Bilodeau Dominates Beech Ridge Pro Series 100 by Mike Twist
Touring Drivers In The House, But Not So Much On The Track
Dan McKeage (#40) challenged Bub Bilodeau's #9 after the initial start and one restart at Beech Ridge, but nobody had anything for Bilodeau when it actually came to leading a lap. (Jamie Williams Photos)
You might think that with a two-week off period for the PASS North Super Late Models and the PASS Outlaw Late Models, that a 100-lap extended distance event for Super Late Model-type cars right in the heart of PASS territory at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) would attract plenty of interest and entries.
Well, the Pro Series 100 on Saturday night at the Ridge did attract plenty of interest, as we’ll see later in our notes section. On the other hand, it only brought 20 Super Late Models (or Pro Series cars as the track calls them) through the pit gates with the only “invaders” being PASS North driver Trevor Sanborn and PASS Outlaw regular Jay Sands – both of whom are former weekly competitors at the track.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the weekly field at Beech Ridge is stocked with a very talented mix of veterans and young drivers that rivals what some actual tours from other parts of the country have to offer.
But where were all the “other” cars? We’ll see later the exact reasons why, but even though a Super Late Model...or Pro Series car…or Pro Stock…might look, feel and seem the same from track to track and series to series, they are not exactly the same everywhere in New England. That kept the starting field limited to track regulars with a few alumni thrown in.
Then again, it might have not mattered whether there were 20, or 40, cars in the pits.
On this night, nobody looked like they were going to catch longtime track regular Bub Bilodeau, who led from wire-to-wire to win the extended feature event.
Only one caution period broke the tempo of the evening. When all was said and done, all but the top six finishers were lapped at the conclusion of 100 circuits around the oval track.
“There are about five fast cars [every week] and if one of them gets a chance to break
away, it will just take off,” said Bilodeau. “You just don’t let up.”
Bilodeau in victory lane.
“Bub just took off and ran away from us. All that I saw were his taillights,” said runner-up Carrier. “We had an excellent car, but second is all that we could do with it tonight.”
“We started in the back and took what we could get,” said Babb, who started in the final row of the field, but finished third.”
Although Bilodeau’s rivals couldn’t derail him on Saturday night, his tires almost did.
“We were looking at the right front tire and it blistered. A lot of them did including mine. If it had been a 150-lap race, I wouldn’t have made it.”
Bilodeau has done some touring racing in the past, but now gets his kicks mostly from racing weekly at Beech Ridge. Having a few extra-distance events now and again is fine with him, but he wouldn’t want to do it every week.
“I like these races, but I’m getting old,” the veteran said. “Forty laps are usually good with me. I’m happy here. I’ve done a lot of those [touring races] in my career and I’ve had enough. If the [Oxford] 250 was here, I might do that. But it’s not.”
McKeage (#40) and Carrier (#83) split lapped traffic racing for second-place.
Then again, it’s hard to take the racer out of a driver whether he’s young or old, so maybe you can’t count Bilodeau out of entering a PASS North race or two from time to time.
“I say that [he won’t go touring], but I might enter a race or two at the end of the year,” said Bilodeau. “We might go to White Mountain. We go there every once in awhile.”
DIFFERENT TRACKS, DIFFERENT TOURS, DIFFERENT CREATURES
Super Late Models in New England have traditionally been called Pro Stocks. Beech Ridge calls their class the Pro Series. But whatever you call them, the cars might resemble the same machines from track to track and tour to tour, but they aren’t exactly that way.
A typical PASS North car would not be easily legal for competition at Beech Ridge,
where the cars must have a perimeter chassis and a wet sump engine. The frame height rules are also different, there is no crate engine option at Beech Ridge and routing your exhaust pipes out the door is a no-no.
The PASS Outlaws? Well, the ones with a standard ABC body would likely to be legal, but anything with an outlaw body (which is rapidly becoming most of the Outlaw LM field), would not conform.
