OXFORD, Maine — The Maine motor racing community has lost a legend.
Bob Bahre, former owner of Oxford Plains Speedway and builder of New Hampshire Motor Speedway has died at the age of 93, according to reports.
Maine native and former NASCAR driver Ricky Craven tweeted, "Deeply saddened by the loss of my friend & mentor... Bob Bahre. Bob had a tremendously positive influence on auto racing in New England & its trajectory into NASCAR. He built for the fans & worked for the sport! He had a profound impact on my life... I will miss him."
Another Maine NASCAR native, Austin Therriault, tweeted, "Bob is one of the most generous and thoughtful people I have met over the years. His impact on the New England racing community will never be matched. I'll be thinking of the Bahre family this weekend."
Maine Sen. Susan Collins released a statement Friday on the passing of Bahre, saying "he will be remembered not only not only for his contributions to the sport of racing, but also for his philanthropic support for his community and our state.”
“Bob was an icon in the racing industry and a truly beloved member of the Oxford Hills community," Collins said. "After purchasing Oxford Plains Speedway in the 1960s, Bob and his wife, Sandy, worked hard to successfully turn the track into a popular destination for racing fans, drawing families from throughout New England. Bob went on to found the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and built tracks around the country, cementing his legendary status in the racing world."
BOB BAHRE HONORED AT THE 2019 OXFORD 250
Bob Bahre and his wife Sandy didn't have much when they started out, except a passion for racing. In 1963, they took their midget race car from their home in Connecticut to a struggling track in Oxford, Maine. That trip changed the direction of their lives.
"Bob and I always did things together," says Sandy. "We went to the races together, so if he wanted to rent it or buy it, it was fine by me. I ran the ticket office and kept the points for the racers."
The young couple rented and then purchased Oxford Plains Speedway, and together, they built it into a point of pride in the community – driving customers in by making fan experience a top priority, and attracting big-name drivers like Bobby Allison and Richard Petty.
The Oxford 250 began in 1974 as a 200-lap race. Bob added the extra 50 laps the following year to make sure racers had to pit. His investment in the track, and in Mainers' love of racing, paid off.
"It went well. We were lucky," says Bob.
Bahre sold Oxford Plains Speedway in 1987 to focus on a much larger project.
The Bahre family bought Bryar Motorsports Park on Loudon, New Hampshire and opened the doors of New Hampshire International Speedway in 1990.
He lured NASCAR to the track in 1993 for several events.
Bahre was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
Speedway Motorsports executives issued the following statements in regards to Bahre's death:
Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman:
“Bob Bahre was a true pioneer for motorsports in New England. He wanted to grow our sport and build things that people will remember. He was a smart businessman and I have a lot of respect for that, but I have even more respect for the positive impact he had on people. I’ll pray for Sandy and Gary during this tough time, and I know they are proud of the legacy Bob leaves behind.”
Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO:
“What I’ll remember most about Bob Bahre will be his character, understated yet charming. Every time I saw him he had on khakis and a white shirt. I always enjoyed our genuine conversations. He was very generous to people in the motorsports industry and to the New England communities where he did business. He went about things in a quiet, dignified manner and often times that simple approach is the most impactful. It’s truly an honor to have known Bob. He lived a meaningful life. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. ”
David McGrath, NHMS Executive Vice President and General Manager:
“On behalf of our team at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to Sandy, Gary and the entire Bahre family. Bob left an incredible mark on auto racing through the New England region, and his love of motorsports was legendary. He had a passionate commitment to both drivers and race fans, and that commitment was evident when he built our facility in 1990. I am proud to have known Bob. It was a true pleasure to have spent time getting to know him and learning from him over the years. He will be missed, but his legacy of supporting and building motorsports in New England will live on forever.”