OXFORD — You don’t have to follow short-track racing all that closely to know something about Bob Bahre and who he was.

Bahre, of course, is the man who put Oxford Plains Speedway on the motorsports map. He turned the Oxford 250 into Maine’s signature summer stock car event, one of the cornerstones of the state’s annual sporting calendar. He’s also the person who relied on his own vision — and lots and lots of his own dollar bills — to bring major league auto racing in the form of NASCAR to New England three decades ago.

That’s how people on the outside knew Bob Bahre, who passed away at the age of 93 last week. Those are certainly no small achievements; they are the two or three lines of text that would cap a resume, a lifetime’s worth of work worth celebrating.

It’s not the way those on the inside remember Bob Bahre, whose life will be celebrated this week at Oxford Plains in a ceremony expected to feature replica cars of those driven to prominence at the speedway by Mike Rowe of Turner and the late Al Hammond in the 1970s and 1980s.

“What I remember about Bob has nothing to do with racing,” said Buckfield’s Tim Brackett, 58, a four-time track champion whose career spans more than 40 years at the facility now. “I remember when I got back from the service, I went to Oxford Bank for a loan so I could build a house. He owned the bank at that time. He sees me sitting there and tells the guy, ‘Just give him his damn money so he can get the hell back to work!’

“That’s what I remember about Bob.”

Even Rowe, whose 152 career wins at Oxford are the most by any driver in the track’s history and who’s tied for the most Oxford 250 wins in history with three, doesn’t think of his on-track exploits when it comes to remembering Bahre, who remained a friend of his until Bahre’s passing.

Rowe remembers going to one of the first NASCAR Cup Series races at what was then New Hampshire International Speedway in the mid-1990s and how hard it was to get into the garage area without the appropriate credentials.

“I asked Bob, ‘Who do I have to see to get (garage) passes?’” Rowe recalled last Saturday during a break in the weekly racing program at Oxford. “He turned around and said to whoever was sitting there, ‘Get this guy whatever he needs. He’s made me a lot of money over the years.’ ”

There have been owners that came along after Bob Bahre at Oxford Plains Speedway — and at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, too — but none of them ever became synonymous with the facility like Bahre.

Michael Liberty’s time at Oxford is better known for all of the legal troubles that followed him; Bill Ryan, fairly or otherwise, remains remembered only for which divisions he chose to have compete at the track (and which ones he didn’t). Tom Mayberry, who owns the facility now, is still building a legacy of his own.

It’s been 33 years since Bob Bahre sold Oxford Plains Speedway, yet those who race there remain indebted to him.

“Whether you know it or not, you are,” said Hebron’s Alan Wilson. “Everybody here is indebted to him. I don’t know if this place would still be here today if it weren’t for Bob.”

Without an Oxford Plains, without the allure of an Oxford 250, guys like Brackett and Wilson — each of whom began racing at Oxford as teenagers and whose adulthoods are absolutely entwined in stock car racing on summer Saturday nights at Oxford — can’t imagine what their lives would be like now.

“It’s like the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ where one person affects so many lives,” Wilson said. “Bob Bahre has affected so many lives it’s just unbelievable, and some of those people don’t even know it. I was walking through the pits the other day and realized I know five or six couples who have been married for 25 years or more, because they met here at Bob Bahre’s speedway.

“It’s hard to explain, but every year when it’s the first race, I come through that gate and I’m home. It just feels like I’m home. This is where I was born to be.”

Bob Bahre, who treated everybody like family, likely wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


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