Tom Herzig's Trackside: Promoter named to Hall of Fame
C.V. Elms, a North Haverhill native who owns Bear Ridge Speedway in Vermont, has been named to the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Photo by Andrew Nemethy)
On Track This Weekend
Thunder Road (Vt.): Thursday, 7 p.m.
Legion Speedway: Friday 7, p.m.
Lee USA Speedway: Friday 7, p.m.
Star Speedway: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Bear Ridge (Vt.): Saturday, 6 p.m.
Claremont: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Monadnock: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Speedway 51: Saturday, 6 p.m.
White Mountain: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Hudson: Sunday 5 p.m.
THE New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame has named Bear Ridge Speedway owner/promoter C.V. “Butch” Elms as a member of the 2018 class of inductees.
In addition to Elms, honorees include Modified greats Mike Stefanik and the late Ted Christopher, rally racing icon John Buffum, NASCAR Busch North Series stalwart Jamie Aube, long-time ACT and Busch North crew chief Dick Glines (who worked for Robbie Crouch and Aube), Pete Silva of Maine, who had a very successful Late Model career in the South, and Kenny Tremont Sr., a New Yorker who is the greatest all-time car owner and engine builder in the history of Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Vt.)
Elms, a North Haverhill native whose father owned the track before him, has been around racing since forever. He was a successful driver in his own right (116 documented wins and 11 track championships) before assuming the reins at Bear Ridge in 1989. In 1982, during one of the periods the quarter-mile dirt track has thrived, Elms won 12 races, including eight in a row against deep fields of tough competitors.
Nowadays, “The Home of the Coupes”, tucked up on a ridgeline above Bradford, Vt., just across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire, is rolling along in its 51st season. The venue is an affordable throwback to a bygone era — a virtual time machine that takes one back into the 1950’s complete with a pit full of race cars and handcut French fries at the concession stand.
“He’s one of the most consistent promoters in the business,” says Chris Donnelly, a multi-time track champion in everything from Street Stocks to Late Models to Modifieds. “He opens up every year. A few years ago, he hauled in a lot of real clay from the Middlebury, Vt., area. There’s been some growing pains getting it right — some rough choppy spots at first — but he’s got a handle on it. It’s less dusty and the racing is better.”
The New England Antique Racers (NEAR) will be at Bear Ridge Saturday with 20 to 25 restored and old-timey race cars to go along with a full racing schedule and it’ll be a big party, probably before and after.
“I grew up around a lot of real racers in the ’60s,” Elms remembers. “The Ingerson brothers (Russ, Leland and Doug), Ronnie Marvin, Harold Hanaford, Johnny Gammell, Stub Fadden and more. If it wasn’t for them, the impression they made on me and what they taught me, I wouldn’t be in the business today.”
Elms credits his partner, April May Preston, with a lot of the track’s success over the last decade plus. “She’s the brains of the operation: the computer work, the record keeping,” he says. “I supply the brawn.” (Note: racing surface maintenance takes about 30 hours weekly).
Stefanik, of Coventry, R.I., was a seven-time Whelen Modified Tour champion and a two-time NASCAR Busch North Series champion. His 74 Whelen Modified victories top the Tour’s all-time win list.
Christopher died in a plane crash on his way to a NASCAR Modified event in September 2017. He was the winningest driver (131) at Stafford Motor Speedway and at Thompson Speedway (99). His 42 Whelen Modified Tour wins is third on that all-time win list.
Claremont Speedway races Saturday this week instead of its usual Friday slot with a $4,000-to-win Modified open as the top attraction.
How the event will be affected by New London/Waterford Speedbowl’s decision to reschedule last week’s rained-out Valenti Modified Series event for this Saturday remains to be seen.
As the racing calendar gets shorter, promoters have fewer options to finagle dates. Earlier this season when Stafford held an “open” Modified race the same night as Lee USA’s Valenti Modified race, everybody got through it OK.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series (GSPSS) is at White Mountain on Saturday. GSPSS points leader Cory Casagrande of Stafford Springs, Conn., was spared by last week’s rainout at Monadnock (reset for Sept. 15). Casagrande had announced he was going to miss the race to attend a family function. Jacob Dore of Sanford, Maine, is the No. 2 man in the standings eight points ahead of Devin O’Connell and Nick Lascuola, who are in a third-place tie.
You have to feel for Speedway 51, which is still plugging away and making a weekly go of it on the banks of the Connecticut River 70 miles north of Bear Ridge. The track had the Pro All Star Series in last Saturday, but with iffy weather and the approach of the Oxford 250 (Aug. 26), only thirteen Super Late Models showed up. DJ Shaw and Travis Benjamin finished first-second. Derek Griffith of Hudson also made the haul and came home in fifth place.
Star Speedway has a full schedule planned for Saturday including both the Autism Awareness 350 Supers and the R&R Late Models, which will get under way at 5:30 p.m.
Matt Hoyt of Campton won the Sprint Cars of New England feature at Legion Speedway.
A belated note from Hudson Speedway: Jay Townsend of Nashua won the recent Don Hayes Memorial event for Roadrunners despite a lot of close pursuit by Farmington’s Andrew Harmon.
Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at email@example.com.