The race season at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway will start on a rather somber note Saturday following the death of veteran driver Gary Bellefleur.
Bellefleur, who was crushed under his race car in an accident at his home in Stetson Monday night, was scheduled to run in the Pro All Stars Series North 150 at Beech Ridge.
“He was doing something he loved to do when he died, working on his car,” said Unity Raceway Manager George Fernald, who had known Bellefleur for nearly 30 years.
“We both got into racing at about the same time. He started out racing at Speedway 95 (in Hermon), then he jumped around and started racing the PASS circuit.”
Bellefleur served as a track announcer at Unity for several seasons.
“He just wanted to be involved in racing, period,” Fernald said. “He was just great with the kids. I’m not sure how we’re going to replace him. I never knew anyone who disliked the guy at all.”
After sitting out last season, the 49-year-old Bellefleur was preparing his new car to race in the Super Late Model division Saturday at Beech Ridge.
“He didn’t have much of a crew that helped him,” Fernald said. “He was always by himself or with his wife (Melodie), and they worked on his car.”
Fernald said Bellefleur would want this Saturday’s racing at Beech Ridge to go on as planned.
“He wouldn’t want to be hurting the sport, that’s for sure,” he said. “He would want things to go on.”
MORE THAN 300 LAPS of racing are scheduled when PASS North opens Maine’s auto racing season Saturday at Beech Ridge.
The regional racing tour was supposed to make its Maine debut at Speedway 95 on April 18, but that event was called off because of rain.
Among the early entries for the 150-lap Super Late Model race at Beech Ridge were four-time PASS North champions Johnny Clark of Hallowell and Ben Rowe of Turner.
Other notable early entrants include ACT rookie of the year Joey Doiron of Berwick, former Wiscasset Raceway champion Scott Chubbock of Dresden, reigning Thompson International Speedway champion Derek Ramstrom of West Boylston, Mass., and former Pass North rookie of the year Trevor Sanborn of Parsonsfield.
Donnie Whitten of Wells, Kelly Moore of Scarborough, Travis Benjamin of Morrill, Scott Alexander of Orrington, Gary Smith of Bangor, Richie Dearborn of Hollis and Chuck Colby of Newcastle also have registered to race in the division.
A 40-lap feature in the opened-wheel Modified division and a 75-lap feature in the Sportsmen Series also are scheduled.
Racing will start at 3 p.m. with 15-lap qualifying heats for the 28-car starting grid in the Super Late Model final.
The track will open for practice 2-6 p.m. today and Friday.
Weekly racing at Beech Ridge is scheduled to start May 29.
THE SEASON at Oxford Plains Speedway will open May 16 with an American-Canadian Tour 150-lap race for Late Models.
For the past three weeks, drivers have been able to schedule individual practice sessions at the Oxford track.
The first practice session for all divisions will be held 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 8 and will be open to the public.
WISCASSET RACEWAY will hold is first Sunday afternoon racing session May 23.
Practice for all divisions is scheduled for May 16 and will be open to the public.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: