Beech Ridge Motor Speedway is being sold to real estate developers, a decision that has stunned fans and track employees.
Beech Ridge owner Andy Cusack announced during a post-race awards ceremony on Saturday night that the property is being be sold and that racing at the 72-year-old track soon will come to an end.
Courtesy of the Portland (ME) Press Herald
“About 1,000 people were there – the whole front stretch was packed and it was a well-attended event. When the announcement was made you could hear a pin drop,” said Andy Austin, a Sanford native and the Beech Ridge race announcer for the past 28 years. “Everyone went from hooting and hollering to being very excited to crown the champions and then to complete shock. Had I known it was one of the last nights of racing I don’t think it would have gone as well as it did. I’m glad I didn’t know.”
It is unclear who is purchasing the race track property. Attempts to contact Cusack were unsuccessful Monday.
The Cusack family has owned the 1/3-mile oval track since Andy Cusack’s father bought it in 1981 from the second owner of the track. The original owner and builder of the track was Jim McConnell.
Cusack’s company, High Meadows Inc., owns two tracts of land on Holmes Road, according to town records. The one where the track is located covers about 55 acres and is assessed by Scarborough at $1.4 million. The second, an adjacent lot which is used for parking, covers 86 acres and is assessed at just under $600,000.
Karen Martin, head of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp., said she had calls from developers in recent years asking about the property even though Cusack didn’t seem to be actively marketing it.
“There have been inquiries (on the property) as there has been on almost any available lot in Scarborough,” she said. Martin said she couldn’t speculate on who the new owners will be or what plans they might have for the property.
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway would become the second Scarborough sports venue to close in recent years. In 2018, Scarborough Downs was sold for $6.7 million. Horse racing at the track came to a close last November after 70 years.
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway has been a staple for local drivers and fans in southern Maine, leaving just three auto racing tracks left in Maine: Wiscasset Speedway, Oxford Plains Speedway and Speedway 95 in Hermon. Thursday Sept. 23 is expected to be the last day of racing at Beech Ridge.
Few – if any – fans, drivers, employees or volunteers at Beech Ridge knew the announcement was coming on Saturday.
“We all were very devastated about the news,” said Dick Fowler, the race competition director at Beech Ridge. “It’s been a lifelong journey for me. I’ve got no words to say. It’s like losing a family friend, like losing someone suddenly.”
Fowler, 64, started selling programs at Beech Ridge 55 years ago when he was 9. For 30 years he was a race car owner and had 10 champions on his team.
Fowler said he knew the race track had been for sale for years, but he didn’t know it might close so soon.
“I mean, it was a shock. I don’t know any other way they could have done it. But it was a sad day. I felt sick to my stomach,” he said. “There were always rumors that it was for sale or being sold. And Andy always put those rumors to rest. He told everybody the past few years that if it gets sold he would inform everybody and that’s what he did the other night. And it was the awards night for the champions of the year. Personally, I think it was bad timing. I think it left a lot of people sick to their stomach.”
Kelly Moore, a driver of 44 years and the owner of R.C. Moore Transportation, also knew the racetrack was for sale. As a business owner in Scarborough, he said it was obvious it was going to sell sooner rather than later.
A race-car driver since 1977, Moore raced 12 times this year and won a Busch Grand National event in 1995. He’s raced at Beech Ridge on and off since 1986.
“I knew the track was for sale. I was actually approached about buying the track myself. Obviously an opportunity was right and he got some sale with a developer,” Moore said about Cusack. “I don’t know the particulars. I know he was actively trying. It’s been on the market for some time now. When you have a city like Portland that is pushing outward, it’s jut a matter of time before it happens.”
Garrett Hall, a driver of 11 years who won Beech Ridge Driver of the Year in 2013, has raced up and down the East Coast in recent years, but lives in Scarborough about 5 minutes from Beech Ridge and considers it home.
He knew a sale was coming but “never wanted to think about it.” His father raced at Beech Ridge and his grandfather owned a car. He said some racers who mostly race Beech Ridge will migrate up to the tracks in Oxford or Wiscasset, but some may stop racing.
“Beech Ridge always had that home feeling. You might have a rivalry with someone you raced week in and week out – but you became friends with them,” Hall said.
Auto racing fan Steve Yenco of Lisbon Falls started going to Beech Ridge about 15 years ago even though the tracks in Oxford and Wiscasset were just as close. He preferred Beech Ridge because the races were well run and wrapped up within three hours.
He added that Beech Ridge has the best food, including the best fried dough you’ll find anywhere.
“I went probably every Saturday up until a couple of years ago, when the Saturday night races were held earlier,” Yenco said.
Timmy Gosch of Cape Elizabeth, who has lived in Maine since 1977 and used to race at Beech Ridge, said the speedway turning into developments is one more indication southern Maine is becoming built-up and overdeveloped.
“We knew it would happen sooner or later,” Gosch said. “What made it unique was at the track, the fans had such camaraderie. If your car broke down on the track, everyone would do anything to help you. To find an old-school neighbor helping a neighbor there’s no greater sport than auto racing. The fans always made new people feel welcome. It’s just sacred ground.”