Back in 2000, what is now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East was a different place as some of the fans and competitors of the tour took part in the first ever Busch Sports Scene Charity Snowmobile ride in Rangeley, Maine.
Brad Leighton was the newly crowned first-time champion of what was then known as the NASCAR Busch North Series. He had just beaten Tracy Gordon and Dave Dion for the crown after taking part in a 1999 schedule that included such tracks as the now defunct Riverside Park Speedway (MA), Star Speedway (NH), Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) and Jennerstown Speedway (PA). At that point, the tour was still a regional one - with the top 13 point getters of 1999 all calling New England home.
There was a true sense of community in the series back in those days, which was one of the reasons why George Campbell, the publisher of the Busch Sports Scene newspaper, decided to hold the first charity snowmobile ride. It was a chance for everyone to get together and have some fun in the off-season and raise some money for charity.
Last weekend, what was the final ride took place in Rangeley and there was no doubt what stood out the most in Campbell's mind.
“Without question, it's the fun we have all had gathering here,” said Campbell. “The 12 years went by so fast, and I can assure you there was a ton of work behind it all, but what I remember is all the very special people that gathered here over the many years to support me and this event. I can't help but look back and remember all the laughs we had.”
The string of charity rides ended on a great note - with money being raised through the ride and an auction that took place during the evening at Moose Alley in Rangeley.
“This year's ride was amazing,” said Campbell. “We had the place filled by the time the auction began, and everyone was so generous with their bidding. Our total is not finalized yet as we have a few donations coming by mail, but we will easily top $10,000 for a total raised this year. That brings our total amount raised in the events 12 year history to over $125,000. I am truly amazed.
“Some items were out of control. The Wes Welker signed/framed/matted photo went for $875 and there were a number of similar items that went for over $500. People we so generous with their bidding this year, it was honestly surprising how generous people were.”
Raising over $100,000 for a number of worthy charities is something that Campbell never dreamed of when he started the event.
“It was never my intention to raise this much money, but each year the totals just seem to climb and now looking back, I am impressed at what the close knit group of people were able to accomplish, all in the name of having some fun.”
And having fun has been the name of the game for the charity ride.
“I really feel blessed with such great friends,” said Campbell. “I am always reminded at this event at what great friends I have made in the sport over the years. Whether people are here each year or send their support in other ways, it shows me what great people I have been fortunate to be surrounded by.”
Don't expect Campbell to be like The Eagles or Mark Martin either when it comes to the Busch Sports Scene charity ride. When he said that this was the final one and that he is retiring, he means it.
“No, I am done,” said Campbell when asked if he was reconsidering his decision. “I no longer publish Busch Sport Scene and will no longer have an avenue to give this event the dedication it needs - or deserves from me.
“I will not miss the work leading up to it. I have so little time to spend with everyone during the actual event, I wish that was different, but maybe we can all come back the same weekend next year just to hang out and have some fun.”