BNS: Beech Ridge: Round five preview

SCARBOROUGH, Me. (May 30, 2003) -- The Beech Ridge 150 presented by Forest City Chevrolet at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 7, will see NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series champion Andy Santerre race in his home state...

SCARBOROUGH, Me. (May 30, 2003) -- The Beech Ridge 150 presented by Forest City Chevrolet at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 7, will see NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series champion Andy Santerre race in his home state of Maine for the first time since he won the title in 2002. Behind him already in 2003 is an impressive start that has seen him record two wins and a second in his first three starts for the new team owned by fellow Pine Tree State native Joe Bessey.

The Beech Ridge 150 presented by Forest City Chevrolet is scheduled as a one-day event at the Cusack family's one-third mile paved oval in suburban Portland, with practice starting at 1:00 p.m., Bud Pole Qualifying at 5:00 p.m., and the start of the feature event at 9:00 p.m. A full program for Beech Ridge's regular NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series classes will accompany the Busch North Series race. The Beech Ridge 150 presented by Forest City Chevrolet is the fourth of 12 Busch North Series races in 2003 scheduled for national telecast by SPEED Channel, with the air date set for Monday, June 16, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Beech Ridge represents a partial homecoming for Andy Santerre, who has resided in North Carolina since 1997. While car owner Bessey is a Scarborough native, Santerre grew up in Cherryfield, a small town in "Down East" Maine almost 200 miles to the northeast, closer to the Canadian border than to the state's population centers. That didn't stop him from an early introduction to Beech Ridge. "It's about four hours from Cherryfield to Beech Ridge," Andy recalled. "My dad would take me there for my birthday every year on his motorcycle when I was a kid. We'd make the four-hour ride to watch the races. It was dirt track then. My dad had raced on dirt and Beech Ridge was the only track he really cared to go to."

Andy has always been an asphalt racer himself, starting on a track near Bangor named Speedway 95 after the nearby interstate highway. Fortunately for him, most all the tracks in Maine have approximately the same size and shape: they're nearly-circular third miles. When he finally came to the now-paved Beech Ridge as a driver instead of a spectator, he knew what to expect. "I've done real well, I always seem to run in the top three," he noted. "It's a track where you need to tiptoe a Busch North car around. You can't run a lot of gear, you can't overdrive the race track. You've got to take what the car will give you. Nobody has a power advantage; you can't really push the gas pedal down hard there. It basically comes down to rollin' the car through the corners, being real smooth with the accelerator and real smooth with the steering wheel."

Santerre proved to be a quick learner, scoring second place finishes in two of his first three Busch North Series starts at Beech Ridge, and reaching victory lane in his third attempt. Last year in his championship season he recorded a third and a second.

No discussion of driving technique at Beech Ridge would be complete without mention of the track's signature feature- The Lip. That's the characteristic crease in the pavement near the outer edge of the front straight, where the track is banked the right way to the inside and slopes away toward the retaining wall on the outside. Most drivers state solemnly that putting the right wheels over the lip is a rookie mistake an experienced driver should never make, then feel perfectly comfortable contradicting themselves while qualifying and racing. Santerre joined the majority in his comments, but avoided taking the pledge never to cross the line. "When you come back on the track, it throws you down into turn one, so you're better off if you can keep it handling down low," he declared.

The real home team at Beech Ridge is the father and son team of Kelly Moore and Ryan Moore, whose shop is nearly within walking distance of the track. The most successful driver in recent seasons, however, has been Mike Johnson, with victories in two of the last four Busch North races at the track. The 'Ridge has a fondness for first-time winners as well, with Dale Quarterley and Eddie MacDonald scoring their first career wins in the fall races of 2001 and 2002 respectively. With 11 winners in 15 races overall, the Beech Ridge 150 presented by Forest City Chevrolet promises to be a wide-open contest.

NEWS OF NOTE

* The 2002 edition of this race was won by Mike Johnson, who took the lead from Kelly Moore on lap 19 and never gave it up despite six caution periods for 62 laps. Matt Kobyluck and Andy Santerre moved up to finish second and third, with Moore taking fourth. Eddie MacDonald's fifth place was his first career top-five, and a sign of things to come. Brian Hoar won the Bud Pole with a track record clocking of 15.402 seconds, 77.912 miles per hour.

* The most recent Busch North Series race at Beech Ridge, last September, saw Eddie MacDonald move from 13th to take the lead when Mike Olsen pitted on lap 98. MacDonald then held off Santerre and Martin Truex Jr. for his first career win. Bryon Chew and Mike Johnson finished fourth and fifth in the race postponed two weeks by rain. Truex won the Bud Pole but did not break Hoar's qualifying record from the spring. Only two caution flags for nine laps slowed the pace.

* Kelly Moore, the all-time Busch North Series leader in race wins and Bud Poles, won both the first ever race on the newly-paved Beech Ridge track and the first Busch North race at his hometown speedway.

* Dale Shaw and Tracy Gordon have each won three Busch North Series races at Beech Ridge. Mike Johnson has won two, while Kelly Moore, Andy Santerre, Dave Dion, Brad Leighton, Mike Olsen, Dale Quarterley, and Eddie MacDonald have one win each.

* Two time Busch North Series champion Brad Leighton is a Beech Ridge alumnus, having won his first point championship in the track's sportsman division in 1990.

* Beech Ridge Motor Speedway was built as a one-third mile dirt track in 1949. It has never changed shape, but was paved in 1987. It has been a member of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, as well as the Busch North Series, since 1995, and also hosts the Featherlite Modified Series each year.

WHAT'S THE WORD?

"Last year, I had to turn the car around and do the regular maintenance; I couldn't work on making the car better. This year we've got the help to work on making the car go faster. Joe doesn't mind getting what we need to win, so I just go get what we need. It's the best situation I've been in during my racing career." -- Andy Santerre, describing the change from his one-man operation in 2002 to racing for Joe Bessey in 2003.

FAST FACTS:

Beech Ridge 150 presented by Forest City Chevrolet, NASCAR Grand National division, Busch North Series Race #5 of 18
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Scarborough, Me.

Saturday, June 7, 2003, 9:00 p.m.
Television: SPEED Channel Monday, June 16, 8:00 p.m.

Schedule: Saturday June 7 -- Practice 1:00-1:45 p.m. & 3:00-3:45 p.m, Bud Pole Qualifying 5:00 p.m., Beech Ridge 150 presented by Forest City Chevrolet 9:00 p.m.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Martin Truex Jr. , Dale Quarterley , Matt Kobyluck , Mike Johnson , Ryan Moore , Eddie MacDonald , Bryon Chew