Former NASCAR driver Andy Santerre brings mobile racing museum to Northern Maine Fair

11 months ago

The dwindling number of car race tracks — down to four in Maine — has made the mission of the Maine Motorsports Mobile Museum all the more important to the racing community.

Former NASCAR driver Andy Santerre, who moved back to Maine in 2012, volunteered to bring the Maine Motorsports Mobile Museum to the 168th Northern Maine Fair. 

Former stock car racer Joe Chamberlain, who requested the unit come to the fair, is one of the museum’s founders.

This visit marked the second time the museum has traveled to Aroostook County — its northernmost trek. The museum tours different parts of the state every year. Its last trip to Aroostook was seven years ago, Santerre said.

“People really appreciate motorsports in The County,” he said. “I am grateful the Maine Vintage Race Car Association let me bring up the Maine Motorsports Museum.”

Former NASCAR Racer Andy Santerre (middle) addresses a crowd gathered inside The Forum about his years of service to the Vintage Race Car Association and his connections to Aroostook County on Aug. 6. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

Santerre began racing with No. 44 because it was the same number his father had raced with in the 1960s. Upon returning to the NASCAR North Busch Series, Santerre reclaimed No. 44 and was champion from 2002 through 2005. Terry Labonte and his family had claimed No. 44 after that, so Santerre drove No. 47 in the NASCAR Busch Series for a few years, Santerre said.

Santerre will be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on Nov. 5.

Family members of racers and others donated their memorabilia to the Maine Motorsports Mobile Museum.

On Sunday, area residents climbed into the large trailer museum to look at the history of Spud Speedway and its racing legends like Erny Levesque, nicknamed “The Flying Frenchman.” Levesque was one of six people inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame who had raced at Spud Speedway.

The Motorsports Mobile Museum is 20 years old.

Local resident Even Carter (middle) views the history of northern Maine racing history inside the Maine Motorsports Traveling Museum at The Forum in Presque Isle on Aug. 6. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

Chamberlain remembers being at the Civic Center in Augusta with his stock car when an announcement was made over the loudspeakers for a meeting to start the Motorsports Mobile Museum and its related Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame. Both are under the Vintage Race Car Association. 

Chamberlain was among the approximately 30 people who attended and he was in the group of 10 who signed up to form the Round Table Voting Committee for the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame, according to Chamberlain.

Six or seven nominations to the hall of fame are selected each year from a list of around 60 applicants, Santerre said. The voting committee this year has 175 nominations on the list to consider.

Any kind of motorsports racer can be in the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame, but the inductees mostly come from stock car racing backgrounds. Other categories being considered are motorcycle, drag and snowmobile racers.

Tom Peters of Presque Isle, who had 100 documented wins, was the first snowmobile racer  inducted into the hall of fame in 2018. Peters began snowmobile racing in the late 1960s and did cross country races. Two of those races began in Madawaska and ended 63 miles later in Caribou.

Peters has also been inducted into the Eastern Snowmobile Racing Hall of Fame in New Hampshire in 2020.

“It was pretty overwhelming for some little guy from Aroostook County to be inducted with a bunch of people like this [into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame],” Peters said.

In 1970, Peters towed a Ski-Doo snowmobile on a homemade trailer with his 1966 Plymouth to Bangor to race against factory teams from Minnesota or Wisconsin. Peters came in second place but won the next day in a consolation race.

The Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame members will meet on Sunday, Aug. 13, at the SummerFest held at Wiscasset Speedway. The event is a fundraiser for the Maine Vintage Race Car Association, which helps support the Maine Motorsports Mobile Museum.