Busch East Scene Snowmobile Ride Helps Charities, Gives Everyone a Good Time by Mike Twist
Drivers, Teams and Fans Gather in Maine for a Fun Day and Evening - For a Good Cause
Today’s NASCAR Busch East Series has a schedule that goes all up and down the East Coast, and even out to the Midwest for stops in Iowa and Minnesota. But the tour has its roots in Northern New England and for the eighth straight year many of its’ participants spent a weekend in the Eastern mountains of Maine for the Busch East Series Charity Snowmobile Ride.
The area around Rangley, Maine provided a beautiful setting for this year's ride. (51 Photos)
The event benefits several good causes, having raised well over $50,000 for a number of charities through the years. It also gives competitors a chance to gather during the off-season and mingle with each other and a healthy number of fans. A good time was had by all once again this year as Mike Olsen, Sean Caisse, Eddie MacDonald, Mike Johnson, John Freeman and Rick Bell all attended the ride.
“It was a great time,” said MacDonald. “This is only my second time at this ride. It’s a lot of fun. I come up every time that I can find a sled to use.”
For guys like MacDonald and Olsen, the ride was special enough. For someone like Sean Caisse though, it was even more meaningful. The New Hampshire native now lives in North Carolina and seeing snow is a rare occurrence for him these days.
“It’s nice to be home,” said Caisse. “The cool thing is that the day when we left, they got an inch of snow. So it’s kind of funny that we leave North Carolina and they got snow there. It’s nice to come up here, see family and get reacquainted with old friends. We’re having a good time.”
Caisse brought North Carolina’s John Freeman along with him for the ride. Freeman isn’t used to snow, snowmobiles or anything related to either.
“It’s definitely different for me,” said Freeman. “I’ve never seen this much snow in my life. It’s been a great experience to come up here with my buddy Sean and just get the lay of the land.”
Unfortunately for Caisse, he didn’t get to play in the snow. A week before the ride, he had his appendix removed and was not cleared by doctors for sledding quite yet.
“I just had my appendix taken out a few days ago. I was going down to Lakeland, Florida to help Corey Williams out with his PASS car and it happened,” said Caisse. “At the time, I was more concerned about not being able to help Corey out. But at the same time, I was thinking ahead and hoping that I could get on a snowmobile when I went up there. I couldn’t ride today and I can’t ride for a couple of more days. My doctor didn’t clear me.
“So John going to have a few days head start on me when it comes to going out on the trails,” said Caisse. “When we get out there together, it should be pretty cool. Hopefully, we won’t wreck each other.”
Despite growing up in snow country, Caisse didn’t ride a snowmobile much until recently anyways.
There were plenty of items donated by various race teams, businesses and individuals for the charity auction.
“My first time sledding was a couple of years ago,” said Caisse. “Andy Cusack, who is the owner of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, got me involved doing some riding. You really have to respect the equipment, it’s just like racing. It’s a good time and since I got on a sled, it’s hard to get me off of one.”
The competition between friends or teammates wasn’t limited to just Caisse and Freeman. Eddie MacDonald was hot on the tail of his crew chief Rollie LaChance at the ride this year.
Sean Caisse (L) accepts his "Christmas Present" from Andy Cusack (R) after the two got into a biddign war for it.
“I was just trying to keep up with Rollie,” said MacDonald. “That was my goal – to just keep up with him. I had his sled, but he really knows what he is doing. I don’t have a clue yet. With a little bit more riding, maybe I can beat him.”
The fun wasn’t limited to the trails either. At the end of the day, everyone gathered at the Rangeley Inn for a charity auction, raffle, comedy show and Busch East Scene award presentation.
The auction might have even been as entertaining as the professional comedians in the house. Sean Caisse bid against himself at one point for a Get Etched plaque of rival driver Ryan Moore. Caisse quit with a high bid of $144.44 (#44 is his car number) and lost the auction to Beech Ridge owner Andy Cusack, who went to $145.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Upon winning the plaque, Cusack presented it to Caisse, calling it his Christmas gift to him.
One of the highlights during the auction was the sale of a football autographed by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and current commissioner Roger Goodell. Both men have homes in Maine and have helped out the auction for several years. The football brought a high bid of $1,000 from former Busch North car owner Steve Griswold.
Mike Olsen was the big winner during the awards portion of the evening. First, he was awarded as the Fans’ Choice for Driver of the Year. He came up to accept that award and then returned to his seat to finish his dinner. Moment later though, he was called back up in front of the room to receive the Driver of the Year award as voted by the editorial staff of Busch East Scene.
“I won that too?” asked a surprised Olsen. “I was just reading the paper and I really didn’t think that I was going to.”
Olsen’s appearance at the event continued a streak for the Driver of the Year award.
“Nobody has known before it is presented who is going to win it,” said Busch East Scene publisher and event organizer George Campbell. “But every year, the winning driver has been here in person. That’s been true of Mike [Olsen]. As well as Brad Leighton and Andy Santerre. It’s great to have true champions and once again Mike is a true champion.”
The Busch East Scene scholarship award of $1,000 was presented to budding racing
journalist and sophomore at Poland Regional High School in Poland, Maine, Dillon Lajoie.
“I was surprised,” said Lajoie. “That’s a pretty big award for me and it will help me a lot.
I want to pursue a career in sports writing – racing, baseball, football - all of the sports. I
really have to thank everyone who is a part of it. It will come in handy, because it is the most money that I have towards college so far.”
The final tally of money raised by the event was over $8,000.
“It was fun again this year and once again, everyone was very generous,” said Campbell.
“We had had a great time and I appreciate the drivers who came, everyone who attended
or donated items and the businesses of Rangeley who make this all possible and successful
year after year.”
The drivers were all proud to be a part of the festivities.
“It’s great what George does here,” said MacDonald. “Everyone has a good time and money
is raised for charity.”
“The Busch East Series is just a big family,” said Freeman. “Especially when it comes to stuff like this. Everyone pulls together to help out and it’s really great to have those opportunities.”
Dillon Lajoie collects the Busch East Scene scholarship award.