Dark skies loomed overhead, but the Thunder rolled on at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Saturday night. After pushing the start time of the program back 2 hours due to inclement weather that cursed Southern Maine throughout the day, the show went on as the Beetle Bugs took to the track for their 25-lap feature.

Notably missing from the field was Ed Johnson, whose #54 machine suffered a fuel pump failure just before the start of the feature.

Once the field got rolling, Dustin Salley pulled away with the early advantage over Derek McKeen. Butch Keene was also on the move early, battling it out with Adam Warnock for third on the initial lap of the feature. The two drivers went door to door the following lap, with Butch Keene pulling away with the spot.

Last week’s winner, Corey Roussel, broke the top 5 on lap 5 after starting in the back of the pack. Butch Keene began closing in on Derek McKeen in the closing laps of the feature, all over his back bumper on lap 18.

Brandon Lizotte had a left front tire go down on lap 21, resulting in a heartbreaking end to the day for the #14 team. His teammate, Dave Stone, Jr., followed Lizotte down to the pit area shortly after.

#18 machine sittin’ pretty after Salley’s big win!

Dustin Salley was long gone at this point, capturing his first Beetle Bugs victory at the track. Derek McKeen (1st podium finish of the season), Butch Keene, Adam Warnock and Corey Roussel rounded out the top five.

The Mad Bomber JV division followed with another 25-lap feature race. Seth Drown and Alex Smith, both rookies in the division, tangled on the initial lap of the race, resulting in an early caution.

Josh Hodgdon took off with the early lead on the restart. Joey Israelson was also on the move, at Taylor Graffam’s door early into the race for the runner-up spot. Israelson took over the spot, then setting his sights on Hodgdon at the top of the leaderboard.

Last week’s winner, Brandon Williams, was making moves early, advancing to third over Taylor Graffam on lap 4. He then moved on to Joey Israelson, pulling up to his back bumper on lap 7, challenging for the runner-up spot. The drivers were door to door 5 laps later, with Williams taking over the spot. After a solid showing all day, Joe Israelson retired to the pits on lap 14.

Desiree Lachance took a spin on lap 20 in turn 4, resulting in a late-race caution.

Josh Hodgdon held the slight advantage over Brandon Williams on the restart. Hodgdon’s brother, Tyler Lerman, advanced to third in the closing laps of the feature after starting at the tail-end of the field.

Josh Hodgdon and Brandon Williams were door to door for the lead with just two laps to go. Williams made a bold crossover move on the final lap of the race and the two drivers continued digging. Hodgdon and Williams tangled coming into turn 4 on the final lap, resulting in Williams taking a spin.

Brothers 1 & 2 in Mad Bomber JV Victory Lane!

Williams was notably frustrated with the outcome, coming to a stop in turn 3 after the conclusion of the race. Tension was in the air as Williams and Hodgdon exchanged words on the backstretch before Hodgdon completed his victory lap and Williams exited the track.

The win was Hodgdon’s third feature victory of the 2021 season. Tyler Lerman and Taylor Graffam rounded out the top 3.

The Mighty Trucks were next, with Brad Weismann and rookie, Trace Ayers, going head to head for the early lead in the 25-lap feature as past champion, Keith Petrin, lingered closely behind.

Trace Ayers went sideways on lap 6 in turn 3, losing some ground as Brad Weismann took full control of the top spot. Keith Petrin was still digging, advancing into the runner-up spot over Ayers on lap 8.

A fresh #39 following a sweet victory!

Jeff Gillette, Sr. was also coming through the field, advancing to fourth on lap 10 after starting at the tail-end of the field. With just two laps to go, Dave Lamson, another strong competitor, stole fourth away from Gillette, Sr.

Brad Weismann sailed into victory, capturing his first career Mighty Trucks victory at Beech Ridge. Keith Petrin, Trace Ayers (1st career podium finish!), Dave Lamson and Jeff Gillette, Sr. rounded out the top five.

The Mad Bomber Varsity division concluded the Thunder program with their 25-lap feature. Kris Knox took off with the early lead over his competitors. Mike Ramsey, returning to Beech Ridge competition after a 3 year hiatus, broke the top five on lap 5.

Mike Roe and Paul Lund went head to head for the runner-up spot on lap 7, with Roe eventually taking over the spot. Drew Morse and Mike Ramsey did the same 5 laps later, going toe to toe for fourth. Ramsey took a spin on lap 12 in turn 4, resulting in a caution. Randy Libby took a spin on the restart, which led to another quick yellow.

Kris Knox and Paul Lund went head to head for the lead on the restart. Brandon Johnson was also showcasing his strength, advancing to third at the mid-point of the race after starting at the rear of the field. Mike Dearden took a spin on lap 13 in turn 1, but the field remained green.

Drivers were 3-wide for the lead on lap 14, with Brandon Johnson powering into the lead. After a solid showing all day, Paul Lund came to a slow, falling to the rear of the pack on lap 16.

Drew Morse was all over Kris Knox for the runner-up spot in the closing laps, with the two drivers going door to door for the spot with just 5 laps to go. Drew Morse finally pulled away with the advantage with just two laps to go.

Brandon Johnson celebrating the big “3”!

Brandon Johnson was long gone at this point, capturing his third feature victory of the 2021 season. Johnson was emotional in his first career post-race interview, thanking his family and friends that have helped him along in his racing journey.

Drew Morse, Kris Knox, Mike Roe and Mike Ramsey rounded out the top five. Justin Gailloux, also returning to competition at Beech Ridge, came home with a solid sixth place finish.

The Thunder program continues to bring excitement to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, week-in and week-out. This week, we were able to see two new faces in Victory Lane as well as two returning victors. With points season just around the corner, it’ll be interesting seeing how the remainder of the season unfolds. Only time will tell…

Until then, you can catch week #1 of the Beech Ridge “Super Saturday” points season next Saturday, June 5th. The racing action kicks off at 4:00 pm. Kids of all ages are now allowed in the pits. Grandstand admission is just $12 for adults and FREE to kids 12 and under!

Continue chasing the checkered and support your local short tracks! I hope to see you soon!