Dan McKeage, second from left, and Dan McKeage Jr., second from right, stand in Wiscasset Speedway victory lane with Lyman McKeage, left, and Shawn McKeage following a win at the track on July 1. Photo provided by Wiscasset Speedway

WISCASSET — Wade Kennedy still drives by the spot where Beech Ridge Motor Speedway once operated and laments the things he never got to do there.

He never won a NASCAR championship at the Scarborough track, never got to celebrate a successful final season, and — most importantly — he never really got to say goodbye to the place where he watched his father race.

“I drive past it every once in a while for work,” Kennedy said last Saturday night in the Wiscasset Speedway pit area. “I drive by it, and I still think to myself, ‘man, we could still be racing here.’ It’s 20 minutes from home. It really kind of sucks.”

Kennedy, 25, like dozens of other Beech Ridge regulars, was forced to find a new home track when Beech Ridge owner Andy Cusack abruptly announced the facility’s closing on the final night of a COVID-shortened 2021 season. Many drivers from southern Maine took their rides to Oxford Plains Speedway, while others went to New Hampshire to compete at Lee USA Speedway or Star Speedway in Epping.

Kennedy and Dan McKeage Jr., a third-generation racer from Gorham, decided to race full time at Wiscasset Speedway. They are the only former Beech Ridge drivers who’ve transitioned to a full-time schedule at Wiscasset Speedway.

A pair of prior starts in the annual Strictly Shootout each autumn at Wiscasset hooked Kennedy on the track, and last season was his first in the Strictly Street division. On June 10, he won his first Strictly Street feature at Wiscasset.

“I think we both took it personally, especially with (Wade) being in a championship season,” said Jason Kennedy, Wade’s father, of Beech Ridge’s sudden closure. “When he closed the track, it was like, ‘There goes everything right there.’ That was it. It was over. There was no banquet, no anything. It was just, ‘Here’s your trophy. Good job. Bye.’ It was awful.”

Once a staple at Beech Ridge, the team known as The Naughty 40 has similarly relocated to Wiscasset’s top division.

Dan McKeage Jr. won his first career Super Late Model race in the track’s 40-lap Pro Stock feature on July 1 for the family-owned team.

“That was huge,” McKeage Jr. said. “I didn’t expect it to come so early in my rookie season. It just felt so good, I was kind of on top of the world for a little bit. It sets high expectations for all the rest of the season, but I’m getting there.”

As a child racing in the Whiz Kids division at Beech Ridge, McKeage envisioned his first career victory in a top-flight car would come at his home track. Instead, he had to hold off multi-time Wiscasset champion Josh St. Clair in heavy lapped traffic to secure the milestone victory.

Jason Kennedy, left, and Wade Kennedy pose for a photo at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway prior to the track’s closing following the 2021 season. Photo provided by Jason Kennedy

“It’s different, because Beech Ridge had been part of our family forever,” said McKeage, 19, who also races a street stock at Wiscasset on the weeks opposite the Pro Stock schedule. “I was getting really comfortable at that place.”

McKeage’s father, Dan McKeage, is a former NASCAR champion at Beech Ridge. He hoped that his son would be able to carry on the family tradition in Scarborough.

Instead, he’s watching McKeage Jr. — and his twin brother Shawn McKeage, the team’s spotter — learn the ropes of Super Late Model racing at a track where a long season of week-to-week points racing is less of a grind than at other facilities.

“They have four or five really good racers here at Wiscasset, so he’s been able to learn a ton,” Dan McKeage said. “That’s really the biggest thing. We wanted to try and learn a ton without having to spend a ton of money, and it’s been a ton of fun. I just want him to be able to work on his craft.”

Dan McKeage said he remembers the exact moment he decided to retire from driving. In 2020, he rented Oxford Plains so he and Dan Jr. could run some test laps in a new Super Late Model.

“He didn’t run two laps, and I knew right then I wasn’t going to be the one climbing in and out of the window anymore,” McKeage said. “He’d already exceeded any expectations we had.”

Similarly, Jason Kennedy gave up the seat when his own son’s career started taking flight. Instead of trying to prepare two cars, he simply focused on the one for Wade.

“It’s a lot more fun watching him than it was racing on my own,” Jason Kennedy said. “I didn’t even really have to think about it, I just transitioned into the crew chief role. It was an easy transition for me to stop driving.”

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