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The July 2020 passing of Bob Bahre is a sad time for everyone involved in New England motorsports. Bob’s contributions to racing in New England were huge.
He was inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame in 2009. He was also inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Along with others including Vic Yerardi and Al Novotnik, Bob developed and promoted the Vintage Celebration at his New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In its early days, the Celebration was simply spectacular with the garage filled with period correct Indy cars, sprints and midgets. The noise of their Offy engines exploded into the summer air with their own brand of music and their tart exhaust aroma. Beautifully restored race cars of every type were welcomed and they came and were enjoyed by so many.
In these divisive times in which we live, back then auto racing had Bob Bahre to bring us together. He had time for everyone from millionaires to the kid looking up at a driver in a white firesuit.
Along his magical trip to bring top level racing to New England, he bought Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway in 1964. He soon invented the Oxford 250 (originally the Oxford 200) along with weekly racing that was so good that it drew crowds so big Bob added more seats until his track had greater capacity than any other in New England. And on many days and nights, he sold tickets for every one of those seats.
His first Cup races were booked when he owned Oxford. Bobby Allison won his first Cup (then Grand National) event there in 1966. Bob promoted two more Cup races at Oxford before the series became too big for small tracks like Oxford.
He saw his future in big league NASCAR which was growing rapidly, so he sold Oxford and began preparing for his greatest adventure: bringing big league racing to New England for the first time since 1928.
He acquired the Bryar Motorsports Park in Loudon, NH along with other adjacent properties with which he created New Hampshire International Speedway. The obstacles he overcame to build the track were monumental. Unable to obtain a permit for suites, when he learned the denial came because the town didn’t have a ladder fire truck that could reach that high, Bob solved the problem. He bought a ladder truck and gave it to the town. In turn, he got the permit to build the suites. He blasted ledge, built a tunnel under the track big enough for trailer trucks and did everything he could think of to ensure the comfort and safety of racing’s fans.
NHIS opened in 1990 with a Busch race. Bob knew from the beginning that he had to have NASCAR’s top division if his new track would be successful. He petitioned Bill France Jr. for a date who first told Bob his chances “…were somewhere between slim and none.” But, Bob persevered and finally, NASCAR awarded him the track’s first Cup date in 1993. Then, he pulled a brilliant maneuver to bring a second Cup date to his track. New England watched the biggest motorsports series in the country twice each year and we bought every ticket for every Cup seat Bob Bahre ever had at his new track. He achieved sold-out attendance for every top division NASCAR race he ran at NHIS.
He always loved vintage cars, especially Packard’s. He built a massive two story garage on his property in South Paris, Maine where he lived with his wife Sandra and son Gary. He filled that garage with priceless cars of the past. As such, with a love of old cars, he was one of us. A barn at the upper level included a library, vintage cars and even a horse-drawn carriage. Like NEAR’s membership, Bob appreciated the beauty of the past.
Each year he opened the collection to all who wanted to see it and donated the money that came from the event to the local library.
Bob started in business when his mother bought a Sears welder on time so he could learn a trade. With it, Bob built trailers. But, as a young man he moved on to ultimately earn a fortune developing real estate. First there were single family houses, then apartment buildings and then strip malls. What began as a single spec house became a real estate empire. Bob’s hard work and smart decisions resulted in the millions of dollars he used to build New Hampshire International Speedway.
He bought and sold a local bank located near his office several times. He always bought for less and sold for more. He explained his business success to Speedway employee Cheryl LaPrade saying, “I just got lucky, kid.”
His success was the result of so much more than luck. Involving his family in the business was part of the story. His had an extraordinary level of common sense. And courage. He built NHIS without a NASCAR promise of Cup series races. He made consistently good decisions and had the tenacity to achieve lofty goals. The reputation he earned as a fair and honest man helped more than this humble man would have ever admitted.
He was a generous man in many ways, sending annual donations to local churches and other charities. He made sure everyone who came to his track to race went home with money in their pocket, even if they failed to qualify. He was a mentor to many but especially to Cup winner turned TV personality, Ricky Craven.
Most multi-millionaires learned business at Wharton or Harvard Business School. Bob never finished high school.. From the first shovel that moved dirt on the property, he believed the track in which he was so heavily invested would fail without at least on top level NASCAR date. He built NHIS almost entirely using his own money so the risk was high.
He loved auto racing and old cars but his first love was his family, his wife Sandra and his son Gary. Both played active roles in Bob’s business life. They built a mansion on Lake Winnipesaukee for he and Sandy and another right next door for Gary. Bob never truly liked the big house and spent his final days in South Paris, Maine in the former home of Governor Hannibal Hamlin, a home built in 1848, where he lived before the lake property was built. Bob was more comfortable in that old house with his car collection just steps away than in the shiny newness of Longview on the lake.
The man in the kaki pants with the white shirt and yellow sweater was a certified New England treasure. We’ll never see another like him again.
