The fans were out in full force on Saturday as Beech Ridge Motor Speedway kicked off their 70th Annual Season Opener at the track. It was a beautiful day for racing, with warm temperatures and clear skies on the sunny Spring day. The track kicked off the season with many new faces, some old faces with drivers returning and a handful of brand-new race cars hitting the track for the first time.
Following tradition, the Wildcats division took to the track first. Lewis “Dirty Lew” Anderson took home the first heat victory in his ‘Bad Santa’ #81. Nate Leavitt came away with the second Wildcats heat victory in his #36 machine.
Chasing the Checkered’s Charlie Sanborn started on the pole for the first Sport Series Heat, but was ultimately plagued by an early-race spin on the frontstretch that sent him to the back of the pack. This left second-year driver Alex Lacognata and a returning racer, Joe Pastore, battling it out for the win. The two drivers came to the finish-line nose-to-nose, with Lacognata taking the heat victory by a hair. Terry Merrill won the second heat in his blue and white #12.
Beech Ridge veteran Corey Bubar sailed away with the first Pro Series Heat victory of the night. Former track champion and returning driver, Dave Farrington, Jr., started on the pole for the second heat. Dan “Naughty 40” McKeage had a fast car and ultimately stole the lead away from Farrington on lap 3. He was checked out by lap 8, starting the season on a high note as he ran away with the heat victory.
Lewis Anderson and Nate Leavitt started on the front row for the 30-lap Wildcat feature. Returning competitor Travis Lovejoy had a tough time in the season opener, facing troubles with his Wildcat on lap 2 as his car began to smoke. He was black flagged the following lap and retired to the pits on lap 4.
The troubles continued from there as Dylan Varney and Ed Connolly collided on lap 6 in turn 1, bringing out the first caution of the feature. Josh Childs’ machine began smoking on lap 10, forcing him into the dirt in turn 1. This brought out the second caution of the feature.
After battling side-by-side for the lead the entire race with Nate Leavitt, Lewis Anderson finally managed to pull away by a car length on lap 11, setting some distance between he and Leavitt.
Lap 17 brought more troubles as returning competitor Cody Webster and Travis Burrows battled it out on lap 17, which wound up with Burrows taking a spin in turn 3.
Wildcats newcomer Wade Kennedy was making significant strides, fighting his way from the rear up to third place by lap 18.
There was trouble brewing behind the leaders as Dave Cameron and Joe Morse got into each other in turn 3, sending Morse into the infield dirt pile. Cameron later retired to the pits after struggling with a car component dragging from the undercarriage of the #28 machine.
By lap 26, Nate Leavitt had found his way back to Lew’s door, challenging him for the top spot from the outside line. The two continued to battle it out as they came to the finish line side-by-side. Leavitt ultimately stole the victory, followed by Lewis Anderson, Wade Kennedy, Dylan Varney and Travis Burrows.
For Nate Leavitt, the victory was a good way to start out the 2018 season. Although he won’t be competing full-time at Beech Ridge in 2018, he can use the win to carry momentum with him as he competes at other tracks in New England.
Alex Lacognata and Terry Merrill started on the front row for the 35-lap Sport Series feature. Merrill stole the lead away from Lacognata early, pulling away from the rest of the field.
Taylor Pierce took a spin in front of the leaders on lap 22, bringing out the first caution of the feature. Frank Wear lost a handful of positions on the restart, falling off the pace on lap 25. This brought out the second caution of the day, with Wear returning to the track before the green flag dropped once more.
After one failed attempt at the restart, the field went back to green on the second try. Kyle Kramlich and Dave Charest got into each other in turn 2 following the restart, leading to Kramlich making heavy impact with the dirt pile next to the pit entrance. Although he took quite the hit, Kramlich was back in the lineup before the caution ended.
This caution brought the big shocker and game-changer, with race leader and heavy favorite, Terry Merrill, pulling into the pits. This left Joe Pastore and Alex Lacognata on the front row for the restart.
