AUGUSTA — Dale Chadbourne first looked to his left, then to his right, and he could barely believe he was standing alongside some of the state’s racing royalty for a photo op.
“We had an old junk car out in the back forty, and we (raced) because we were bored,” Chadbourne said Saturday evening at the Augusta Civic Center. “I’m shocked the little street stock and Modified guy can get into something like this. I’d never dreamt I’d have ended up here.”
Chadbourne, of Woolwich, was one of six inductees into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame’s 2019 class. A three-time driving champion at Wiscasset Speedway, Chadbourne joined former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver and Newburgh native Ricky Craven, Farmington’s Billy Clark, Dick Fowler of Scarborough, engine builder Bob Bailey and drag racer Lomer Pelletier in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019.
“It’s really neat to see these guys,” Chadbourne said. “We didn’t have computers or snowmobiles. We didn’t have anything like that. I never had fancy Pro Stock cars. I started as a crew member at Beech Ridge (in Scarborough), back when it was dirt in the 60s. (Racing) was just something we loved.”
Craven won a pair of NASCAR Cup Series races during his career, the first at Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway in 2001 and the next at South Carolina’s historic Darlington Raceway in 2003. He suffered a serious injury in a violent crash at Talladega SuperSpeedway in Alabama in 1997, returning midway through the season the following year to qualify on the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was one of six poles Craven earned during a Cup career spanning parts of 11 seasons.
Craven remains fond of his days racing in Maine, when he started out as a 15-year-old at Unity Raceway and won the second race he ever entered.
“I’ve grown to appreciate all the people that have come after I competed here, but tonight I get to celebrate the people that came before me and created this for me,” Craven said. “This is different than anything else I’ve participated in, because it’s home. This is the origin. I can talk forever about guys like Dana Graves, Harvey Sprague, Pete Silva, Stan Meserve, Ralph Nason — that’s why I became a race car driver.”
Today, Craven lives in North Carolina and he is a television analyst for NASCAR broadcasts on Fox Sports.
“I grew up in a small town in Maine believing I could be a Cup driver,” Craven said. “I didn’t know any better. There’s a certain amount of value in knowing what you want out of life and not knowing any better. There was plenty of discouragement, but there was never enough that I thought, ‘What am I going to do if I’m not racing cars?’”
Clark won several Oxford Open races during his career in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but his most notable achievement on-track was winning the first ever NASCAR Busch North Series race held in the Northeast in 1987.
Even having done that, he’s not so sure any of that matches up to leading his son, Cassius Clark, to a Pro All Stars Series championship as a crew chief.
“I always used to tease Cassius that I’m not Ricky Craven or (seven-time NASCAR champion) Dale Earnhardt, but I did some things. Here I am,” Billy Clark said. “I probably have more fun watching him drive, I really do.”
Cassius Clark said he came by the competitive gene honestly.
“It’s amazing what he did in the short time that he (raced). He’s pretty deserving,” Cassius said. “I think you’re born with it, the competitiveness. I always wanted to race, and it was obviously helpful having him being who he is.”
The same could be said for the Chadbourne family. In addition to Chadbourne’s three driving titles at Wiscasset, he’s been an owner or a crew chief for seven others — including five for his son, Adam.
Dale gave up racing when Adam was born, but it was his son who brought him back into the sport.
“You could hear the speedway from our house,” Chadbourne said. “We’d be out fishing or something, and he’d say, ‘Dad, can we go to the races?’ Finally he talked me into going, and we almost bought a race car the first night we were there. The day he turned 16, he started racing and I started back into it.”
The Maine Driver of the Year Award was presented to Andrew McLaughlin of Harrington. McLaughlin won three races at Wiscasset Speedway last season and was the track’s Late Model champion with seven top-three finishes and 10 top-fives.
Stephanie Burgess of Fairfield was honored with the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame’s President’s Award.
Travis Barrett — 621-5621