May 21, 2018
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Leasing of Speedway 95 track drawing interest

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

Speedway 95 co-owner Del Merritt said he has had three inquiries from people interested in leasing the track.

Merritt will become the sole owner of the track in November when he buys out fellow co-owner Alice Baker for $350,000.

The 66-year-old Merritt, who bought the Hermon-based track along with Baker, her late husband Red and John Michaels in 1977, has decided that he would like to lease it to the “right party with the right offer.

“Running a track is so time-consuming. It’s time for somebody younger and who has more energy to run it,” said Merritt, who has several other businesses including restaurants and apartments.

Merritt and the Bakers eventually bought out Michaels.

Merritt said he has actually taken a few race nights off from the track this year to spend time with friends and “I’ve had fun.”

He said he is looking for a one-time security deposit in the vicinity of $100,000 and a yearly lease fee of $50,000. He would like it to be at least a three-year lease “but if nobody wants to do that, it might be all right (for a two- or one-year lease).”

The security deposit would eventually be returned to the person leasing the track as long as they took care of the facility.

“I would be turning over a lot of equipment to somebody so they have to make it worth my while,” said Merritt.

Merritt said he preferred a three-year lease because if the person who leased it from him decided not to return after a year or two, he would probably find himself running the track again.

“One way or another, the track would be open,” said Merritt, who has no intention of raising the lease fee after a year or two.

Merritt said someone who leases the track can make money off it they expand the schedule.

Currently, the track has racing on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the season goes from May 7 to Sept. 10. There is also Monster Jam from June 3-5 featuring the Monster trucks.

“You need to open (the schedule) up a little more,” said Merritt. “You could have tractor pulls or tough truck shows on the infield. And a small fair would do well. We’ve had them. You shut the track down for a week and have a small fair. You could even have it in September after the racing is over.

“There are so many things that could be done with that piece of land,” said Merritt referring to the 28 1/2 acres of real estate, including the track and the surrounding property.

Wacky Wednesday set for finals

Wacky Wednesday, for entry level classes, will conclude its season on Wednesday night at 7 at Speedway 95.

The points leaders in four of the five classes have safe leads but the Little Enduro division is very much up for grabs.

Newburgh’s Darrin Durrell has a 14-point lead over Hermon’s Andrew Crosby entering Wednesday’s final feature. Winterport’s Travis Beale is 34 points behind Durrell.

In the other classes, Lagrange’s Ed Cobb Jr. leads Dover-Foxcroft’s Shawn Racila by 125 points in the Big Enduros; Chelsea Young of Winterport has a 100-point lead over West Enfield’s Amy Houde in the Ladies Class; James Carr Jr. of Clifton has a 142-point edge over Jeff Overlock Jr. of Hermon and Cornville’s Matthew Kimball has a 76-point advantage over Hudson’s Emma Libby in the Stars of Tomorrow division.

Unity sustains minor damage

George Fernald Jr., who leases Unity Raceway from Ralph and Nancy Nason, bought a chainsaw on Monday.

That’s because four trees collapsed on the track due to Tropical Storm Irene so Fernald and three others had to handle the cleanup.

“I should have had (a chainsaw) anyway,” quipped Fernald.

The pit area was completely blocked in two places and we had to cut the trees to get in,” explained Fernald. “One was blocking the entrance to the pit and the other was blocking the exit. We had another tree crash through the outer fence and part of the fence blew down. We also lost one of the big doors off the grandstand. The wind blew it off the hinges.”

He figured it should take them “just over a day’s work” to repair the track.

“We’re all old guys and we don’t move that fast,” joked Fernald.

Speedway 95’s Merritt, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway ( Scarborough) owner Andy Cusack and and Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan said their tracks were spared any damage to their tracks.

“There were no problems at all. We were lucky,” said Ryan. “It went west of us. I guess it really tore up Vermont.”

“Everything is fine,” said Merritt. “We don’t have a big tree farm out there.”

Phippen 59 feature a success

The Big John Phippen 59, a Late Model race held at Unity Raceway Saturday night in honor of the late John Phippen Jr. of Town Hill, was a success, according to Fernald.

The popular Phippen, who drove car No. 59, died of a heart attack in his trailer after running a 100-lap race at Speedway 95 last September. He won seven points championships at three different tracks, including Unity Raceway and Speedway 95, during his impressive 31-year career.

“We had 25 cars, 400 people in the pits and 550 in the stands,” said Fernald. “Normally, we have 300 people in the pits and 400-500 in the stands. When you consider the threat of a hurricane, it was a good crowd. We would have had a lot more if we hadn’t had the hurricane.”

The race was promoted by Wally Gibbons and it was won by Freedom’s Dylan Turner.

Fernald said they expect to have a 150-lap race in Phippen’s honor next year, probably on Father’s Day.

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