This past Saturday, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway hosted their 2021 season finale, which ultimately may have been the track’s final championship night in history.
Coming into the night, Wade Kennedy held a healthy 23 point lead over Chaz Briggs in the Wildcats division. The series’ events kicked off with two qualifying heat races.
Ryan Lund took off with the early lead in the first heat. Heartbreak came early for Shawn McKeage, who made hard contact with the turn 1 wall on lap one of the heat. Thankfully, McKeage was able to walk away following the incident. But, this left his car battered and undriveable.
Joe Morse, who announced he was retiring from competition following the 2021 season, cut a tire down on the restart, collecting Ryan Lund. The incident resulted in another caution.
Kaleb Bean pulled ahead with the advantage on the restart, but Dan McKeage, Jr. was at his door, challenging for the top spot. The two drivers battled it out until the bitter end, where Bean picked up the heat victory. Joe Morse, who came to a spin following the finish, rounded out the top 3.
Jacob Vaughn and Rob Herrick duked it out for the early lead in the second and final qualifying heat until Vaughn pulled ahead with the advantage on lap 4.
Jared Kimball made his way to Rob Herrick’s outside door on lap 7, challenging for the runner-up spot. Rob Herrick held onto the spot as Lyman McKeage stepped up to the plate, stealing third away from Jared Kimball in the closing laps.
Jacob Vaughn captured the heat victory as Rob Herrick and Lyman McKeage rounded out the top 3.
Once the field was set, 15 drivers took to the track for their 30 lap main event. Dan McKeage, Jr. took off with the early lead in the feature.
Trouble was brewing behind the leaders as Mike Roe took a spin on lap 3 in turn 4, resulting in chaos as Jacob Vaughn spun and Wade Kennedy took a hard left into the infield sand pile in attempt to avoid the carnage.
McKeage, Jr. pulled ahead with the advantage on the restart as Joe Morse powered into the runner-up spot over Kaleb Bean. Following the restart, Chaz Briggs took a spin in turn 1, which resulted in another caution.
After the initial restart was called off by race control, Dan McKeage, Jr. and Joe Morse ignited a deadlocked battle for the top spot. Morse pulled ahead on lap 7, separating himself from the competition.
While battling for position, Lyman McKeage and Chaz Briggs made contact on lap 8 in turn 1. Briggs cut a tire down, ultimately coming to a stop on the race track. This resulted in another early race caution.
Joe Morse and Dan McKeage, Jr. went head to head on the restart as Cole Watson quickly powered up to third. Morse pulled ahead with the advantage on lap 12, but McKeage, Jr. wasn’t giving up without a fight.
David Savoie came to a slow on the front stretch on lap 14, drawing out a mid-race caution.
Dan McKeage, Jr. held the upper hand on the restart as he pulled away from Joe Morse. Morse’s day came to a devastating end shortly after as he descended through the field before retiring to the pits.
Skip Stanley was climbing up the leaderboard in the closing laps of the feature, challenging Rob Herrick for the runner-up spot on lap 24 before taking over the position the following lap.
Stanley began to make gains on McKeage, Jr. in the closing laps, but McKeage was able to hold him off, scoring his first career victory in the division. Rob Herrick, Wade Kennedy and Cole Watson rounded out the top five.
McKeage, Jr. was nearly speechless in Victory Lane, but celebrated the big win with his father, grandfather, mother, brother and his team by his side on the front stretch following his big accomplishment.
Wade Kennedy was able to extend his point lead on finale night, capturing his first career championship in the division. Jacob Vaughn also scored well-deserved “Rookie of the Year” honors in the division.
Before the championship award ceremony took place on the front stretch following the night’s events, shock and sadness filled the crowd as track owner, Andy Cusack, announced that the track is currently under contract by an out of state real estate developer.
What does it all mean? If the plans come to fruition, the track will be no longer come the 2022 season. Drivers, teams and fans tried their best to put emotions to the side on Saturday and celebrate this year’s champions. Our favorite track announcer, Andy Austin, did a stellar job as he remained composure and grace throughout the entire ceremony.
We are all deeply saddened and affected by this sudden announcement. If you would like to be a part of creating positive change in our racing community and share ideas to potentially help save our track, please join the Save Beech Ridge Speedway group on Facebook.
In the meantime, PLEASE support the track staff and drivers by attending the Midweek Series & Wildcat showdown next Thursday, September 23rd. It all kicks off at 7:00 pm. Let’s make this the best sendoff EVER if it is truly our last ride.
Continue chasing the checkered and PLEASE support your local short tracks. It’s more imperative now than ever before.
Please reach out if you need to talk…we are all a part of the Beech Ridge family and forever will be, no matter what.