DURHAM – Durham resident Evan Beaulieu has gone from go-karts to dirt tracks to a Pro Stock Series in eight short years of racing – quick work even in a sport that prides itself on speed.

Beaulieu, 20, begins his first season as a driver in the Pro Stock Series at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, considered by many to be the most competitive racing division in the state. He is making the jump from the Legends Series – a class of competition featuring scaled-down replicas of American automobiles from the 1930s and 1940s – to arguably the premier racing class in the state.

Beaulieu will be racing his No. 56 Chevrolet Super Late Model, a souped-up Monte Carlo, on Saturday nights at the venerable Scarborough track from May 25 until the end of August. He’ll be a member of the Naughty 40 Racing Team, owned by the Gorham-based Dan McKeage. The step up is the latest in a short but highly successful racing career for the busy Beaulieu, who is also finishing his degree in businesses management and operates his own company, Nitro Designs, a graphic design and website support firm.

Unlike many of his peers who carry the family tradition from generation to generation, Beaulieu wasn’t born into the sport.

“That’s the coolest part because my dad was never involved in racing until I came along, not like a lot of the other people we race with where their dads raced and their grandfathers raced,” said Beaulieu at his home-based shop on Stackpole Road. “We’ve had to learn on our own along the way, but we’ve had a lot of good people to help us. That’s been the coolest thing is having my dad and I learn it together.”

Beaulieu, a lifelong Durham resident and Brunswick High School graduate, cut his driving teeth racing go-karts at the age of 12, but quickly moved up to the Legends class, where speeds can reach well over 100 miles an hour. With a crew consisting of his father, Todd Beaulieu, and “two buddies,” Beaulieu raced his Legends car in competitions as far south as Virginia, racking up championships along the way and earning the respect of longtime racing observers here in Maine and beyond.

“I met Evan five years ago, and the thing that attracted me was the relationship he and his dad have. They learned together along the way and have had won big races and championships at every level they have competed,” said Steve Perry, host of “Mainely Motorsports TV,” a weekly television show that covers Maine racing. “I don’t see the next step to the pro series, although it is a little tougher hurdle, being any different for those two.”

Tom Baker, coach and founder of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Team Full Throttle, said Beaulieu, one of Baker’s 15 clients, has the requisite smarts and personality to make it in the ultra competitive and marketing driven world of modern auto racing.

“Evan is very sharp,” said Baker. “One of is best qualities is that he listens well and takes advice well. There are a lot of young racers today that lack that quality. They don’t listen well and won’t do the hard work that it takes to give themselves the best shot at a shot, so to speak. He is very personable and articulate and understands how to use that quality. Evan doesn’t assume he knows more than he does.”

Beaulieu also makes time for mentoring and has helped out younger drivers who are new to the sport, said Perry.

“He’s a young racer, but he’s out their helping get people involved,” Perry said. “Him and his family are really good people.”

Though the leap from Legends to the Pro Stock Series means a bigger stage and potential bigger payday, Beaulieu said the transition could be difficult and more expensive. With a short, yellow strip on his rear bumper signifying his rookie status, Beaulieu said he will lean heavily on McKeage, the team owner, for advice.

“Getting his knowledge is a big thing because I have a lot to learn,” said Beaulieu. “He has years of experience that I can draw on.”

The winner’s share of a Legends race was typically around $100, said Beaulieu. In the Pro Stock Series, Beech Ridge pays $200 just for making the field for the 40-lap, Saturday night features he will compete in. Beaulieu said the cost to compete at the higher level isn’t cheap, and any perceived glory is offset by the slim margin of error when racing the $30,000 vehicles. Even a minor crash can result in expensive repairs to the body.

“On any given week, we’ll be spending almost $400 in tires alone plus the maintenance on the car and getting our crew there. Traveling and the cost of fuel isn’t cheap,” said Beaulieu. “It costs $500 or $600 a week just to be competitive, and that’s if you don’t wreck.”

For now, Beaulieu is definitely not quitting his day job at Hancock Lumber in Brunswick, but has his sights set on America’s crown jewel racing series, NASCAR.

“That would be the ultimate goal, but the crew and I understand that you need to execute at every level,” he said.

The people who watched Beaulieu through the years expect big things and feel he has the components to pull it off.

“There are a lot of good young racers out there today, but the limitation is that you have to attract dollars,” said Baker, who provides coaching to racers in media relations, marketing, and business management. “You have to be able to speak that particular language that resonates with fans and sponsors. I think Evan has that combination of passion and authenticity and marketing savvy to go far, along with his racing skills.”

Durham resident Evan Beaulieu in the seat of his super late model No. 56 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. After winning championships on the Legends racing circuit, the 20-year-old is moving to the Pro Stock Series at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough. Staff photo by Matthew Stilphen

The Legends car, a scaled-down replica of a 1940s era car, owned by Evan Beaulieu. Staff photo by Matthew Stilphen

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