Oxford native invited to Vermont track’s 50-year reunion

HARRISON — You can hear it in his voice the moment the subject is mentioned. Whenever the topic of early dirt track stock car racing is discussed with Glen Andrews, a distinct sense of pride comes through.

And rightfully so. Andrews, 74, was among the top drivers on the northern New England dirt track scene back in the 1950s and ’60s. One of the Harrison resident’s major accomplishments is being recognized this weekend.

On Saturday, Andrews will attend the 50-year reunion celebration at historic Northeastern Speedway, in Waterford, Vt. The 1/5-mile oval operated from 1959 to 1966. Andrews won eight races and earned the track championship there in 1960, driving a red and white 1938 Plymouth Coupe known affectionately among race fans as ‘The Lady Bug.’

“I was very surprised to learn about the track’s restoration,” Andrews said. “The place was so grown up with trees and brush, I never thought anybody would take on such a big project. I’m very excited about attending the 50-year reunion. I have some great memories from Northeastern, it has a special place in my heart.”

Andrews was only 14 years old when he drove his first race at Oxford Plains Speedway. His long and storied career includes feature wins at several tracks, including Oxford, Unity, the old Arundel Speedway and the famed Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vt. Along with a roomful of trophies, Andrews also received the Sportsmanship Award in 1950 from Oxford founder George Damon.

“When I started, I was racing against the other drivers and their cars. After a while, I figured out you need to race the track. I started being more patient, picking the right places to pass. Once I did that, the wins started coming. Racing was and still is a thinking man’s game.”

In late 1959, his brother Rodney, who also raced and lived in Littleton, N.H., asked Glen to drive his car at Northeastern. Glen won the feature, and was immediately hooked on the track. He ran the last four or five events of the season, then went full-time in 1960. Andrews credits his mechanic, Gene Remick, and longtime car owners, Harold Bates and Bernard Perkins, as major factors in his success.

“Gene was the brother of Dwayne Remick, who won a lot of races at Northeastern,” Andrews said. “His skills were a big reason the No. 16 was so fast. Harold and Bernard were great to drive for, they understood what we needed to be competitive and made sure we had it.”

Northeastern Speedway sat idle from the fall of 1966 until the land it sits on was purchased by Presque Isle native and Waterford, Vt., resident Paul Bellefeuille in April 2008. In the 15 months since, Bellefeuille has steadily undone what more than 40 years of neglect had done. That involved a tremendous amount of tree cutting, grading, rock removal and planting.

When dozens of restored vintage Coupes from around New England (at least seven of which actually raced at Northeastern) converge on the track on July 18, it’ll be the ultimate reward for Bellefeuille. He can finally put away the tools and enjoy seeing former drivers like 1959 track champion Johnny Gammell and Andrews recognized at their old speedway.

“Having guys like Glen come over to enjoy the place again and get recognized is why I bought the place and did all the work,” Bellefeuille said. “I’ve been a race fan for 30 years, and this track restoration will help generate some well-deserved recognition for some of the sport’s early stars. Glen was successful all over New England, but he was especially good on the dirt at Northeastern.”

For Andrews, a chance to gather and reminisce with other retired drivers and see the old cars means a lot. Today’s race fans are beginning to recognize the importance of the sport’s history, and that’s just fine with Andrews.

“Racing is a lot different today,” he said. “While it’s good to see all of these young drivers making their mark in the sport, it’s also nice to see those of us who were successful years ago get a little recognition. We worked hard back then, as well, and to have somebody work so hard to show their appreciation means a great deal to me.”

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