Our trip farther north found us staying at the Wild Duck Campground in Scarborough, Maine, just a few miles from Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. That race concluded our visit to Maine and we then headed down I-95 to our next base of operations near Mystic, Connecticut, at the Mystic KOA Campground where we were soon to visit Stafford Motor Speedway.

We don't talk much about our campgrounds, but both of these deserve mention. Wild Duck is tucked away beside a salt marsh just 2.5 miles from the coast where there is a wide, sandy beach and where at this time of year our Yorkie could run free without her leash.

This is lobster country, big time, and there are numerous places to go to find whole lobsters or the popular lobster roll. We did both many times. And it's not like down south where lobster is $17 or more per pound, there it's $3.78 a pound, kind of like eating fried catfish in Florida.

The Mystic KOA was also a very nice campground off the beaten path, but close enough to Mystic to be able to get there in only a few minutes. I was hoping to visit with my friend and Whelen Modified Tour race team owner, Bob Garbarino, but he was on a rare leave of absence from the team in a motor home somewhere in Arizona.

We just had to eat a meal at Mystic Pizza, (remember the movie?) and visit the seaport museum located there where in the 1900s whaling ships docked and offloaded. On display was one of only two steam yachts still in existence from earlier times and we got a special invite to tour it.

The Cangarda is a 126-foot luxury steam yacht built in 1901 and restored to full glory in 2009. Being mechanically minded, it was of great interest seeing how the steam engine worked and was now computer controlled in its operation. The original coal-burning boiler has been replaced by cleaner burning, forced-draft oil-fired burners and that reminded me of our efforts with green racing. Just call this, green steam yachting.

Anyway, I digress. My trip to Beech Ridge was scheduled for the big weekend that hosted the P.A.S.S. North Series races and that three-day program concluded on Sunday. Having scheduled the races at Unity Raceway for Saturday night, I was only able to attend the feature races but that was plenty.

Beech Ridge Motor Speedway

Beech Ridge is a 1/3-mile semi-banked asphalt track that hosts upwards of 75 race teams per week on the average and drew more than 104,000 spectators this year. The track was opened on May 30, 1949, as an oiled dirt track and was paved at the end of the 1986 season

The track draws from the large metropolitan area of Portland, Maine, and surrounding suburbs. Access is easy due to I-95 and I-295 being close by. And the location was rural enough not to draw unwanted complaints from neighbors. For added protection against unwanted disturbances, mufflers are required at this track.

Our weekend consisted of several classes in support of the feature P.A.S.S. (Pro All-Stars Series) race. As I was traversing the pits, I noticed a familiar car. Jay Fogleman, a longtime (I did not say old) racer from Durham, North Carolina, was here and trying to pad his points in the series. He normally runs the South portion of the series, but this race was open to all series competitors and since Jay was in the top three in points, it was worth the trip, although it did surprise me.

The feature race comprised 300 laps and it was interesting how the teams managed their tires and pit stops. It ended up being a very competitive race that was, as could be expected, won by the car that could run longer on a set of tires than the others. Consistency in setup was the key to success.

The track runs from early May til mid-September, which is longer than I had expected for being so far north. But in addition to the regular Saturday night "NASCAR Nights" show, the track also runs events on Thursday and Friday nights.

The Thursday show features Beetle Bug, Mad Bomber, Mighty Trucks, and Ladies League racing. The Friday night show is called Car Wars and is somewhat of a demolition derby. But all of this action maximizes the usefulness of the track and adds revenue beyond what a one night show would bring in. This is very smart management.

Stafford Motor Speedway

This was my second trip to Stafford having been here back in the early 2000s while visiting a few area race shops. This weekend was not the normal race weekend at Stafford, but one of the biggest weekends of the year when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series comes to town.

This race was the CarQuest Fall Final race and featured cars were the SK Modifieds and the Tour Mods. Both races were typical of the Modified racing in the Northeast--beating and banging, but not taking each other out. TC, or Teddy Christopher, took the Tour race and in the preliminary SK race, he was passing for First with a few laps to go when a caution came out putting him back, or he would have swept the day.

Talk about history, Stafford as a racetrack, has been around for 142 years. No, that's not a misprint. Horse racing was one attraction of the Stafford Springs Agricultural Park, as Stafford was called back in 1870, and they did run in a circle.

Once cars started racing at Stafford Springs Speedway, as it was then called, after World War II, they hosted several classes of pre-war cars powered by post-war engines so the website tells us. In 1967, the track was paved by then owner, Mal Barlow and he purposely designed it with low banking to, as is stated in the History section of the track website, "put a premium on handling rather than horsepower."

Soon after, on July 11, 1969, a new owner took over the cash-strapped track and Jack Arute Sr. soon began to make important changes to the look and feel of the popular Modified cars. Newer and more modern body styles were allowed, and the SK division was started to allow teams with less resources to compete in a Modified chassis.

Arute was a thinker and a do'er. His plans and changes to the racing structure were met with protest and boycotts, but he held firm and what we see today is a set of rules and classes that fit racing in this region to a tee.

He also enacted the one-tire, one-compound rule that several other tracks had enacted, only to be sued by the big tire companies for restraint of trade violations. In several court cases and appeals, Arute eventually won out and we now enjoy a more sensible and affordable tire rule structure in circle track racing.

Stafford Motor Speedway is still going strong, as is racing across New England, due in part to the efforts of early race promoters like Arute and the owners of Northeastern Speedway that we spoke of in our last issue. I think the ideas for many of the rules and class structures we see across America today are a direct result of the forward thinking of race promoters in the Northeast during the formative years from the end of WWII till the early '70s.

This weekend's races at Stafford featured a huge pit party prior to the events where fans could mingle among the racers, get autographs, talk to the teams and see, up close, the powerful Modifieds, and meet the drivers who thrill them.

Conclusion

Events like we saw at Beech Ridge and Stafford were typical of Northeast racing. The racers and fans are very passionate. I can't tell you how many conversations I had with participants about the history, growth and allure of racing in this part of the country.

It's a part of their being, those who follow and compete. Calling it a lifestyle would be one way to describe it, but I think it goes even deeper into being a soulful experience. Following one baseball or football team carries with it a certain sense of pride and there are days that bring both winning and losing.

But with this type of racing, every event is a winner for every fan. It's the way it all plays out that is attractive and the phrase I like is appropriate--that it is truly the journey and not necessarily the destination that is the most exciting and memorable. And that defines our AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour as well.

Our next stops are at Waterford Speedway just down the road from Mystic and Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts. Those will wrap up our 2011 Tour with what I will term, last, but definitely not least in our learning process. There's still a lot more to tell on this trip.

SOURCE
E3 Spark Plugs
Ponte Vedra
FL
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Holley Performance Products
1801 Russellville Rd.
Bowling Green
KY  42101
270-782-2900
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AMSOIL
925 Tower Ave.
Superior
WI  54880
800-777-8491
http://www.amsoil.com
CV Products, Inc.
42 High Tech Blvd
Thomasville
NC  27360
800-448-1223
www.cvproducts.com
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