2020 NEAR Hall of Fame Cancelled.
The NEAR Board Members and Hall of Fame Executive Committee Representatives met at the ProNyne Motorsports Museum this past Sunday. After much discussion and after holding off as long as possible, we gave in to common sense. The decision was unanimously made to cancel the 2020 NEAR Hall of Fame Banquet.
As hard as this decision was to make, it was the right one. The Covid 19 pandemic has not moved on. Our facility for the event is still not open in Ct. A great number of our membership and honorees are in the highest risk group for infection. In the interest of being as safe as possible, we will regroup and try to have a stellar event in 2021!
Please note that all nominations for the 2020 Hall will be retained for consideration in 2021. We will continue to accept additional nominations until April of 2021. We thank any and all that have had a hand in the planning, sponsoring, and putting on of this event. Please continue to be safe and God Bless.
Edward Everett West, age 79, lifelong resident of Dunstable, MA crossed his final finish line this past Wednesday evening April 15, 2020 when he passed away at his home.
Born in Ayer, MA on January 7, 1941, Edward was the son of the late Edward Sr. and Julia (Steinholtz) West. Edward was the middle of three children. He graduated from Lowell High School in 1958.
He was fast paced and always on the go, right up until the end of his life. He was beloved and admired by anyone that came in contact with him, and he was recognized everywhere he went across the country to the delight of his grandchildren. A talented super modified race car driver, he won more New England Super Modified Championships than any other driver in history and was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1999. Most recently, he was an honoree at the North East Motor Sports Museum Legends Day in 2019 in Loudon, NH.
A skilled mechanic, he owned and operated West Auto Repair for over 40 years. He served his community and leaves behind many lifelong friends. Edward’s greatest joy in life was his family. He never missed an event that involved his grandchildren, which included games, recitals, concerts, and many performances. His eyes lit up when speaking about his cherished grandchildren. Often referred to as the mayor of Dunstable, friends and customers from near and far would spend hours in his office receiving counseling in many areas of life, especially nutrition.
Edward is survived by his two children: Brian and wife Jennifer (Doviak) West of Dunstable and their two children, Sophia and Emma; as well as Jodi and husband David Daron of Londonderry and their five children, Casey, Grady, Killian, Sullivan and Finnegan. He is also survived by his brother Harold and his wife Lorraine (Crooker) West of Dunstable. Along with his parents, Edward is predeceased by his sister Sharon West-Knight.
Edward will be laid to rest privately at Central Cemetery in Dunstable on Tuesday, April 21st at 10AM. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date when the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. To attend Ed’s service on April 21st remotely, please follow the link: http://client.tribucast.com/tcid/36617032
The family would like to express our deepest appreciation to some very special people who have helped us over the years in caring for Ed in numerous ways. The family cannot thank enough Sarah, Frank and Harold for their undevoted love and support for Ed and his family.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Edward’s memory to North East Motor Sports Museum . Donations can be made online at nesmmuseum.com or by sending a check to North East Motor Sports Museum at 922 Rt. 106 in Loudon, NH 03307.
After the short ceremony has concluded at the cemetary the Dunstable police will lead us in a quiet lap past Ed’s casket via a parade in our vehicles. If you would like to participate to memoralize Ed as he is laid to rest please arrive at the Groton Dunstable regional high school parking lot located at 703 Chicopee Rd. in Groton, MA no later than 10AM.
For the safety of all we ask that you please REMAIN IN YOUR CARS AT ALL TIMES to keep everyone safe. The ceremony at the cemetary will be live broadcast so feel free to tune in via your phones (here is the link: http://client.tribucast.com/tcid/36617032) The police will lead us in a procession to the cemetary where we ask that there be no horn beeping or yelling out instead be respectful and please have your flashing lights on in your vehicle. Feel free to make a sign to hang on the driver’s side of your car (preferably with a checkered flag decor if you have the supplies at home to make such a thing) in Ed’s memory and to show the immediate family your love and support. God willing we will have Ed’s 61Jr. be the final car in the parade to go by his casket and family.
These are crazy times that we are living in these days so why not add one more crazy thing to our life … a memorial victory lap around the Dunstable Cemetary to celebrate the life of a Ed West in a safe and proper social distancing way.
Gutted to learn that Supermodified hero Eddie West has passed. Chatting with Westy at the annual New England Auto Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame dinners always made that great day even better. Naturally, he was an inductee, part of the NEAR HoF Class of 1999. Some called him “the Golden Bear,” but his coolest nickname was “Goin’ West,” and if he was on the track he was generally goin’ toward the front. Eddie is second on the New England Supermodified Racing Association (NESMRA) all-time win list, with 106 victories from northern New England to Vero Beach, Florida. He was also a six-time track champion at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway, where he won New England’s biggest Supermodified race, the Star Classic, three times. Before Star Speedway existed, Eddie won the Can-Am Classic at nearby Lee Raceway. One last thing: for much of his adult life, Westy suffered from brutal arthritis. There are stories of him popping aspirin as if they were M&M’s just to dull the pain enough to climb in and out of his race car. So anytime you start trying to define what the word “tough” means, consider Eddie West racing in pain, winning in pain, and walking through life in pain, masking it all with grace and a smile. Thinking today of his family, his wide circle of friends, and the entire Supermodified community. There goes a legend. — Bones
We have lost one of the most prominent figures in the northeast racing community. Russ Conway died yesterday August 20th. He was brought to his first race by his father Paul in 1956 at the Pines Speedway. His father worked on the fire rescue team at the track. His passion for auto racing and its people lasted for his entire life. He got his start writing for the Pines Speedway as a teenager and then attended Northeastern University and got his first major assignment covering the Boston Bruins in 1967 at age 18.
