This past weekend, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway hosted their 2021 season finale, which could have possibly been the track’s final Championship night. But, I will expand more on that later.
The day’s festivities kicked off with final 25 lap features for all Thunder divisions. The Beetle Bugs were at the top of the program, with Brandon Lizotte coming into the night with a 12 point advantage over Dustin Salley.
Derek McKeen took off with the early lead in the feature while Corey Roussel quickly made his way into the runner-up spot. Drivers were 3-wide for fourth on lap 6, with Dustin Salley taking over the spot as Brandon Lizotte followed in succession.
Brandon Lizotte made his way to Dustin Salley’s outside door on lap 9, challenging for fourth. The point leaders battled it out for a few laps before Lizotte took over the spot on lap 11 and quickly mowed down Ed Johnson for third.
While battling for position, Dustin Salley and Ed Johnson made contact on lap 13, sending Johnson into the infield grass as Salley took over third.
Brandon Lizotte continued his pursuit in the second half of the feature, pulling to Corey Roussel’s outside door on lap 18. He took over the position just 3 laps later, then setting his sights on McKeen at the top of the leaderboard.
Lizotte tracked down McKeen in the closing laps, pulling to his door with just two laps to go. The two drivers split a lap car on the final lap and it was a drag race to the finish, with Lizotte picking up the win by inches. Not only did Lizotte score the feature victory, he picked up his first career championship in the division.
Corey Roussel, Dustin Salley and Ed Johnson rounded out the top five.
An emotional Lizotte thanked his friends and family in Victory Lane and dedicated his championship run to his late friend, Tylar Burgess.
Rookie, Nate Barth, took off with the early lead in the 25 lap Mad Bomber JV feature. Trouble was brewing early as Tyler Fitz spun on the backstretch on lap 2, collecting Spencer Barth, Taylor Graffam and Daniel Wescott. The incident resulted in an early race caution.
Nate Barth took off with the lead on the restart as Josh Hodgdon quickly powered into the runner-up spot. Spencer Barth was caught up in more trouble on lap 3 as he collided with another competitor in turn 4, drawing out another caution.
Nate Barth pulled ahead on the restart as Joey Israelson powered into the runner-up spot over Josh Hodgdon. Israelson and Hodgdon made contact on lap 7 in turn 3, temporarily dropping Hodgdon down to fourth before he regained the position on lap 10.
Alex Smith took a spin on lap 15 in turn 4, resulting in a late race caution.
Points leader, Brandon Williams, was on the move on the restart, advancing to third over Josh Hodgdon as Alex Wilson followed in his footsteps. Williams continued his pursuit to the front, quickly stealing the runner-up spot away from Joey Israelson.
Nate Barth was able to fend Brandon Williams off in the closing laps of the feature, scoring his first career victory at Beech Ridge. Joey Israelson, Alex Wilson and Tyler Lerman rounded out the top five.
Brandon Williams was able to maintain and extend his point lead on the final night of competition, scoring home his first career championship at the track.
Following NASCAR Nite qualifying, the Mighty Trucks took to the track for their 25 lap feature. Coming into championship night, Keith Petrin and Matt Merrill were tied for the point lead.
Dave Lamson took off with the early lead in the feature as John Curtis and Jeff Gillette, Jr. battled it out for the runner-up spot behind him. The two drivers swapped the spot back and forth for a handful of laps until Gillette pulled ahead with the advantage on lap 8.
Derrick Drown was also coming through the field early, advancing to fourth over John Curtis on lap 9.
Matt Merrill made his way to John Curtis’ outside door on lap 13, completing the pass the following lap. With the laps winding down, this left Merrill 2 positions behind Keith Petrin.
Jeff Gillette, Jr. came to life on the final lap of the feature, challenging Dave Lamson for the top spot. The two drivers fought tooth & nail to the finish, where Lamson beat Gillette to the line by inches.
Keith Petrin, Derrick Drown and Matt Merrill rounded out the top five.
After a successful podium finish, Petrin locked in another championship in the division.
