This past Saturday, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway hosted their 2021 season opener. But, big changes came in the off-season including kids of all ages now being able to enter the pit area, as well as the introduction of a one month open competition “season” at the track. Similar to last year’s shortened Covid season, drivers from tracks across New England are welcomed to compete in the one month open competition (non-points) season before the competitive points season kicks off in June.
Cars from all divisions lined the pit area pre-race, with the Beetle Bugs kicking off the competition with a 25-lap feature race.
Dave Stone, Jr. and Josh Knoll went head to head for the early lead in the feature, with Stone pulling ahead on lap 3. Dustin Salley was also on the move early, advancing to fourth over Brandon Lizotte on lap 4. Salley’s momentum was ultimately cut short on lap 8 as he came to a slow, falling to the back of the pack.
Butch Keene, a well-known Oxford Plains Speedway competitor joining the track in 2021, was all over Darryl Quinlan for fourth on lap 10, advancing position that same lap. His pursuit to the front came to an abrupt stop on lap 21 as he went off-track in turn 4, landing himself in the sandpile as the field remained green.
Dave Stone, Jr. was able to hold off the competition, reeling in his first victory of the 2021 season. Josh Knoll, Ed Johnson, Darryl Quinlan and Brandon Lizotte rounded out the top five.
The 25-lap Beetle Bugs feature was followed up by a 25-lap Mad Bomber Junior Varsity feature.
Seth Drown, making the jump over from the Mighty Truck division, took off with the early lead in the feature. Phil Webber was on his heels early, stealing away the top spot on lap 4. Josh Hodgdon, a proven fierce competitor last season, was all over Drown for fourth on lap 5, stealing the spot the same lap.
Hodgdon was still on a mission, taking on Phil Webber for the lead on lap 7, quickly taking over the top spot. He began setting the pace, catching up to the tail-end of the field by lap 15.
Taylor Graffam came to life in the closing laps of the feature, where she was all over Phil Webber for the runner-up spot with just four laps remaining. The two drivers went door to door the following lap and battled it out until the very end, with Graffam beating Webber out by a nose at the finish line.
Josh Hodgdon proved he was the one to beat once again, capturing the feature victory. Taylor Graffam, Phil Webber, Joey Israelson and Alex Smith rounded out the top five.
After the “NASCAR Nite” drivers took to the track for their qualifying heat races, the Mighty Trucks pulled onto the track for 25 laps of feature racing.
Jeff Gillette, Sr. took off with the early lead as his son, Jeff Gillette, Jr., gained momentum, advancing into the runner-up spot. Dave Lamson was also on the move early, challenging Gillette Jr. for the runner-up spot on lap 6. The two battled it out as Derrick Drown joined the battle a handful of laps later.
While still battling for position, Jeff Gillette, Jr. fell out of the groove on lap 19, losing two spots as Dave Lamson took over second. Derrick Drown and Jeff Gillette, Jr. continued to battle it out, making contact on lap 21 in turn 3. They both recovered and remained door to door, putting on a fight until the very end where Gillette managed to beat Drown out at the line.
Jeff Gillette, Sr. was a rocket from the very beginning, securing him the victory. Dave Lamson, Jeff Gillette, Jr., Derrick Drown and Brad Weismann rounded out the top five.
The Mad Bomber Varsity division concluded the “Thunder” program with another 25-lap feature race.
Kris Knox and Drew Morse went head to head for the early lead, with Morse pulling away with the advantage on lap 3. Brandon Johnson was also on the move early, all over Kris Knox for the runner-up spot on lap 8. The #61 of Rob Caron blew up on lap 8, heading to the pits as the field remained green.
Brandon Johnson was at Kris Knox’s door on lap 11, hungry for the runner-up spot. He completed the pass the following lap, then setting his sights on Morse at the top of the leaderboard. Brandon Johnson began closing in on Drew Morse in the closing laps of the feature, but Morse held off the competition, capturing the victory. Brandon Johnson and Kris Knox rounded out the top three.
As always, the “Thunder” drivers put on a great show on Saturday night. All 4 winners were return winners from past seasons, but it will be fun seeing who will break the mold this season and pick up their first feature victory. Saturday was just the beginning of a long and exciting 2021 program!
Catch the open completion again this coming Saturday, May 8th, at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Children of ALL AGES are now allowed in the pits and grandstand admittance is $12 for adults and FREE for children ages 12 and under.
Continue chasing the checkered, support your local short tracks and I hope to see you soon!