CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wyatt Alexander should have been mad, but he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
It was Monday morning, Sept. 27, just after sunrise and 22-year-old Alexander was on Route 1A on his way to the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, when he hit a deer with his Subaru. The impact destroyed the left-front fender and the airbags deployed, effectively totaling his car.
“I would consider myself an avid outdoorsman. I’ve hunted my whole life and never shot a deer,” Alexander said a few days after the incident. “It’s like a badge of honor in this part of the world and I could never get it done.
“I’ll take it. Maybe not the conventional way, but it’s a buck,” Alexander added with a laugh.
Most people would probably be upset about hitting a deer and totaling a car first thing on a Monday morning, but Alexander isn’t most people.
He was still riding high from what he considers the biggest victory of his racing career 24 hours earlier at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine, during the track’s 100-lap season finale for asphalt super late models.
In most cases that win would’ve been big for Alexander, but it likely wouldn’t have been considered his biggest to date. However, this wasn’t most cases.
Roughly a week prior to Alexander’s victory on championship night at Beech Ridge, it was revealed that Andy Cusack, the owner of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, had reached an agreement to sell the facility to a real estate developer.
The news shocked everyone, including Alexander, who had made Beech Ridge his weekly racing home this season for the first time. The track is a staple on the New England racing scene and many, including his girlfriend, Lindsey Walker, and her family, have grown up attending and competing in races at the third-mile asphalt oval.
Alexander explained that while the news was shocking, it wasn’t overly unexpected.
“The frustration came from the execution and the way it was announced. Everybody was pretty blindsided,” Alexander said. “I don’t think anybody would necessarily be surprised. I mean every race track has rumors surrounding it. It’s no secret Beech Ridge is in a critical area for development. Everything around it has blown up. It’s near the highest-population center in the state. It’s surrounded by houses and housing developments.
“When it’s championship night and you just finished your last race of the season, that’s the last thing on everybody’s mind because why would it come about then,” Alexander explained. “You can’t blame anybody for taking an opportunity to move forward. We are all aware of the situation that the track is in and where it’s located.”
A lot of people were frustrated and most of us can understand why. Race tracks all over the country are disappearing at a rapid pace for the same reason as Beech Ridge — so the land can be redeveloped for commercial or residential use.
There’s a reason Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s show, “Lost Speedways” on the streaming platform Peacock has become so popular. It reminds many of us of our old stomping grounds, the race tracks we grew up attending that are now nothing but memories and pictures in scrapbooks.
For Alexander and many of his closest friends, Beech Ridge is a place where memories were made and friendships were born. So it seems somewhat appropriate that Alexander was the one to win what may turn out to be the final race at the legendary short track.
As of this writing it is unknown if Beech Ridge will host racing next year. The unknown factor is how long it will take for the purchase of the property to be completed. It’s entirely possible that it could be another year, maybe even two, before the track disappears forever.
For now, Alexander is going into the offseason as the most recent Beech Ridge winner. Should it turn out he is, in fact, the final winner in track history, then he’ll proudly wear that badge of honor for the rest of his racing career.
“If that is the end of it, then it is my job for the rest of my life and the rest of my racing career to … I have to wear that and carry it on,” Alexander said. “If I just blow it off like it was nothing, then that’s doing a disservice to everybody.”
That’s why, even after totaling his car on a crisp Maine morning, Alexander was still smiling. It’s just a car after all and combined with the happenings of the day before at Beech Ridge, it makes for one heck of a story.