The Beech Ridge community was hit hard by the late-night pit-area accident that killed Gregory Rowe, 47, of Standish.
Rowe, a member of Sport Series veteran Sally Gherardi-Hatch’s crew, was reportedly riding on the bumper of a slow moving truck exiting the speedway at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. He fell off the truck and was run over by the trailer in tow, according to police reports.
It was the first pit area fatality in the track’s 65 years of operation, according to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway owner Andy Cusack.
Cusack said Gherardi-Hatch and the No. 77 team are planning to race this Saturday.
“She is planning to race, yes. It’s a horrible thing but one of those things where the crew member would say we have to push on,” Cusack said. “Like I told her, it is hard, and the hardest time will be the first time through the gate.”
Charlie Colby had left the pits about 10 minutes sooner after winning the Pro Series race to conclude the evening racing.
“I found out about it the same night when we got home. It’s awful, a real bad accident,” Colby said. “It’s just like when we take a drive on the way to work, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s going to take a while to heal but I think they can do it.”
SATURDAY’S MAIN event at Beech Ridge is the American-Canadian Tour’s only Maine appearance. The ACT cars will be competing in a 150-lap race.
Wayne Helliwell Jr. is the point leader with two wins in 10 races. Jimmy Hebert (two wins) and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. (season-high three wins) are his closest pursuers. If Brian Hoar (two wins in five starts) makes the trip, he’ll be another top contender.
This marks the fifth straight year the Vermont-based tour has appeared at The Ridge.
“They bring a lot of cars and have a lot of side-by-side racing and now some of their drivers are developing more of a following. They went through a generational change,” Cusack said.
COLBY’S WIN was his third of the year, making him the first three-time winner in the Pro Series since 2010. Due to two early-season DNFs, Colby is sitting in 10th with 443 points, just two points behind Alan Tardiff and still within striking distance of a top-five year-end finish.
He’s also established himself as the fastest car at the track this year, adding five wins in the heat races.
Colby, 59 and a multi-time track champ at Wiscasset, is having one of his best seasons ever in a 30-year career.
In a way, it started last October when he won the season-ending 100-lapper for Super Late Models at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway. He said that gave his small, family-operated team a good sense of momentum heading into 2013.
“We’ve been racing at Beech Ridge almost four years and we’ve found out now where the grooves all are, and we’re hitting them,” Colby said, adding that a switch to a Dale Shaw chassis has been a huge difference-maker for him.
Colby had formerly raced Distance Racing chassis. He’s found the Shaw chassis easier to work with and has enjoyed the feedback he’s gotten from former NASCAR Busch North star Dale Shaw and his son D.J.
“We have got this car really dialed in,” Colby said.
Colby admits the Pro Series’ top three of Mike Rowe (551), Dan McKeage (543) and Kelly Moore (524) are out of reach — this year.
“We’ve won titles at Unity, Bangor and at Wiscasset several times. At the Ridge that’s what we’re hoping for,” Colby said.
ON TRACK: Oxford Plains has a full weekend. Friday will be the regular Oxford Championship Series racing back after a rainout last Friday. The Monster Truck Throwdown comes to The Plains on Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (4 p.m.). … The Pro Stocks and Super Stocks headline this Saturday’s card at Wiscasset with a 6 p.m. start.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: