Speedway 95 plagued by rocky economy, weather

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Posted Sept. 02, 2009, at 12:42 a.m.

It has been a tough year for Speedway 95 co-owners Del Merritt and Alice Baker.

But they are hopeful things will turn around next season.

“It’s been the worst year we’ve had in 40 years,” said Merritt. “Alice and I figured we’ve lost seven race dates due to weather. And a lot of [race dates] have been overcast and nasty.

“The weather and the economy have played a big role in it. Car counts everywhere have been low. Nobody has had any major car counts,” said Merritt. “We’re just going to have to chalk it up as one of those years.”

The Hermon-based speedway has had single-digit car counts in the majority of its Saturday night and Wacky Wednesday classes. Wacky Wednesday is for low-budget, entry-level drivers.

The one class that has done well has been the Little Enduros (four-cylinder cars) on Wacky Wednesday, so Merritt and Baker are bringing them over to the Saturday night card for the final two Saturdays of the season, this Saturday and the following Saturday.

“Their points are already finished, so we’re going to have a two-race series the final two Saturday nights,” said Merritt.

He pointed out that even the Little Enduros have been hit by the economy as there used to be 80 cars on race night.

He said one of the reasons there aren’t as many now is because “they’ve been crushing cars [for money] left and right.”

One of their best classes was the Sport-Fours on Saturday night, but they’ve only had 12 to 14 entries this season, considerably fewer than normal.

“This year, we made them run on racing tires. They used to race on radials,” said Merritt. “That has hurt us. With the economy the way it is, the drivers looked at having to buy six racing tires to get started and that held it back from growing this year.”

The Saturday night cards have been hurt worse than Wacky Wednesdays, according to Merritt.

“We’ve got to breathe some life into our Saturday night shows,” said Merritt, who runs Late Models, Strictly Streets, Super Streets and Sport-Fours on Saturday nights.

“Our Wednesday nights have been fine. But if we can’t breathe life into our Saturday nights, we’ll have to combine the classes and run them on Wednesday nights. I’d hate to do that,” said Merritt.

He intends to give serious consideration to re-paving the track, something that hasn’t been done in several years.

The outside groove is considerably faster because it has more grip. Merritt tried to address it two years ago by adding some width to the track in turns two and four so drivers could pass on the inside.

“But that didn’t do the job,” said Merritt, who will seek input from the drivers and fans.

He added that the price of hot-topping has dropped, so re-paving the track is a viable option.

On Sept. 12, they will hold the second race in a three-part Late Model series involving one race apiece at Speedway 95, Unity Raceway and Wiscasset Raceway.

“It will be the Bobby Coburn 54-lapper,” said Merritt, explaining that it will honor the former Speedway 95 driver who died earlier this summer.

It will pay $1,754 to win.

Coburn drove a No. 54 car.

Beech Ridge doing well

Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough has done OK this summer, according to owner Andy Cusack.

“It has been encouraging to see stable car counts and real good crowds once we got good weather,” said Cusack. “Last year, we were down 10 percent [in car counts] over what we normally have and we’re down five percent this year, so we’re thrilled with that.”

Cusack has had two Saturday night and two Thursday Night Thunder race cards rained out. The Thursday night card is for entry-level drivers.

He said two reasons behind the track’s good fortune is racing didn’t start until Memorial Day weekend, four weeks later than usual, to avoid possible weather problems, and Thursday night cards were divided into varsity and junior varsity programs.

“We used to force the Thursday night drivers to move to Saturday night after four years of [Thursday night] racing,” said Cusack, who discovered that several drivers chose to drop out rather than make the transition to Saturday night racing.

“So now we have varsity [classes] for those who have raced more than four years on Thursday night and JV for those with less than four years of experience,” said Cusack.

“That has brought back a lot of the drivers who have been itching to get back into racing, That has bumped our Thursday night car counts up 25 percent.”

They tried Wednesday night racing for drivers with more than four years of Thursday racing, but that didn’t do well during its two-year trial, he explained.

N. E. Mud Run this weekend

The 26th annual New England Mud Run of Champions will be held Saturday and Sunday at Hunnewell Valley in Embden.

The events start at 8 a.m. each day.

Among the competitions will be the Monster Truck High Hurdles and the Long Jump contest along with the Rock Walk.

Elliott’s son wins PASS race

Chase Elliott, the 13-year-old son of former Sprint Cup points champion Bill Elliott, became the youngest winner in Pro All-Stars Series history last weekend when he captured the Over the Mountain 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway in a PASS South event.

It was his PASS debut.

Farmington’s Cassius Clark was third, Turner’s Ben Rowe was ninth and Scarborough’s Ryan Moore finished 21st.

lmahoney@bangordailynews.net

990-8231

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/09/02/sports/speedway-95-plagued-by-rocky-economy-weather/ printed on July 23, 2014