TD Bank 250/PASS combination weekend a big hit

Posted July 28, 2011, at 6:49 p.m.
Last modified July 28, 2011, at 9:54 p.m.

The decision by Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan and Pro All Stars Series president Tom Mayberry to put together a weekend of racing involving two PASS races and the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway paid significant dividends.

The PASS Modifieds raced Friday night along with the weekly Oxford Acceleration Series. Saturday night featured the Brackett Mechanical/RB Performance Night PASS Super Late Model North 150 along with the Valenti Auto Mall Modified series and the weekly Oxford Championship series.

The 38th TD Bank 250 was held Sunday night after six heat races, three consolation races and three last-chance races. There was also an Oxford 30-lap Mini-Stock feature and a 30-lap Strictly Stock race.

“It was a really good weekend overall,” said Ryan. “We didn’t have to fight with the weather. There was entertainment all weekend long. It was a really nice weekend for our fans and the racers. We had a good mix of events and a nice mix of cars.”

He said the races were well-attended and he was happy with the turnouts.

“I was certainly pleased given the fact there have been a rough few years in the racing business at all levels from Sprint Cup on down. It has been a lot harder to sell tickets the past few years,” said Ryan.

Attendance figures hadn’t been tabulated, according to Ryan, but he said a turnout in the vicinity of 20,000 for the three days would be in the ballpark.

Ryan offered a variety of package deals including “three-day pit passes and two-day pit passes.

“We tried to make it as affordable as possible but, at the same time, the payouts to the drivers for these races is huge,” said Ryan.

Ryan’s three-day pit passes were $80 and $90 and his two-day deals were $70 and $80. His three-day grandstand ticket packages ranged from $55 (including a $30 ticket for Sunday) to $65 (with a $40 Sunday ticket) and $75 ($50 Sunday ticket).

For those who just wanted to attend Sunday’s races, the prices ranged from $15 (general admission for juniors) and $30 (general admission for adults) to $40 and $50.

As for payouts, just the TD Bank 250 alone has a purse of more than $100,000. The winner earns $25,000 and drivers earn $100 for every lap they lead.

Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, who won the race, pocketed $31,900. Sprint Cup drivers usually earn an appearance fee, also.

Ryan speculated the track may have made money on the deal.

“I hope so. The way the past few years have gone, any racetrack that breaks even is way ahead of the game,” said Ryan. “I’m pretty confident we’ll have enough money to live to fight another day and pay the bills.”

Ryan has attracted Sprint Cup drivers to the race since 2004 by scheduling the race during the off weekend for Sprint Cup.

He will continue to book Cup drivers for the 250 although he is concerned about speculation that NASCAR may change the Sprint Cup schedule next year.

“Our window for the race is from June 21-Aug. 10,” explained Ryan.

Due to its success, Ryan said he hopes to team up with Mayberry and PASS again next season to have a three-day race schedule on the TD Bank 250 weekend.

PASS will return to OPS on Oct. 1 and Ryan said he will be curious to see the attendance figures for that weekend since there won’t be the 250 or a big-name driver like Busch on hand.

Ryan used to have Pro Stocks but decided to eliminate it after the 2006 season due to the expense involved and made the more popular and less expensive Late Models his top class.

He has no intention of re-introducing Pro Stocks other than selected races like the PASS tour.

Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough is the only one of the five active tracks in Maine that offers a regular Pro Stock class.

“We had 82 Late Models for the 250 and there were 40 Pro Stocks (for the PASS 150),” he pointed out.

Successful Dorr, Phippen races will return

The first annual Ikey Dorr and John Phippen Memorial races, held on consecutive Thursdays (July 14, 21) to honor the popular Speedway 95 drivers, will return next season according to Speedway 95 co-owner Del Merritt.

Dorr and Phippen died of heart attacks at the Hermon-based track. Dorr died during a race two years ago and Phippen died after a feature last September.

The Dorr Memorial race was a 50-lapper for Street Stocks and the Phippen Memorial was a 100-lap Late Model feature.

Merritt decided to switch the races to Thursday on those weeks to avoid competing with the Sprint Cup weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., and the Oxford 250 weekend at Oxford Plains Speedway, respectively.

Both were well-received and well-attended, according to Merritt..

“We had 800-850 fans each night and that’s far better than we would have had if we had raced on Saturday night,” said Merritt. “We lose our shirts on Saturdays during those two weekends.”

He said he had 19 Street Stocks for the Dorr race and 13 for the Phippen event.

“I was disappointed with the car count at the Phippen race,” said Merritt. “I think we would have had a few more if we had made it a points race. And we were only able to add $2,000 to the purse for the Phippen race. If we would have been able to add $6,000, it would have made a difference.”

He also felt the lure of the TD Bank 250, since it has been a Late Model race since 2007, drew some racers away.

The fact he stayed with the Speedway 95 technical standards for the cars may have cost him drivers from other tracks where the rules are different but Merritt stood by his decision.

“I have to protect my own. These guys race with me every week and I’ve got to take care of them,” said Merritt.

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