After March 11, 2009, life will never quite be the same in North Haverhill, New Hampshire.
The small town nestled between the White Mountain National Forest to the east and the Connecticut River to the west is just like dozens and dozens of other small New England towns. The winters are harsh, the people are hard working and there is one legend from the town who made it big doing something well enough to shine a spotlight on the town for awhile. Still, despite the fame, that favorite son or daughter never strayed far from their roots - whether their craft was baseball, business, acting or in Stub Fadden's case - the sport of short track auto racing.
Fadden, who was proud to call North Haverhill his home, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 75. He leaves behind a number of family members, friends, fans and great accomplishments.
Fadden, who was formally known as “Stanley” and went simply by “Pop” to those closest to him, entered his first race in 1961. A welder, Fadden enjoyed working on racecars but longed to give driving them a try. It didn't take long for Fadden to get hooked. Through the years, Fadden, his son Alvin and the Fadden Automotive team fielded plenty of racecars out of their North Haverhill shop.
What followed were over 230 career victories in the United States and Canada, two Milk Bowl victories at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) and several track championships from various facilities in both the United States and Quebec. Those tracks include Thunder Road, the now-shuttered Catamount Stadium in Milton, Vermont and Mount Laurier, Quebec. He also earned a Triple Crown championship at Cayuga Speedway (Ontario).
What Fadden might be most remembered though was for his role in the early days of what is now known as the NASCAR Camping World East Series.
NASCAR launched the modern version of that tour, then called Busch Grand National North in 1987. Right away, Fadden was there running alongside guys like Joey Kourafas, Dale Shaw, Chuck Bown, Bobby Dragon, Kelly Moore, Dick McCabe and Billy Clark. The record book will show that Fadden finished a career best of fifth in the standings back in 1992 and took down a total of four victories, all coming between 1992 and 1994.
But what no record book could ever show was the amount of respect that Fadden had among his peers in the series.
The best way to document that would be with the 1990 Sportsmanship award in the series - which Fadden earned. That went along well with the sportsmanship awards from the defunct NASCAR North Tour in 1968 and 1981.
Fadden even earned a top 10 finish in what is now known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Back in the 1990's, there were a number of combination races between Busch North and Busch “South”. At New Hampshire in 1991, Fadden placed 10th in the July event - ahead of guys like the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Todd Bodine, Ward Burton, Tommy Houston and the late Davey Allison.
On the day after Fadden's death, the Executive Vice President and General Manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway Jerry Gappens issued a statement reguarding Fadden's death. It was very fitting that the largest track in New England would stop to remember one of the region's legendary short track drivers.
"Stanley 'Stub' Fadden was a true racing legend and an icon here in the northeast," said Gappens. "On and off the track, he was well-respected and admired by so many. Racing and family were two of his passions. He loved racing with his grandson, Mike Olsen, and that was evident to even the most casual observer. Stub leaves a wonderful legacy with the many people he has impacted. His spirit will always be with us. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Charlotte, and his entire family."
A few of the memorable cars that Fadden drove during that time in Busch North were the #16 Patten's Gas Buick and the #16 NAPA Buick. Ironically, Fadden campaigned the #16 NAPA car before Ron Hornaday, Jr. and the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. team would dazzle the NASCAR Truck Series with the same number and paint scheme on a national level. But it only made sense that Fadden will start something so big for NAPA, as Fadden had personal pride at stake. After all, the Fadden family ran the local NAPA store in North Havehill at the time.
After Fadden's retirement, his legacy of the #16 lived on in the series, no matter what it was being named during any given season. Vermont's Kip Stockwell asked Fadden for his blessing to run the #16 on his baby blue cars for several seasons. Stockwell obligated and Stockwell held his own against much better funded teams competing on the tour. Then the #16 returned to the Fadden Racing fold when Belgian driver Max Dumarey drove for the team over the past few seasons. In 2009, the team will field an entry as part of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program with Jonathan Smith behind the wheel.
Starting in 1989, the #16 cars of Fadden were mirrored by racecars with the #61 on the side of them. Those cars came out of the same North Haverhill shops and were driven by Fadden's grandson Mike Olsen. After a bit of a learning curve, Olsen grew right into the NASCAR Series, winning six races and two series championships.
Yet even in his late years, Fadden showed that he could still give his grandson a run for his money at times. In 2003, Olsen put Fadden into a back-up car at Thunder Road. That night, Fadden finished ninth in the race - five spots higher than Olsen!
In 2003, Fadden was admitted to the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
Today, the legacy of Stub Fadden spans everywhere from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage area to the tight quarter mile oval of White Mountain Motorsports Park.
North Haverhill native Frankie Stoddard got his start in racing turning wrenches for Fadden and rose to the position of his crew chief. He spent 11 years in that role. But while Fadden never left his hometown in spite of his great talent, Stoddard did progress up the ladder of motorsports. He would go on to win 17 NASCAR Cup Series races with driver Jeff Burton. He currently manages and co-owen the #60 No Fear Motorsports/Rick Clark Racing team of driver Boris Said.
Meanwhile, just over the mountains from North Haverhill, the latest generation of the Fadden family can be seen racing every Saturday night during the summer at White Mountain. Fadden's grandson (and Olsen's brother) Todd Aldrich campaigns a Late Model there. Travis Fadden, Stub's grandson, runs a Street Stock there. It had not been uncommon to see Stub heading out to White Mountain to watch his grandsons competing there during racing season. Even declining health couldn't keep Fadden from the racetrack all of the time.
Fadden was also a semi-regular visitor in his final years to Thunder Road. He appeared many times during the annual festivities for The Milk Bowl, where previous winners of the race were honored during pre-race ceremonies. When Mike Olsen had a Thunder Road Late Model ride in his free time form the Busch North Series, Fadden was there to cheer him on and offer some pointers as well.
Whether he was at White Mountain or Thunder Road, Fadden always drew a crowd around him made up of generations who watched him racing and younger fans who only heard about his accomplishments.
Fadden leaves behind a wife, Charlotte, and a large group of family members, friends and fans - as well as a town full of well wishers in New Hampshire.
Sympathy cards can be directed to his wife Charlotte Fadden, at P.O. Box 427, North Haverhill, N.H. 03774.