Russ teamed up with Ken Smith and Charlie Elliot in the late 1960s to build Star Speedway and formed NESMRA which ran supermodified races up and down the east coast for over 20 years. He was the co-founder to some of New England’s biggest auto races which are still going strong today. These events include the Star Classic, World Series of Speedway Racing, Oktoberfest of Racing. He worked at the Eagle-Tribune for years and his investigative journalism efforts helped bring down Alan Eagleson on charges of corruption with the National Hockey League Players Association. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He was a part of the original 6 board members with the North East Motor Sports Museum and created its first major annual event, Legends Day.
Funeral and calling hour arrangements have not been finalized.
Originally posted by the North East Motor Sports Museum
The NEAR Hall of Fame Class for 2019 has been decided. The gentlemen to be honored on
Sunday, November 10, 2019 are:
Mike Joy – National Motorsports Broadcast Legend
Ed Flemke Jr. – Modified Tour driver/Chassis Builder
Wayne Dion – Multi -Division Driving Champion
Vinny Annarumo – Pro Stock/Modified Seekonk 7 time Champion
Jack Doyle – Drag Racer, Promoter, Legend
Brad LaFontaine – Modified Championship Crew Chief /Chassis Fabricator/Parts Business Owner
Ric Mariscal – Founder/Conservator of the ProNyne Motorsports Museum in Pawtucket, RI
Bob Webber Sr. – Owner of Star and Hudson Speedways in NH
Congratulations to all those being enshrined into the HOF at Maneely’s Banquet Hall, 65 Rye Street, South Windsor, CT
Order forms for tickets are available lower on this post.
Please plan on attending this is sure to be a sold out event.
Advertising opportunities as well as congratulatory messages are available in The Hall of Fame Book. These are popular keepsakes for all Banquet attendees. Please consider supporting NEAR activities with your message!
It soon will be time to unveil the members of the 2020 Class of the NEAR Hall of Fame. Preparations are underway to celebrate their induction at Maneeley’s Banquet Facility in South Windsor, Ct. The banquet will be held on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.
We must prepare for 2020, so here are the forms needed to nominate a deserving person for the Hall. Please click on and download from the links provided and mail to the address on the form.
HISTORIC MOTOR SPORTS EXPOSITION COMES TO LOUDON
LOUDON, NH: On Saturday May 4th the North East Motor Sports Museum (922 Route 106 Loudon, NH) will host the most diverse regional gathering of historical race cars, mobile museums, personalities and artifacts ever seen in New England. The expo will feature a variety of different racing disciplines including road racing, oval track racing, drag racing, off-road racing and more.
The featured attractions of the day will be all of the northeast’s mobile museums that will appear together for the first time. The museums are Ron Bouchard Racing, New England Antique Racers, Maine Vintage Race Car Association, Bob Doyle Museum – A Photo History of Vermont Racing and the Ollie Silva Museum. Two museums with physical building locations the ProNyne Motorsports Museum and Owls Head Transportation Museum will also join us.
1992 and 1993 NASCAR Busch North Champion the “Irish Angel” Dick McCabe, six time American Canadian Tour Champion Robbie Crouch and the only four time NASCAR Busch North Series Champion Andy Santerre will join us as our featured personalities. Museum president Dick Berggren will host conversations throughout the day with all three champions.
For one day only the museum will host a diverse group of cars from beyond New England’s boarders. See a 1984 March Indycar driven by Danny Ongais, a Formula 5000 racer in addition to New England classics such as the 1400 horsepower Country Girl Funny Car and stock cars from the Senior Tour Auto Racers club.
Join us on Saturday May 4th from 10am to 3pm and enjoy the one day exhibits as well as the museums 30+ cars, slot car track and iRacing Simulator. We rev up the engines at noon which will be followed by a barbeque lunch and we end the day with giveaway prizes. Members are admitted free to the museum with free lunch and non-members pay $10 entry free and a small donation for lunch. To display your historic race car or artifacts call executive director Tom Netishen at 603-783-0183. A rain date of May 5th has been set and Groupons are not accepted for this event.
About: The North East Motor Sports Museum is owned by the Racing History Preservation Group, a 501-c-3 educational non-profit organization that seeks to discover, preserve and share the history of motorsports in the Northeast. The 10,000 square foot museum opened in 2017 on the grounds of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH.