Reverse gear: Beech Ridge

Final thoughts from one of the strangest days of my writing career, one capped off with a delicious Black Fly Stout at Gritty McDuff's...

* Though I wrote earlier that the crowd was disappointingly thin at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, it should be pointed out that it was very much an "L.A." kind of audience. The place looked like a graveyard during the final practices for the PASS North Series Cabin Fever 150, but by the time the feature rolled out the grandstands were respectably filled.

I'm guessing that the 1st good day of the spring had a few people enjoying life at home for a few hours before heading to the track.

* The Cabin Fever 150 was slowed a whopping 15 times by the caution flag, but it hardly could be construed as "wreck fest."

Instead, it felt more like one of those interminable PASS Outlaw Late Model shows, the ones where guys spin out all on their own more than once, where lapped cars race the 3rd place cars like the win purse is on the line, where guys dump each other while running for 19th in a 22-car field.

Which is kind of what happened Saturday.

* Line of the day comes from one veteran of the Beech Ridge press box.

When PASS announcer Bruce Elder talked about the good crowd in the stands, showing up as a testament to just how long and harsh this particular winter had been, the guy sitting next to me quips: "How the hell would he know? He spends the winter in Florida."

Hmmm.... Point taken.

* It's better to be lucky than good, just ask Ben Rowe, who finished 2nd on Saturday.

He was forced to pit with flat tires on lap 104 -- but the good fortune for Rowe was that both of his right side tires were flat and not just one. Had it been only one, the car might not have rebounded well enough to dice through from 20th spot on the ensuing restart to challenge his father for the win.

But having fresh rubber on his entire right side brought his car to life, making it better than anybody else's in the final 25 circuits.

* It didn't pay to have a No. 22 on the side of the car Saturday. Let's just leave it at that.

* Tough luck of the day award #1 goes to Steve Berry, who once again had a car capable of contending for the win until contact with Cassius Clark sent him into the turn 4 dirt and out of contention.

Last September, Berry was battling Mike Rowe for the win when he and Rowe got together and ended his day in the same spot on the track.

* Tough luck of the day award #2 goes to Travis Benjamin, who once again was the bridesmaid and not the bride.

But Benjamin made a statement by leading most of the race before settling for 3rd behind the Rowe-Rowe battle. His team is much better than in the past, and he's going to be a factor in a slew of races this season.

* Maybe it's just me, maybe it's just all the giddiness of being back to the track for the first time this season, maybe it was just all that taurine in can of Monster, which by the way, they should sell in 8-ounce cans. Regardless, it just seems that more PASS teams than ever are capable of winning races now -- when Johnny Clark and John Flemming join a Kyle-Busch owned car outside the top-10, it has to be some kind of statement about series depth.

Victory lane fit for family portrait

Rowe beats Rowe for Cabin Fever 150 victory at Beech Ridge

There was a hug in victory lane, as Ben Rowe threw his arm around his father's shoulder at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. On this day, at least for one of Maine's all-time most successful racing families, the old adage held true.

If you're going to lose, lose to blood.

"Absolutely," said 4-time and defending series champion Ben Rowe. "If I can't win, he's the one I want to see win."

Ben got his wish on Saturday, as Mike made won the PASS North Series Cabin Fever 150. Mike won by just 0.010 seconds -- the 2nd closest margin of victory in series history. Only Ben's 2003 win over Johnny Clark at Unity Raceway was by a narrower margin.

As Ben drove under Mike through turn 4 and the 2 cars steamrolled their way under the flagstand, Ben said he knew he'd been beaten.

"I knew it," Ben said. "I looked over and I could see that his car was just ahead of me."

Mike had no idea and -- if you believe it from one of the most hard-nosed racers this area has ever seen -- said it didn't matter to him either way.

"It was awesome," Mike said. "I didn't care if I won or lost. Either way, it was good racing him across the line."

In an understated fashion, Mike marveled at just how close the finish had been.

"Yeah, that's close," Mike said.

Mike Rowe had been trailing Cassius Clark by a 2-second margin with less than 30 laps remaining, but a restart on lap 128 allowed Rowe to restart on the outside of the front row. He pulled away with a great restart and seemed to be in cruise control. Ben Rowe had been forced to pit some 20 laps earlier with 2 flat right side tires -- starting his charge from 20th place with 45 laps to left to race.

Ben had pulled up to sixth by the time the caution flew for the 14th of 15 times on the day, and he was third, right behind his father, on a lap 148 restart.

Ben ran the inside line while his father held the outside throughout the final lap.

"I ran off of (turn) 4 and just flat-footed it," said Mike, who saw the turn 1 wall fast approaching. "I thought I was going to go off through the tires down there."

Mike Rowe holds off Ben Rowe at the line

Mike Rowe held off a hard charge from son Ben Rowe to win his 2nd consecutive PASS North Series race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

Mike Rowe, who won the PASS 300 here last September, expertly used a pair of restarts inside the final 30 laps on Saturday afternoon to win the Cabin Fever 150. Ben tried to pass him off the race's final turn, and the dead heat at the start-finish line went to Mike by just one one-hundredth of a second.

Travis Benjamin finished third, with Adam Bates and Bub Bilodeau rounding out the top 5.

I'm here. We can start...

Looks like somebody forgot to tell the fans that the opener was today.

Attendance is pretty light on both sides of the oval here at Beech Ridge, with late-arrving fans in the grandstands and even later-arriving Sportsman division cars.

And, in case you were wondering...

* It's been just 75 minutes and we're already into our feature lineup. It doesn't get any better than that, especially as the thermometer continues to drop by the minute.

It may say it's 60 degrees out there, but I'm going to play the part of weatherman and say the "feels like" temperature -- which I ordinarily detest -- is minus-12.

* It never fails -- 15 cars plus 50 laps equals first-lap collisions.

The Sportsmen haven't disappointed, either. Maybe they heard "fif-teen" lap feature instead of "fif-ty" lap feature....

* Wait a minute! There's only 15 Sportsman cars here? I thought this was supposed to be the big, cost-effect, all-inclusive PASS division. Guess not.

Of course, it should be pointed out, that the Beech Ridge regulars are heavy competitors in the PASS Sportsman ranks and word is most are opting to save their stuff for their track championship efforts -- which doesn't begin until next weekend.

* There are 31 Super Late Models on hand this afternoon for the PASS North Series Cabin Fever 150. Cassius Clark, Travis Benjamin and Scott Mulkern won heat races. Rick Martin took the checkers in the consi.

* Andy Shaw won the PASS Modified season-opener, leading West Gardiner's Gary Norris and Mark Lucas across the finish line.

For Norris, Beech Ridge's victory lane was a welcome sight.

"I will remember this one," said Norris, who drives the No. 03 -- a brand new machine -- for owner Jeff Rich of Litchfield. "Last year I was sitting 2nd and lost it. So to get the opening race and finish 2nd this time is good.

"We'll keep digging."

That's the spirit.

* Weird to see a PASS event just a few miles from the Cushman Competiton shop in Gray and not have a Ford-powered Cushman car in the field.

Actually, there's not a Cushman car of any kind here this weekend. What's the deal?
"Just waiting for you to come up with some money to get it on the track," Cushman said to me. "I hear you newspaper guys have all the money."

Umm, yeah. Something like that. What can I say -- I'm just living the dream, man.


PASS Sportsman 50
1. Terry Merrill, 2. Ron Smith, 3. Richie Morse, 4. Duane Seekins, 5. Shane Tatro

PASS Modified 35
1. Andy Shaw, 2. Gary Norris Jr., 3. Mark Lucas

It almost never happened

A chance meeting on Maine's coast got Clark and his family back to the track
As strange as it sounds, if his father hadn't walked away from racing, Cassius Clark never would have found his way into it.

During the several-year span that Billy Clark and his family spent their summers in Boothbay, Cassius befriended Matthew Chapman. Matthew's father was Ed Chapman, and because their sons were friends, so, too, did they become friends.

And then Ed needed help with a Legends car he was trying to run, and he called on Billy.

So Billy went back to the track -- and Cassius went with him. But after watching other people race cars, Cassius spoke up.

"I didn't want to sound like a spoiled brat or anything, but I told him that if we were going to keep going to the track, then I wanted one of those cars to race, too," Cassius said.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.


Barrett: I turned Barrett down

There's no truth to the rumor that I've been asked to drive a 3rd team car for Stanton Barrett Motorsports in Mexico City this weekend.

In keeping with the politically correct way of publicly discussing deals for NASCAR rides, I will only say this:

"Stanton and I talked about it, but only in a joking kind of way. I was like, 'Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I drove for you sometime — like maybe at that Busch race in Mexico?' Then he shook his head, muttered something about, 'It's Nationwide now, you tool,' and walked off. That was the last time we ever talked about it until you all started asking me about it here this weekend.

"I don't know what else to tell you. He never asked me, and I never had the chance to reject him. Which, clearly, I would have. I'm with Jeremy Mayfield, I only want to get into a ride that can win, be it in Cup, Nationwide or Trucks."

Apparently, Stanton then turned to his father. Stan Barrett, now in AARP mode, will attempt to qualify SMB's No. 31 as a teammate to Stanton this weekend in Mexico.

Nason still hasn't had an offer

Unity Raceway was closed down and put up for lease.

Bobby MacArthur -- a legend in his own mind if nowhere else -- proudly jumped on GWC and proclaimed that he was going to be the track's savior. MacArthur said that he and Steve Perry had put together a deal to lease the facility from owner Ralph Nason.

