Missing The Mark: Time For New England Auto Racing Hall Of Fame To Induct Mark And Lisa Arute 

(The article below is a RaceDayCT column – The views expressed in this column are solely the opinion of the writer)

The Arute family (L-R), Paul Arute, Jen Arute (David’s wife), David Arute, Lisa Arute and Mark Arute (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

On Sunday the New England Antique Racers announced its historic 25th induction class to the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. 

The class announced included former NASCAR Busch North Series standouts Andy Santerre and Brad Leighton, Old Lyme based team owner Ted Marsh, former Modified team owner the late John Stygar, longtime SuperModified racing standout Mike Ordway Sr. and former northern New England based full-bodied standout Mike Weeden. Joe Hammond and Al Howard were also announced as inductees from the Veteran’s Committee. 

The New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame is genuinely a treasure of the Northeast racing scene for what it does in recognizing the deep and rich history of motorsports in this area of the country. And in most cases, if there are individuals who absolutely positively belong being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and are eligible for it, the Hall of Fame committee typically doesn’t miss getting them in. 

But, it has to be said, the committee is missing the mark in one way, well, actually in a couple of ways. A couple of which it seems inconceivable that they haven’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame already. 

The New England Racing Hall of Fame is missing the mark in not inducting Mark and Lisa Arute together for what they’ve done at Stafford Speedway. 

For nearly four decades Mark and Lisa Arute have been part of the backbone of operations of Stafford Speedway, most of that span spent at the helm of operations at the historic half-mile paved oval short track. 

Mark is the son of former track owner Jack Arute Sr. In 1990 Jack Arute Sr. handed over operational control of the facility to his son Mark, who had married his wife Lisa two years before that. 

In April 2004 I wrote a feature on the Arute family and their history at the track. Before writing the story I spent a day with Jack Arute Sr. at his home in Bedford, N.H. Jack Arute Sr. bought the track in 1969. By 1988 he was ready to sell. Mark Arute had left his job at the family construction business in 1987 to work full-time at the track. Mark wasn’t happy to find out his father was looking to sell the track after he committed himself to trying to improve business at the facility. 

In 1990 Jack Arute Sr. gave Mark control of operations at the track. Jack Arute Sr. said he figured he’d let Mark run the track for a year and then sell it. 

“Quite frankly, I didn’t think Mark was capable.” Jack Arute Sr. told me in 2004. 

And then Mark and Lisa, to the surprise of Jack, took over operations and turned the place around. And not only did they bring life to a track that was ready to go under, within just a few years they had the place on a pedestal as one of the top short track racing venues in the country. 

“[Mark] took it over when things were toughest … and not only saved it from going under but made it into so much more.” Jack Arute Sr. told me in 2004. 

Over the last three decades, Mark and Lisa Arute have never lifted off the gas in their race to always keep Stafford Speedway at the forefront of short track facilities, not just in New England, but across the entire landscape of short track racing. 

Find a short track facility just about anywhere in this country and mention Stafford Speedway, and it’s likely people will know what you’re talking about. Stafford Speedway is that big in the world of short tracks. 

And when it comes to Stafford and the accolades deserved by the Arute family, it’s not just because they have a clean and ever modernizing facility. They deserve to be celebrated not only for making and keeping their facility beautiful, but for always being on the cutting edge of what would keep the track relevant and improving. They built a lineup of divisions at the track that created their own pipeline feeder system from youth racing right up to their premier divisions. They gave fans a big-time entertainment facility experience, but always made sure that the racing – their core product – was some of the best around. 

The last decade hasn’t been easy on short track racing in this country. Ten years ago the Connecticut short track racing scene was thriving with overwhelming car counts and big crowds weekly not only at Stafford but also at Thompson Speedway and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Today it’s a far different scene. Despite the immense efforts of Cris Michaud and Tom Mayberry as leasing operators of Thompson Speedway, the historic facility is struggling to stay up to speed. And things aren’t much better at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, where a revolving door of management over the last nine years has struggled to come close to bringing the place back to the glory days of the shoreline oval. Across short track racing these days, the stories of struggle like at Thompson Speedway and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl are much more common than the success stories. 

But somehow Stafford Speedway belies the trends and just continues to set the bar higher and higher every year. Which leads to something else that Mark and Lisa Arute should be commended for. They made sure their family track stayed a family track, with a third generation of the Arute family running it. Mark and Lisa’s sons Paul and David are entrenched deeply in keeping the operations of Stafford Speedway as an Arute family tradition for years to come. 31-year old Paul is the track’s chief operating officer and 28-year old David is the general manager. With the steady handed management of their parents behind them, they’ve only continued to set Stafford Speedway further ahead in the industry with copious improvements annually.

For more than 30 years the guidance of Mark and Lisa Arute has kept Stafford Speedway at the top of the heap in numerous ways when it comes to short track racing facilities in New England. This is nothing new, which just makes it seem even more inconceivable that year after year after year goes by without Mark and Lisa, as an operator/promoter tandem, being inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Dear Hall of Fame committee, right this wrong next year and induct Mark and Lisa Arute into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame.


  1. Rich Goucher says

    Shaun, you need to submit a form to nominate a deserving person(s). It’s available on Near1.org.
    The Committee reviews forms and all are voted on.They do not just elect someone at large.

  2. second the motion, that’s why i’m there every week!

  3. justafan1 says

    100% agree

  4. Rich,
    I understand how the voting system works. I understand that people are nominated and then there are multiple rounds of voting by the committee to cut the nomination group down to the final group that will represent the induction class. And this column is basically saying that the committee as a whole is making a mistake in not inducting Mark and Lisa Arute and offering the reasons why.

  5. Tony Leckey says

    Good article. I agree that Mark and Lisa deserve the recognition and should be part of the NEAR Hall Of Fame. I was part of the team at Stafford from the glory days of the early 80s to the downslide in the mid to late 80s to the resurrection in the early to mid 90s and have always said that Mark was the hardest working track operator that I ever worked for. I do want to say though that without the promotional genius of Pete Zanardi and specifically the media that went out prior to the 1993 Sizzler which I credit as the thing that turned things around, and the financial prowess of Bette Jean Locke, the track might not be there today.

  6. TL-since you’re from that era any opinions on Ed Yarrington??

  7. Probably doesn’t help that Pete Newsham is chairman of the NEAR Hall of Fame committee and also hates Stafford and the Arute’s.

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