Revving up for the races

BARK RIVER – Scott Beauchamp of Gladstone has the vision. He doesn’t quite have the means yet, but that’s not stopping him.

Beauchamp, who relishes his underdog status in the Pro Light division of TORC Series racing, hopes to make the hometown crowd happy this weekend in Bark River as he sets his sights on a top-five finish.

Beauchamp is one of a handful of local drivers looking for a big weekend at home Saturday and Sunday at the Bark River International Raceway, as the races return to the area for the second time this season.

He made the leap to the pro ranks a couple seasons ago after dominating the Super Stock Truck circuit that his cousin, Dan Beauchamp, has now won in back-to-back seasons, and hopes to make a good showing in this weekend as well.

Scott Beauchamp’s beginnings in Pro Light are reminiscent of his start in the Super Stock Truck class in some ways. The competition has been ratcheted up big time and one of the key changes has been the level of sponsor that drivers on the top tier have on their side.

“The main thing at this level is to land the truck sponsorships that take you to the ultimate level,” Beauchamp said. “We have a good sponsor in Stewart Manufacturing, and they’ve been helping us out for years and have done wonders for us, but we still need that big corporate sponsor to take us to the next level. Right now, I’m trying to be a big-time racer on a privateer budget.”

“There’s a tier system, it’s a like a well-oiled machine up at the top. We’re trying to run with what we’ve got. You want the truck to run as fast as it can, but still be able to finish races.”

That’s easier said then done for the middle tier which Beauchamp finds himself in.

“You want to get the truck dialed in for qualifying. If you can qualify in the top-6, you start out in front of the pack and you have a chance to get out of the chaos,” said Beauchamp. “The further back you are, the worse it is.”

Beauchamp, who currently sits in 11th in the points standings, says he’s starting to become accustomed to the increased challenge, and is making some headway as well.

At Crandon in late June, he secured an 8th place finish, despite some problems.

“We were running in sixth or seventh place 3-4 laps in at Crandon when we ended up burning a spark plug wire off,” said Beauchamp. “We ended up finishing eighth, which was still a pretty good run for us. Hopefully Bark River treats us nice, a top-five finish is what we’re hoping for.

“It’s been going pretty good, but we’re definitely still working out some kinks in the truck. Right now, we’re getting a good grasp on the suspension aspect on the sway bar range to make the truck handle better.”

Beauchamp mentioned another key change in the pro division is increased difficulty of the track.

“In the years that I ran this track in Super Stock, the track has been repetitive. This year, the TORC Series has people travel with them to do track preparation, changing the jump arrangements,” said Beauchamp. “It makes the track really difficult to get set up on, suspension wise, so it challenges us on setup.

“What we’re learning is that in the one practice you get, you have to make adjustments to get the truck dialed in for qualifying. The new track prep crew makes it very interesting for everybody. Bark River used to be more of a hometown advantage. Now that they switch up the track, it’s more about getting the truck ready.”

Other local drivers in the Pro Light circuit are Mark Kleiman and his son Cody of Wilson, who currently sit 14th and 16th in the points standings respectively.

“We run with the Kleimans at times,” said Beauchamp. “Right now we’re ahead of them in points, sitting in 11th, and considering we missed the first weekend out in Nevada, we’re doing pretty good at the moment. I’m proud about that.

“Another guy in that middle of the pack group is Joe Sylvester (currently in 10th). He’s a former monster truck guy who transitioned into Pro Light racing. Travis Dinsmore (8th) out of Canada we also run against at times. We’re all in that mid pack trying to get into the top-five.”

Switching gears to the buggy class of racing, local driver Brad Erickson of Wilson has been running near the top of the 1600 Buggy class for a decade. He currently sits second in points and has had three runner-up finishes this season. Mark Steinhardt currently has the points lead with a 12-point cushion.

“It’s nothing we can’t overcome. We have a pretty reliable car,” Erickson said. “We go through it every race with a fine-tooth comb, check what we need to check and make sure everything is good.”

Erickson, who grew up watching the races at Bark River, recalls watching from his uncle’s house which sits down near the starting line.

“We’ll have a lot of family and a lot of friends down here, so hopefully we’ll be running good,” Erickson said. “The thing about coming home, 90 percent of my sponsors are right here, there’s R&R Tire, Hilltop, RRN. Growing up here, you pretty much know everyone.”

Having two race weekends at Bark River this season just makes the deal sweeter for Erickson.

“It’s nice having two races at Bark River. We saved half the money in traveling costs. Having one additional race at Crandon and one more at Bark River, instead of going to Chicagoland and Red Bud…anytime you can cut costs, it’s a good thing. I’m definitely excited to stay home again.”

Erickson won an overall points championship in 1600 Buggy in 2011 and has finished in second seven times in the last 10 years.

“I’ve been second fiddle,” he said. “if you don’t win, you’re second.”

Weekend passes at the Raceway are $35 or $25 per day for anyone 10 and over. Kids nine and under are free. Camping is also available for $35 for the weekend.

Nightly entertainment includes the band Driver, performing Friday night from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Hot Rod Express, which will perform Saturday night from 8:30 p.m. to midnight.

Race schedule follows:

Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20

9-9:30 – Sportsman practice

9:30-10:15 – Qualifying for all Pro classes

10:50-11 – Opening ceremonies

11:30-11:50 – Stock Truck and Classix

12:10-12:30 – 1600 Light Buggy

12:50-1:10 – Super Truck, Formula 4×4 & Limited 4×4

1-2 – Autograph signing for all Pro classes

1:30-1:50 – 1600 Buggy

2:10-2:30 – Super Buggy

2:50-3:10 – Super Stock Truck

3:30-3:50 – Pro Light

4:10-4:30 – Pro 2

4:50-5:10 – Pro 4