks they added. Two events were held at Star each of the next two years – one in late April and another in late July. (Fittingly, the first ACT Dodge Tour event was won by current series co-owner Cris Michaud.) In 2003, ACT cut back to a single late-July event at Star. Then in 2004, the schedule was trimmed back from its 16-race peak in 2002 and 2003 – and Star Speedway was one of the casualties. ACT wouldn’t return to the track until 2013 when a 150-lap event was scheduled. While Wayne Helliwell Jr. and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. put on an all-time classic battle for the win (Pole would prevail), a disappointing car count combined with another schedule reduction in 2014 again left Star on ACT’s cutting room floor.
After a five-year absence, the ACT Late Model Tour will return to Star again in 2019. The Star 150 will be the finale in the Summer Kickoff Series, a trio of events in June with $5,000 guaranteed to the winner of each. This event was scheduled on the heels of the track also going to full ACT rules for their weekly Late Model division. As such, it will be an opportunity for the track’s locals to take on the ACT stars in 53rd year of operations for this legendary track.
Random ACT Fact: Not only has there never been a repeat ACT winner at Star, half of the eight winners were carrying and ACT checkered flag for the first time. In addition to Weeden (7/3/1985) and Patten (8/27/1986), Michaud (4/21/2001) and Scott Dragon (7/27/2002) all picked up their first ACT wins at Star.
ACT’s Future at Star Speedway
As seen above, previous attempts of ACT racing at Star fizzled out after a year or three. However, with Star’s switch to ACT rules, the door is open once again for the start of a long-standing relationship between the two. A successful Star 150 this summer, especially combined with a solid first season of weekly racing under ACT rules, could be the jump-start that’s needed to make the track a regular stop for the Northeast’s leading Late Model touring series.