AUGUSTA — For an organization dedicated to the past, its current concern is the future.

When Andy Austin was named the new president of the Maine Vintage Race Car Association this fall, his vision didn’t entail a complete overhaul of the niche organization or re-imagining of what the MVRCA should be.

He simply wanted to marry the state’s auto racing traditions with the ever-changing digital age.

“Racing isn’t casting the net that it was 30 or 40 years ago,” Austin said Saturday during the 31st annual Northeast Motorsports Expo at the Augusta Civic Center. “We’re a hobbyist sport, but with a rich history and a passionate group of people in it. That’s what we have to preserve.”

Austin, 44, of Saco, has been involved in motorsports for nearly three decades now. He started out as a young crew member for longtime competitor Barney McRae on the old NASCAR Busch North Series, before spending the next 25 years as a track announcer at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. He’s had stints at other tracks, too, and it’s fitting that somebody who spent most of his career in the sport perched high atop grandstands with a view of everything that happened both on and off the track is now charged with helping bridge the gap between generations.

The MVRCA has more than 300 current members and a board of nine directors. The organization has three signature interests — the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame, Summerfest and its most visible undertaking, the traveling mobile motorsports museum.

Austin stood alongside that rolling museum Saturday as he talked about his appreciation for the photos, the memorabilia and the stories encased there.

“I’d like for what the founders started to reach its full potential,” Austin said. “We want to be at the center of consciousness for the Maine race fan. We want to be on the tip of their tongue like Oxford Plains Speedway is, like Beech Ridge Motor Speedway is, like Wiscasset Speedway is, like their favorite drivers are.

“The club doesn’t exist without them.”

If there’s something the MVRCA does well, it’s collecting photos — thousands of them, in fact — of racers and their cars from bygone eras. Where show-goers this weekend saw scrapbooks and photo albums sprawled across folding tables in front of the museum’s trailer, Austin saw potential.

Social media is a breeding ground for photo sharing, and Austin’s own love of scrolling through history via pictures on the internet sparked an idea on which he believes his organization needs to capitalize.

Instagram is a photo-sharing app in the social media world. Moreover, it’s wildly popular with younger generations — exactly the target audience Austin seeks when he thinks about how to bring Maine’s motorsports history to its newest fan base.

“I want to bridge the gap between technology and the people who founded (the MVRCA), people like Bob Morris and Bruce Elder,” Austin said. “It’s about the younger generation now, the people who are interested in the legacy of their fathers and grandfathers.”

Austin, and others like him who grew up surrounded by auto racing’s community, now in their mid-40s, are the liaison between Maine’s motorsports generations. While perhaps reluctant initially to take a leadership position, Austin realized it was something he needed to do for a sport that’s given him plenty over the years.

“If I’m standing in a garage listening to guys like Dick Wolstenhume tell stories and we don’t share those stories somehow, then those stories die then and there,” Austin said. “This is the way to give back.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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