Only one small problem. It's not true.

"Not that I know of," Perry said on Wednesday. "We have had no discussions about Unity Raceway whatsoever. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor."

At least we now know, as if we already didn't, to take anything the self-proclaimed "Showstoppa" says with a grain of salt.

Make that an entire bowl.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.


PASS, Beech Ridge plan to race on Saturday

Word out of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway is that all systems are "go" for this weekend's PASS North Series season opener.

The Cabin Fever 150 is slated to begin with heat races on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.

An official at the track said on Wednesday that the track itself is dry, the parking lots are in good shape and the sprawling pit area is mostly dried out. Weather forecasts for this week are for warm and sunny days with no rain in sight.

Everything should take place as scheduled.

"I met with (track owners Ralph and Andy Cusack) at Beech Ridge (on Tuesday) and we took a good look at the entire facility," PASS president Tom Mayberry said. "Eighty percent of the pits and parking lots are ready to go.

"There may be snow in your yard and mud in your driveway but we’re ready to go racing."

In addition to Saturday's racing, there are open practice sessions on both Thursday and Friday afternoons at the track. Grandstand admission is free both days.

ON PIT ROAD: Monsters, music and Cornelia Marie

Who needs a schedule? My internal clock tells me when it's racing season.

Let the 7-month Monster-and-CLIF-fueled grind begin...

This week, for no apparent reason, I've stayed up late, gotten up way too early, thought about races, rules and tracks in the middle of the night. The blog's being updated more than once every 2 1/2 weeks. I've finally forced myself to look at schedules, plot out a course and, naturally, already booked my first doubleheader weekend of the year.

For those of you scoring at home, that comes this weekend when GWC hits the Ridge for the PASS opener on Saturday before hoofing it over to Lee USA for the ACT 100 on Sunday. Sorry, there's no easing into things over here.

So hit the Wal-Mart for a couple cases of Monster, toss the E Street catalog into the Subaru and charge up the batteries on the cell phone and laptop. It's going to be a wild ride...

Anybody seen my keys?!?!


Despite public declarations to the contrary, there are no updates from Unity Raceway.

Track owner Ralph Nason said that he's received a few more phone calls in the last week, but that no one has made any kind of an official offer to lease the track. No matter how anyone on either side of the equation wants to spin it, that means no one has said, "We'll give you this for it," and no one in the Nason family has said, "Yep, that sounds good."

For now, the facility remains closed and quiet.



Line of the week 1:

"Now we know why lions eat their young."
-- Phil Harris, captain of the Cornelia Marie


Line of the week 2:

"That's not bad driving for a girl."
-- NHRA legend John Force, after seeing his daughter and new Funny Car points leader Ashley Force win a semi-final round at Las Vegas on Sunday

You know what else I hate? Pop quizzes -- the kind that make me feel like an idiot, even where there are "no wrong answers."
What kind of an ostrich with his head in the sand his whole life has never heard of no-bake cookies?


Only NASCAR fans can gripe so endlessly about television coverage of the sport.
They complain when ESPN runs sports scores across the bottom of the screen during Nationwide Series races. They complain that SPEED doesn't cover enough practice. They complain that John Roberts has a hair blowing the wrong way in the wind, for pete's sake. (BTW, who's Pete?)

The topper came last Saturday night, when they complained about not getting enough of a pre-race show as FOX kept with the Red Sox-Yankees game that had been delayed by rain.

People, people, people. It's a pre-race show. Pre-race, as in, not the race.

You got flag-to-flag coverage. Of the race. As promised.

You know what I got? I got a 2-strike fastball from Jonathan Papelbon that stopped halfway to home plate because FOX cut away to the race. I don't mind that so much -- but a little warning that the game was moving to FX would have been nice. If the shoe was on the other foot, a bunch of tattooed Dale Jr. fans would have torched Charlotte to the ground in frustration.

Or thrown beer cans at Jeff Gordon's car.


(Come on, admit it. It's funny.)


Perry vs. Ryan: Mano A Mano

For the 1st time since yours truly made an appearance on the program, Mainely Motorsports is fixing to be must-see TV this week.

In this corner, Mainely Motorsports owner and weekly anchor Steve Perry -- as pro-Super Late Model a guy as you'll find in these parts. In the opposite corner, Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan -- public enemy numero uno in some circles and as pro-Late Model a guy as you'll find in these parts.

It should, at the very least, be interesting.

Mainely Motorsports airs Wednesday nights on Time Warner Cable Channel 9 in the Augusta/Waterville area. Bell rings -- Whoops! I mean, opening credits roll -- at 8 p.m. sharp.

Here's hoping the 2 men can cut right through the rhetoric that has bogged the SLM-LM debate into the mud and have an honest-to-goodness discussion focusing on the pros and cons of both divisions.