Even if Frank Noiles Jr. wanted to leave his position at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, the track’s ownership has made it clear to him that’s not an option.
"A couple of times I tried to get done, a couple of times where it wasn’t fun that year, it was a rough year, we had a lot of things and I just said ‘I think I’ll take a break,’" Noiles said. "And owner Andy Cusack just said, ‘Nope, you’ve got a lifetime contract.’ And I’m like, ‘Let me see it,’ and he just goes, ‘I’ve got in here somewhere, I’ll let you see it someday.’"
Noiles has worked in various positions at Beech Ridge – a NASCAR-sanctioned third-mile asphalt oval in Scarborough, Maine – for 38 years. After starting as an assistant flagman, he worked his way up to race control. He was inducted into the track’s Hall of Fame in 2002, and has become such a indelible part of Beech Ridge’s history he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, one of only 21 people to be given the honor.
Beech Ridge’s Lifetime Achievement Award "is presented to people of unmatched stature within this sport and speedway who have given a lifetime career of service to the track," according to the track’s website.
"They are people of good character and integrity, giving their 100 percent best to make racing at Beech Ridge what it has become today, and what it will become tomorrow. They are people who have consistently put aside their own interests in order that everybody else’s interest could be best served."
"It was quite an honor," Noiles said. "Something I didn’t expect. Don’t know if I really deserved it or not but they thought I did.
"That’s my home. According to Andy I have a lifetime contract. I can’t quit."
Noiles began attending races at Beech Ridge when he was six years old. He and his dad were both race fans, watching NASCAR and IndyCar whenever either was on TV, and going to their local short track every Saturday night.
"My dad had it bad," Noiles said. "He’d always say, ‘I’m not going, I’m not going.’ He’d be looking outside, ‘I think it’s going to rain.’ And I’d be looking out on the couch and he’d have all the blankets stacked up there and we’d have an early supper on Saturday night and we went."
At 15, Noiles started working with a Beech Ridge driver’s super modified team, which is when he really got interested in working in racing more. Noiles was on his way to the barbershop when he saw the driver working on his car in the driveway. He went over and started looking, "next thing you know he’s got me painting wheels and rub rails," he said.
"I never did make it to get the haircut that day. I was hooked from there because obviously I started watching him and as soon as I got old enough to get into the pits I started going in there and working on race day with him."
Noiles worked on the modified team for a couple of years before joining the U.S. Air Force. When he came back four years later in 1982 he returned to Beech Ridge, and again was in the right place at the right time. The track needed an assistant flagman, and since Noiles knew the flagman at the time he was asked to give it a try.
He’s been at the track ever since.
A typical race night for Noiles involved getting to the track a bit before the pit gates open. A meeting with the owner to go over the plan for the night, spending some time in the pits talking with drivers and going over any issues they may have all happens in the lead up to his time going up to the scoring tower. He talks with drivers on the radio during the race and does realignments after yellows.
While it may seem repetitive, the spontaneity of every race is part of what Noiles loves most about his job.
"It’s something different every night," he said. "You never know what’s going to happen. When we start the night out we have like a Plan A and a Plan B and then sometimes we get all the way and I’ll have to get on the radio and holler out ‘Plan W,’ which is ‘wing it.’ And they know to get their pencil and paper ready. … It’s not the same thing every week. You would think it would be. you just go out there, the cars going around in circles, but there’s always something happening."
Noiles has been involved with racing for many decades, but only once did he actually try to get behind the wheel of a car himself when a friend let him take a limited sportman out.
"I thought it was real easy, like, ‘Aw man, you keep your foot all the way down,’" he said. "Until I hit the second lap and spun it in Turn 1 and 2."
But just because he doesn’t drive doesn’t mean he isn’t a big part of every race at Beech Ridge, the place he’s called home since he was a young kid. He’s part of the track’s history, and the people there have become part of his family.
"Andy Cusack, he treats everybody like family. There’s a lot of people out there, concession people, ticket people, that have been there a long time. It’s not a lot of turnover every year," he said. "Everybody wants to come back and work. Being just a part-time thing in the summer, that’s kind of surprising you get everybody back and they don’t find somewhere else."
And Noiles will be a part of the Beech Ridge family for many years to come, too.
"What I told Andy is if you ever sell the place my lifetime contract doesn’t go with it, because I don’t think I could work for another person," Noiles said. "I know I’m prejudiced but I think we’ve got the best racetrack in the state, probably in New England."
Beech Ridge will launch a seven-race schedule beginning Saturday, July 18th.