This past Saturday, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway hosted the first week of their 2021 “Super Saturday” points races. The night featured both Thunder and NASCAR Nite divisions and the track also welcomed back the NELCAR Legends Tour.
The Thunder competition kicked off with a 25-lap Beetle Bug feature. Butch Keene pulled ahead with the early advantage in the feature. Derek McKeen quickly made his way into the runner-up spot as Ed Johnson followed in his footsteps.
Ed Johnson, on the recovery after failing to start the feature last week due to a water pump failure, pulled up to Derek McKeen’s door on lap 4, challenging him for the runner-up spot. Johnson advanced position the following lap, setting his sights on Butch Keene at the top of the leaderboard. Johnson found his way to Butch Keene’s door just two laps later and pulled ahead with the advantage the following lap.
Dustin Salley was on the move mid-race, battling it out with Josh Knoll for fourth on lap 10. Salley quickly took over the spot as Brandon Lizotte broke the top 5 after starting at the tail-end of the field. Salley continued his pursuit to the front on lap 19 as he overtook Derek McKeen for third as Brandon Lizotte followed in succession.
Teammates, Butch Keene and Dustin Salley, duked it out for the runner-up spot in the closing laps before Salley took over with just one lap to go. Brandon Lizotte was still on his tail, overtaking Butch Keene for third before crossing the checkered.
Ed Johnson sailed into the victory, scoring the checkered flag and his second post-race interview of the 2021 season. Johnson, a man of few words, thanked his family for their support over the course of his career. Dustin Salley, Brandon Lizotte, Butch Keene and Derek McKeen rounded out the top five.
The Mad Bomber Junior Varsity took to the track next, with Joey Israelson jetting off with the early lead in the 25-lap feature. The young driver quickly pulled away, holding a full straightaway advantage over his competitors by lap 5.
Josh Hodgdon and Fred Bird made contact on lap 9 in turn 4 while battling for position. This led to a frightening moment as the drivers tangled and Bird wound up taking a ride on Hodgdon’s hood. Bird’s car flipped following the contact and once the cars stopped on the track, Josh Hodgdon immediately unbuckled himself, jumped out of his mangled car and helped Bird free himself from his upside down #20 machine. The two drivers shared a hug afterwards. It was a great display of sportsmanship from Josh Hodgdon, even after the two drivers got together on the track. Luckily, both drivers were able to walk away from the wreckage under their own power.
Joey Israelson pulled away with the lead once again following the red flag, but Brandon Williams was hot on his heels. Taylor Graffam was also on the move in the second half of the race, breaking the top 5 on lap 17. Brandon Williams and Tyler Lerman made contact while battling for position on lap 22, resulting in Lerman taking a spin in turn 2. The incident led to a late-race caution. Brandon Williams exited the track under yellow, but returned for the restart.
Joey Israelson and Alex Smith went head to head for the lead on the restart and battled it out until the bitter end, where Smith beat Israelson to the line by a nose. The win was the first career feature victory for the series’ rookie. Taylor Graffam rounded out the top 3.
Following the NASCAR Nite heats, the Mighty Trucks division took to the track for another 25-lap feature. Dave Lamson powered away with the early lead as rain drops began to fall from the sky. Lamson suffered a broken axle, coming to a slow on the front stretch. The incident led to an early-race caution.
Matt Merrill took off with the lead on the restart. Derrick Drown made his way to Merrill’s door on lap 4, challenging him for the top spot with Jeff Gillette, Sr. also on his heels. Merrill pulled ahead with a slight advantage on lap 6. The track became slick with the falling rain and a handful of drivers went around on the backstretch on lap 7, leading to a yellow flag and an eventual rain delay.
Following the slight delay, the drivers picked back up where they left off, with Matt Merrill pulling away with the lead once again. Jeff Gillette, Sr. was riding his coattails, quickly taking over the top spot as Derrick Drown followed in succession.
Keith Petrin was on the move on lap 14, going head to head with Matt Merrill for fourth and taking over the position the following lap. The two leaders were long gone at this point, maintaining a full straightaway lead over their competitors in the closing laps. Matt Merrill was on the charge once again with 2 to go, advancing to third over Trace Ayers after losing ground a handful of laps beforehand.
Jeff Gillette, Sr. held off Derrick Drown to the finish, capturing yet another checkered flag. Matt Merrill, Trace Ayers and Keith Petrin rounded out the top five.
The Mad Bomber Varsity drivers were sent onto the track following the rain shower in attempt to dry up the track surface. Once the track was deemed safe by race control, the drivers were set loose for the 25-lap feature. Paul Lund took off with the early lead as Brandon Johnson made his way through the field, advancing to fourth over Justin Gailloux on lap 11 after starting at the tail-end of the field.
Kris Knox was all over Paul Lund’s back bumper on lap 14, hungry for the lead. The two drivers made contact while battling for position, resulting in Knox’s right door panel being nearly ripped off yet left still hanging on by a thread. Knox stayed on track until lap 17, where he pulled to the pits as Drew Morse took over the top spot.
Paul Lund and Brandon Johnson went head to head for the runner-up spot in the closing laps, but Lund ultimately beat Johnson to the line as Drew Morse picked up yet another feature victory. Mike Roe and Justin Gailloux rounded out the top five.
The Legends rounded out the Thunder competition with a 25-lap main event. Colby Meserve pulled ahead with a slight advantage, but Luke LeBrun was on his heels. LeBrun was knocking on his door in the opening laps, taking over the top spot on lap 2. Ryan Rice took a spin on lap 5, resulting in the first caution of the feature.
Luke LeBrun pulled off with the lead once again on the restart. Connor Holderbach was on the move mid-race, advancing into the top 5 over Brian Darling on lap 10. Jake Kelley took a spin on the front stretch on lap 19, resulting in a late-race caution.
Doug Coombs’ #27 machine blew up on the restart, but the field remained green as he headed into the pits.
Luke LeBrun took off with the lead once again on the restart. Colby Meserve was knocking on Trevor Krouse’s door with just one lap to go, hungry for the runner-up spot. Meserve took over the spot on the final lap as Luke LeBrun sailed into the victory, carrying on his dominance from the 2020 season. Trevor Krouse, Matt Grant and Connor Holderbach rounded out the top five.
The Thunder competition brought the excitement to Beech Ridge once again and we saw yet another new face in Victory Lane! Drivers like Drew Morse, Jeff Gillette, Sr., Ed Johnson and Luke LeBrun continue to display dominance while drivers like Alex Smith and Derrick Drown continue to grow and impress with every passing week. Who will be the next first time winner in Victory Lane? Only time will tell.
Catch the next week of Super Saturday racing action this coming Saturday, June 12th. The racing action kicks off at 4:00 pm. Kids of ALL AGES are now allowed in the pit area and grandstand admission is still just $12 for adults and FREE for kids 12 and under!
Continue chasing the checkered and support your local short tracks! I hope to see you soon!
Featured image photo credit: Chris Allen