Walking into the pit area at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) next Saturday night, and beyond, just isn't going to be the same.
That's because the first driver who you would see as you passed through the pit gates every week, Bub Bilodeau, is gone. The three-time champion at Beech Ridge pulled into his pit after the conclusion of Saturday night's Pro Series (Super Late Model) race and reportedly had a medical incident. Despite the best efforts of the track safety crew, Bilodeau passed away.
Bilodeau's pit stall was an easy one to find. You could walk through the pit gates and it was the very first one on your left. It had been the same one for him over the past several years. Often, you could find Bilodeau sitting in the back of his trailer hanging out with crew members before the feature races began. He had plenty of success at the track and it was an unusual night if Bilodeau or his crew were thrashing on their car. They didn't need to. Years of winning paid off in the form of invaluable knowledge.
And winning was something that Bilodeau was very used to. The 53-year-old had three Beech Ridge track championships to his name and too many victories to count - including a 2007 victory in the track's annual 100-Lap Pro Series race that was chronicled here on Speed51.com [Click Here For That Story]. Ironically, that race is scheduled this year for next Saturday night.
Bilodeau started in racing over 30 years ago and graduated up from the Street Stock classes eventually into Super Late Models. He won his last track championship in 2008 and endured a tough season of bad luck last season as he watched Mike Rowe take over as champion. After last season, there were rumblings that Bilodeau might retire, but giving up wasn't in the cards for him. Bilodeau came back this year just as determined to succeed as ever. Winning a championship against Mike Rowe and other regulars that include Trevor Sanborn, David Oliver, Aaron Ricker, Bill Rodgers, Dan McKeage, Steve Carrier, Bill Whorff, Tony Ricci and Jay Sands was what he was after. On opening night last week, Bilodeau finished sixth - one position behind Rowe.
In recent years at Beech Ridge, there were a few different drivers who shared that section of the pits with Bilodeau - both Sanborn and Ron Smith served as teammates to Bilodeau's #9 entry at various points. Bilodeau was close to many other competitors as well. The Beech Ridge community is a tight-knit place and Bilodeau was one of its key people. Less than three hours after he passed away, a Facebook tribute page for Bilodeau already had over 150 members.
Beech Ridge wasn't the only place where Bioldeau raced though. Between August, 1991 and July, 2002; Bilodeau won an even dozen Pro Stock (Super Late Model) features at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). He also captured the 1998 OPS Triple Crown title.
Pro Stock racing enjoyed one of its greatest and most competitive eras during that time at Oxford, so winning wasn't easy. During the time span while Bilodeau was regularly visiting victory lane at Oxford, some of the other winning drivers at the track included Jeff Taylor, Mike Rowe, Joe Bessey, Johnny Clark, Sam Sessions, Tracy Gordon, Scott Chubbuck, Chris Staples, Jerry Babb, Billy Penfold, Babe Branscomb, Alan Wilson, Larry Gelinas, Tim Brackett, Glen Luce, Scott Robbins and even current PASS President Tom Mayberry.
Away form the track, Bilodeau was the sales manager form Adams and Fogg Oil Company - a business where he had worked for over three decades. He graduated high school in Scarborough - the same town where Beech Ridge is located - and resided in the nearby town of Standish, Maine.