Beech Ridge Motor Speedway opens its gates for its 70th season Saturday when the Maine-based Pro All-Stars Series (PASS) tour returns.

The third-mile oval track in Scarborough has been a haven for drivers, cars and auto racing fans since 1949 when original owner and builder Jim McConnell held the first race.

“In Maine or greater Portland you look around at businesses, there are not a lot that make it that long, so we feel pretty pleased for that,” said Beech Ridge CEO Andy Cusack. The Cusack family has owned the track since 1981 when Andy Cusack’s parents – Ralph and Jane – bought the operation from its second owner, Kelvin Reynolds.

Heat races begin at 3 p.m. Saturday, leading up to the 200-lap feature event for the PASS North Super Late Models, with several of Beech Ridge’s drivers in its top level Pro Series expected to participate. The PASS North Mods (40-lap feature), North East Mini Stock (50 laps) and Classic Lights division will also be in action.

The following Saturday night (May 5), Beech Ridge’s weekly NASCAR Whelan All-American Series show has its season opener. The weekly bill again will feature competition in three divisions: Pro Series, Sport Series and Wildcat, running through Sept. 8. On the third Saturday of each month, the weekly series will take a break and the track will host its popular Day of Destruction nights.

Defending champion Reid Lanpher of Manchester is not expected to run the full weekly series after winning six races at Beech Ridge last season, including four straight to end the season. That opens the door for Curtis Gerry, 47, of Waterboro, who has become one of the hottest short-track racers in Maine the past two seasons.

Gerry won the 2016 Beech Ridge regular-season title and in many ways 2017 was even better.

Gerry won the Oxford 250 and finished second in the 2017 weekly series at Beech Ridge with three wins.

This season started just as strong for Gerry. He won last Sunday’s PASS Honey Badger Bar & Grill 150 at Oxford Plains. It was Gerry’s third straight PASS win at OPS. Now he wants a win at his home track.

“That would definitely be awesome to win a PASS race at the local track,” Gerry said. “We’ve won plenty there at the Saturday night show.”

Gerry’s rise coincided with his decision to invest in a new car for the first time in his career, which dates back to go-kart racing when he was 15.

“We purchased a new Distance Racing Car made by Jeff Taylor,” he said. “We put all of our experience with Jeff’s new car and it was putting us on the same playing field for the first time.”

Gerry says that even without Lanpher in the weekly mix there will be plenty of competition for the Beech Ridge championship. Mike Rowe of Turner, who was third in the 2017 standings; 2014 track champion Dave Farrington Jr., of Jay; 2016 Oxford 250 winner Wayne Helliwell Jr.; and 2011 track champ Bill Rodgers are top veterans expected to be in the weekly rotation. Younger drivers with plenty of track experience include Corey Bubar and Nick Cusack, who were fourth and fifth in the Pro Series standings in 2017.

Beech Ridge’s Sport Series was probably even more competitive last season, with nine different winners over 14 races and eight drivers within 101 points (essentially two very good races) of series champion Sally Gherardi, a Gorham High physics teacher. Gherardi also won the 2008 Sports Series title.

Last season’s Wildcat division was dominated by six-time winner Adam Lovejoy but only 60 points separated second from seventh in the final standings.

On a regular weekly show, the feature races are 40 laps for the Pro Series, 35 for the Sport Series and 30 for the Wildcats.

The track will feature two special “Season 70” nights with each division holding a 70-lap feature. That’s a total of 105 extra competition laps; adult grandstand tickets are $12 on July 28 and Sept. 1.

Other dates of interest include the June 23 Super Saturday show that will have 125-lap Pro Series, 100-lap Sports Series and 50-lap Wildcat races; and PASS 150-lap races on July 7 and the season finale on Sept. 23.

OXFORD PLAINS’ weekly Budweiser Championship Series opened last Saturday with Cassius Clark of Farmington claiming the 50-lap Super Late Model race. … The 45th annual Oxford 250 will be Sunday, Aug. 26. … Wiscasset Speedway will once again use an alternating schedule with two separate groups of divisions. Group 1, featuring the Pro Stocks and Super Streets started last Saturday. Group 2, which includes Late Model Sportsman and Modifieds, starts this Saturday.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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