After another botched restart, Joe Pastore got a big jump on Alex Lacognata and began pulling away from the field. Little did the leaders know, there was big trouble brewing behind them.
After the restart, the #89 of Ryan Phillips blew up into flames on the backstretch. In a fiery explosion that left tires flying, a number of drivers caught a piece of the demolition. Clyde Hennesey, Nick Campbell, Kyle Kramlich, Dave Charest and Charlie Sanborn were all left with damage after the freak accident.
Thankfully, Ryan Phillips was able to walk away from the carnage. After months of hard work, the #89 car was deemed a total loss. This was a devastating blow to Ryan Phillips and the entire team. Having their 2018 season go up in smoke on opening night is a tough pill to swallow. But, thankfully, no drivers or spectators were injured in the fiery accident.
After an extended red flag, the field took the green once again. The #18 of Parker Varney took a wild spin in turn 3 following the restart, bringing out yet another caution. After a long race full of carnage, this left just 9 cars left on the track with 9 laps remaining.
Joe Pastore continued to fight his competitors off, holding onto his lead as he crossed the finish line. Bubba Pelton, Alex Lacognata, Adam Lovejoy and Frank Wear followed, rounding out the top five.
2017 Wildcats champion Adam Lovejoy showed promise throughout the night, battling his way through the field and avoiding carnage as he took home a top-5 finish.
This win was bittersweet for Joe Pastore, who lost his father last season. He was emotional in Victory Lane, dedicating the win to his father and celebrating with his closest family and friends.
After a grueling Sport Series feature, the Pro Series drivers took to the track for their 40-lap feature, the final race of the night. Corey Bubar and Dan McKeage started on the front row, followed by 2016 track champion and 2017 Oxford 250 champion, Curt Gerry.
Corey Bubar took off like a rocket from the get-go, pulling away from the rest of the field. Dan McKeage began to slowly reel him in little-by-little as the laps passed.
The leaders remained single-file until Gary Smith broke free on lap 18, challenging Maine racing legend Mike Rowe on the inside for the fourth spot. Rowe managed to hold off Smith, although the two drivers put on a good show battling back and forth for position.
By lap 27, the top 3 drivers were bumper-to-bumper, battling it out for the top spot. After racing side by side for a dozen laps, Curt Gerry cleared Dan McKeage for the runner-up spot on lap 38.
This left Curt Gerry and Corey Bubar battling it out for the top spot in the closing laps, resulting in the second nose-to-nose finish of the night.
It was a tough one to call, but Bubar merely edged out Curt Gerry for the victory. Dan McKeage, Mike Rowe and Gary Smith rounded out the top five.
It was an exciting night for Corey Bubar, who dominated all night. As an expectant father with a baby on the way any day now, Bubar joked that he “hopes” he will be at the race track next Saturday instead of in the delivery room.
It was a wild season opener at Beech Ridge that left the fans excited for the thrilling 70th season coming up.
With three exciting racing divisions, there’s plenty of racing action for the entire family to enjoy.
The Beech Ridge season rolls on next Saturday, May 12th. Racing begins at 7:00 pm. See you there!
Chasing the Checkered would like to send their thoughts to Ryan Phillips and the #89 team and Randy Pimpare and the Night Flight Racing crew.
Randy was involved in an excruciating wreck on Saturday at Wiscasset Speedway. He was transported to the hospital following the vicious wreck and suffered a broken ankle and leg and fractured a vertebrae in his lower back. With a long and painful recovery ahead of him, we are wishing Randy the best.
Following last night’s events at both tracks, we are reminded of the dangers of racing. Although injured, both drivers were able able to be pulled from the wreckage and tended to. Safety measures in racing have become better and better over the years. It’s good to see that safety equipment is doing its job, keeping drivers safe so they can safely compete in the sport we all love.
We look forward to enjoying all of the racing that’s yet to come and we give our best wishes to all drivers and competitors as they continue on their racing pursuits throughout the course of the 2018 season.