Generally speaking, a racer can go from Beech Ridge to PASS easier than from PASS to Beech Ridge.
So a PASS car probably can’t race as is at the Ridge, but a Beech Ridge car can be legal, and even competitive, for PASS North SLM racing though. Trevor Sanborn, Alan Tardiff, Curtis Gerry, Dan McKeage and Bill Rodgers, Jr. are just a few drivers who have run Beech Ridge cars in PASS events.
Meanwhile, only one non-Beech Ridge PASS team in recent memory has entered a Pro Series event there. Scott Chubbuck drove a Jay Cushman-owned #29 car with some changes made to it in a Beech Ridge race two seasons ago.
PLENTY OF PASSers IN THE PITS
Even though drivers from various PASS tours could not race in the Pro Series 100 at Beech Ridge, there were plenty of them spotted in the pit area.
PASS North Super Late Model drivers Richie Dearborn and Alan Tardiff were on hand, as well as PASS Outlaws Alan Wilson and Matt Sanborn and PASS Modified pilots Bill Dixon and Chris Smith. A few racers with PASS ties were also busy with work to do in the pit area – Dale Shaw was coaching his son DJ to a top five finish and car builder Jeff Taylor was on hand to watch the progress of his fleet of Distance Racing Products cars.
SANBORN COMES HOME AGAIN
Trevor Sanborn is a regular in PASS North this season, but his roots are at Beech Ridge. On Saturday night, he returned to the track with his weekly Pro Series car from last season. He dropped out of the race early, but still enjoyed returning to familiar ground.
Sanborn's regular #44 from his Beech Ridge days has been taken by another weekly competitor this season, so he had to renumber his car as #94 Saturday night.
“It feels good to be here, but it isn’t so good when you have problems with the car and problems with the motor,” said Sanborn. “It was skipping so bad, that I just parked it and decided to save it to wait for the next day. So we need to iron things out, that’s all.”
The last time that Sanborn’s silver and gray car had raced was in the 2006 PASS North season finale at Unity, where it finished fifth after getting caught up on one of the track’s infamous dirt banks early on.
“It’s been sitting since last year,” said Sanborn. “I was digging Unity mud off it on Thursday. Two days ago, we started working on it. We put the seat back in and the motor back in and then came out here.”
TARDIFF SELLS ONE
PASS North’s Alan Tardiff was planning to race his former weekly car from Beech Ridge in the Pro Series 100 after finishing second at the track in a 40-lap feature one week
before, but on Saturday morning he sold the car and towed it to its new home, instead of heading to the track.
Tardiff’s now former car, which he won several races with at Beech Ridge over an eight-year period, will be converted to Late Model specs and entered in the 2007 Oxford 250 for a well-known, but still unannounced, Northeastern driver with ties to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
SHAW LEARNING THE ROPES
17-year-old DJ Shaw is less than a half season into his first year of racing a Pro Series car at Beech Ridge. So far, last year’s Late Model champion at White Mountain Speedway (NH) likes his new Saturday night home.
“I’m getting a lot more comfortable with the track,” said Shaw. “We’ve had a couple of
top five finishers in a row now. I’m getting used to the track and used to racing with
these guys. It’s been pretty fun so far. I like this car. It’s a lot more of a finesse kind
of car than the Late Model, but we’re working hard and I’m learning them.”
Six days before the Pro Series 100 at Beech Ridge, Shaw won the Coastal 200 at
Wiscasset with his Late Model. That victory came against a field of heavy hitters
that included Mike Rowe, Johnny Clark and Travis Benjamin. After winning the race,
and the $10,000 top prize, Shaw has had a busy week.
“The phone has been ringing off the hook, so we haven’t gotten a lot of work done,” said
Shaw. “We’d race it again this week, but we couldn’t find anywhere to go and race that
car tomorrow [Sunday]. It will seem boring to have a day without racing. I might have to
go out and race my go-kart.”