AUGUSTA — While a long, cold winter is delaying the start of stock car racing here in central Maine, hundreds of longtime enthusiasts celebrated the sport’s rich history Saturday evening.

Seven individuals were inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame, as the Class of 2014 took center stage at the Augusta Civic Center. This was the 11th annual ceremony presented by the Maine Vintage Race Car Association (MVRCA).

Bob Alexander, Jim Burns, Rodney ‘Chink’ Maynard, Mike Rowe, Bruce Elder, the late Leland Kangas and Bob Tibbetts were all recognized for their outstanding contributions to the sport. With these seven men, the Hall now holds 72 members representing all parts of the state and all aspects of involvement.

Alexander, of Ellsworth, started racing at Spud Speedway in Caribou back in 1972. He was nicknamed “The Bounty Hunter,” for his tendency to come in and claim the big-money races. Alexander won over 100 feature events in a 22-year career that took him to Unity, Wiscasset and Speedway 95, among other tracks.

“This is truly an honor for me,” Alexander said. “To be included with the caliber of guys in this group means a lot. I’ve never been recognized at this level, so I’m a little overwhelmed. I made a lot of great friends in racing, and really enjoyed working on the cars. The sport has been very kind to me and been a big part of my life.”

Burns, of Winslow, also won over 100 features in a stellar career that spanned nearly three decades. He competed at over two dozen tracks across the northeast and down into the mid-Atlantic. Burns enjoyed a great deal of success driving for the O’Connor’s in NASCAR’s old North Tour. He was considered a threat to win wherever he raced and respected by drivers of all ages.

“I had a long and successful career thanks to some great car owners,” Burns said. “I was lucky to drive for some top-notch people that ensured I had everything I needed to win. We worked hard, but we all had some fun with it, as well. I’m thankful for this honor and will treasure this plaque for life.”

Elder, of Windham, started out as a driver in the mid 1960s but is widely known as the longtime announcer at the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough. Elder drove the famed No. 9 to Class C titles at “The Ridge,” but since those early days has served the sport in a number of positions. Active in the MVRCA, Elder has worked tirelessly to promote Maine racing history himself. For him to be part of this class is only fitting, given a half-century commitment to the sport.

“This is certainly a great honor for which I am so very thankful,” Elder said. For over 50 years, I’ve had the support of many great people, including Bob and Larry Tanguay, Phil Libby, and the Cuscak family. It was encouragement from those folks that allowed me to progress in racing, and I’ve made so many lasting relationships within the sport. I’ve been blessed, and I’ve loved this sport with all my heart.”

Kangas, who resided in West Paris, made a huge impact on racing in western and central Maine. As driver of the famed blue and white No. 71, Kangas touched the lives of fans across the region. He earned nearly 50 feature wins in a 17-year career, including Late Model championships in the 1980s. Anybody who knew him spoke at length about his talent, determination and great sense of humor.

“Dad would be so very proud tonight,” his daughter Kim said as she joined Leland’s widow Debra at the podium. “I have to thank Minna Morgan and Danny Gould, Dad’s longtime car owners. They gave him the best equipment possible, and Dad won a ton of races for them. He always loved the sport and anybody who helped his program; we’re just so proud to see his career recognized here tonight.”

Rowe, of Turner, is easily the most accomplished and widely known member of this special group. With 200 feature wins in a 45-year career, 16 championships and three Oxford 250 victories, the man known as the “King of Oxford” owns career numbers that may never be duplicated in the modern era.

“I’ve had a lot of highlights in my career, but one that really stands out in my mind was when my sons Ben and Tom qualified for the 250 with me,” Rowe said. “I am still enjoying driving, but this year I’ll focus on my grandson’s (Gunnar) efforts. I’ve had a ton of success with some great teams, and driven for the best owners in racing. I didn’t get here without a lot of support, and I appreciate everybody that worked on my cars over the years. It’s been incredible to do so well, and now to be recognized for it.”

Tibbetts, a lifelong farmer from Norway, drove for Skip Watkins and made the most of the equipment he was given. His team worked with a smaller budget than most, yet didn’t let that affect their plans. They were true innovators, often beating up on teams with far more resources available. It was skill, hard work and effort that won races in their day.

“We sure had some great tricks back in the day, and they worked pretty well for us,” Tibbetts said. “Skip was a true friend, a smart man and real innovator. I wouldn’t have done so well without him. I enjoyed quite a ride in racing, and to receive this honor tonight makes it all seem worthwhile.”

MVRCA officials also presented two Special Recognition Awards to men who also made a significant contribution to the sport. Longtime car builder Keith Fuller and veteran flagman Eddie Walsh were chosen this year, with Walsh having waved the flags at Beech Ridge for 37 years.


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