With a handful of victories under his belt in 2021, Brandon Johnson came into championship night with a healthy 40 point lead over Dean Hansom in the Mad Bomber Varsity division.
Phil Webber took off with the early lead in the 25 lap feature, but Rob Caron was quick to steal it away as Dean Hanscom followed in succession.
Brandon Johnson was on a mission early, advancing to third over Richard Bourgeois-Lang on lap 4. Bourgeois-Lang was back to challenge just two laps later and the two drivers battled it out until lap 12, where Bourgeois-Lang pulled ahead with the advantage. He continued his pursuit on lap 18, overtaking Dean Hanscom for the runner-up spot.
Phil Webber took a spin on lap 19, making late contact with Mike Roe. The incident was followed by another caution as Trevor Graffam took a hard hit into the turn 4 tires on the restart.
Brandon Johnson powered to the lead on the restart as Richard Bourgeois-Lang trailed closely behind. A surprise competitor, let’s call him “Corey Morgan”, was on the move in the closing laps in the #26 machine. The “mystery man” (who was definitely fishing on Saturday and NOT racing) advanced to third over Rob Caron on lap 22 and then quickly overtook Bourgeois-Lang for the runner-up spot.
Brandon Johnson was able to hold him off to the finish line, picking up the feature victory. Richard Bourgeois-Lang, Dean Hanscom and Rob Caron rounded out the top five.
Johnson scored his first championship in the division and was crowned the winningest driver of 2021 at the speedway.
The Legends division rounded out the Thunder program with a final 25 lap feature. Trevor Krouse took off with the early lead in the feature. Josh Parsons was also on the move early, advancing to third over Aliyah Neale on lap 3.
Luke LeBrun had an uncharacteristic tough night on Saturday, taking a spin on lap 2 due to a cut tire. The incident resulted in an early race caution.
Chasing the Checkered driver, Charlie Sanborn, was on the move on the restart, climbing up to fourth in a borrowed #7 machine. Trouble was brewing behind the leaders as Aliyah Neale and Jake Kelley collided on lap 4, resulting in another caution.
The initial restart was called off by race control and the pace came to an abrupt halt, resulting in Wade Gelinas and Gio Ruggiero collecting damage. Charlie Sanborn continued his pursuit on the restart, powering into the runner-up spot over Josh Parsons.
Luke LeBrun and Nate Alexander made heavy contact on lap 7 in turn 1, resulting in another caution. The incident was followed by another as Charlie Sanborn and Ryan Rice collided on lap 11 in turn 3. The field scattered but remained green as Rice kept his spot and Sanborn descended through the field.
Josh Parsons stole the lead away from Trevor Krouse on lap 13, but Krouse was back to challenge just five laps later. Krouse took over the spot on lap 19, but took a spin in turn 1 with just two laps to go.
Josh Parsons held strong through the finish, picking up his first victory at Beech Ridge in his first career start at the track. Gio Ruggiero, Ryan Rice, Aliyah Neale and Nate Alexander rounded out the top five.
Unfortunately, devastation came before celebration at the end of the night. Before all champions walked the stage on the front stretch to celebrate their accomplishments, shockwaves and sadness rattled the crowd as track owner, Andy Cusack, announced that the track is currently under contract by out-of-state real estate developers.
If the plans for development are approved, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway will be no longer following the 2021 season. This brings an abrupt and sad wave of change for all track staff, drivers and fans going into next season.
If you would like to be a part of positive change that can possibly save the track, please join the Save Beech Ridge Speedway group on Facebook, share your thoughts and ideas and tell your friends and family to join.
Together, we just might be able to save the track that we all love to call home.
In the meantime, PLEASE continue to support the track staff and drivers by attending the Mid-Week Series and Wildcats Showdown on Thursday, September 23rd. The doors open at 7:00 pm. Let’s sell the place out and give Beech Ridge a sendoff for the ages.
Continue chasing the checkered and support your local short tracks. It’s more important now than ever before. If you need a friend, just reach out. We are truly a Beech Ridge family.
Photo credit goes to my beautiful future Mother-in-Law, Sue Walker.