Race to commemorate John Phippen set for July 21 at Speedway 95

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted June 02, 2011, at 8:24 p.m.

Wally Gibbons is a passionate man.

Two of his passions are auto racing and fundraising.

Last summer, Gibbons was instrumental in accruing sponsorships that helped Brent Fletcher put on an auto race in memory of his late brother, Allen, at Hermon’s Speedway 95.

Allen Fletcher was involved in a crash at Unity Raceway on Sept. 28, 2002 and died three days later.

The Allen Fletcher Memorial Race Duel 23s were held last August and the surplus money was donated to Camp CaPella, a camp on Phillips Lake in Dedham for children 5 and over and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, autism and Down syndrome and spinal cord injuries.

Unfortunately, Gibbons wasn’t able to give an accurate account of the money raised because he suffered a heart attack at the race and spent four days in the intensive care unit at Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center.

But Brent Fletcher said they raised quite a bit of money as evidenced by the fact the winner pocketed $2,323.

“You couldn’t ask for a better promoter (than Gibbons),” said Fletcher. “He did a real good job.”

On July 21, Gibbons plans to honor the late John Phippen of Town Hill with a 100-lap Late Model race.

The popular Phippen, who won the Late Model championship at Speedway 95 in 2009, died of a heart attack after a Late Model race at Speedway 95 last Sept. 11.

The Town Hill native won seven points championships at three different tracks during an impressive 31-year career.

“John and Ralph Nason were my racing heroes,” said Gibbons. “When I was a kid getting started racing cars, John (and Ralph) were winning races. We want to give John a good send-off.”

Gibbons said he also wants to “get racing back to where it was” and mentioned that Late Model drivers from all of the other tracks are welcome to race.

They will have to comply with Speedway 95 rules including the use of Koni shock absorbers, according to Speedway 95 co-owner Del Merritt.

Gibbons said the fact it will be a 100-lap race will comply with Phippen’s attitude.

“He loved 100-lap races. He hated the 35-lappers,” chuckled the 57-year-old Gibbons, who used to drive race cars and said he has run at several of the state’s tracks.

“I’m real excited about it,” said Merritt.

Gibbons’ “charity” this year will be the drivers.

“I will be accountable for every cent and all the money will go to pay the drivers,” he said.

He said people can get their names in the special program for a $59 donation and they can get their name or business on the car driven by Wayne Parritt of Steuben for $249.

Parritt will drive the No. 59 car in honor of Phippen. That was Phippen’s number.

“We’re going to stop the race after lap 58 and drop back and do a real slow lap under green,” said Gibbons. “Nobody will be on the pole on lap 59. That will be John’s lap. And then we’ll restart the race.”

Merritt said $2,000 has already been raised and Gibbons said he’d like to raise another $8,000.

Gibbons and Merritt both want to be able to pay the drivers who finish 10th or worse a reasonable amount.

“I’d love to be able to pay the 10th place guy $425,” said Merritt. “I’d love to be able to pay the 18th- and 19th-place guys $300-$400.

“I’d like to give more guys a chance to break even,” he added.

He explained that the American Racers (tires) cost $115 apiece and racing fuel is $9 per gallon.

The race will start at 7 p.m.

Wacky Wednesday in jeopardy

Merritt said Wacky Wednesday, a midweek race program for entry level drivers, used to be his “bread-and-butter.”

But there was no butter and very little bread this past Wednesday for the opening night of Wacky Wednesday.

Two classes had just three cars apiece; two more had four and the Small Enduros had 18 cars.

They raced under threatening skies and all the races were shortened due to the car counts and possible rain.

“I wasn’t concerned about the crowd because of the weather. But I’m really concerned about the car counts,” said Merritt. “I was shocked. You can’t run a facility with that few cars.”

Merritt and other track officials decided to give the fans who stayed until the final race a free pass to another Wacky Wednesday race card.

He said he will give Wacky Wednesday another shot next week before he and the other track officials decide their next course of action.

“Maybe we need to lower the admission price,” said Merritt.

Speedway 95 charges adults $6 and he said “maybe we should drop it to $3.”

But he admitted that they may have to drop the program, which is in its 13th year, and hold all of its racing on Saturday night.

The more experienced drivers run on Saturday night.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/02/sports/race-to-commemorate-john-phippen-set-for-july-21-at-speedway-95/ printed on September 19, 2014