Speedway 95 race cards have sometimes been extended, timewise, by wrecks and that’s particularly true for accidents that have occurred between turns one and two.
Cars would slide down the steep embankment into bushes and trees and it would take wreckers at least 10 minutes to retrieve the car and get it back on the track or tow it back to the pits.
Del Merritt, who is beginning his first season as the sole owner of the speedway after buying out former co-owner Alice Baker, addressed the situation after racing concluded last season. Drivers will be greeted by a tall dirt wall that should prevent their cars from sliding down the embankment.
“People don’t pay $10 [per ticket] to go see cars towed out of the woods,” said Merritt. “There have been times when it took over half an hour to get a car pulled out.”
That is one of several improvements to the track overseen by Merritt as he prepares for the opening night of racing on April 28.
There will be practice sessions the next two Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Merritt has had 9,000 regular tires that served as barriers removed and replaced by bigger skidder tires.
And a lot of tires are now laying down, filled with dirt, instead of standing straight up.
“Tires were strewn all over the tire walls,” said Merritt. “And I didn’t like having them standing up.”
There has also been a significant amount of landscaping in and around the track and it will continue.
“The track really looks bigger now,” said Merritt. “I think it has made a difference. I’m fired up. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about it.”
He said cosmetic improvements are important to the success of a track.
“You need to spruce it up so people feel this is a place they want to be. They see this as a place where the action and excitement are,” explained Merritt. “And you want to show them some real good entertainment.”
Merritt said he and the track got a lift from their return to the Bangor Mall to show off their cars after a nine-year absence.
The spring preview show had more than 30 race cars on hand during the weekend of March 23, 24, 25.
“It was excellent. We had a good turnout. The cars all looked nice,” said Merritt.
“It was a real win-win situation for us and, hopefully, it was for the mall, too,” said Merritt. “Some of the drivers really spruced up their cars for it. Our drivers let the people know who we are and what we do.”
He said the exposure they received from it is valuable.
Merritt added that Chuck Hall has done a nice job lining up sponsors for them and they intend to add new signs to spruce up the track.
“It’s not going to look like a junkyard anymore,” said Merritt.
Racing will be held on Saturday nights beginning at 5 p.m. from April 28 through June 2 before switching over to 7 p.m. starts on June 16.
The annual Monster Jam will replace racing June 8-10.
The Wacky Wednesday racing for entry level classes will begin 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 13.
The Saturday night racing will again include Late Models, Sportsman, Strictly Street, Sport-4 and the Bomber classes. The Wacky Wednesday racing will include Big Enduros, Little Enduros, Trucks and Ladies classes with the teenage class, the Racing Stars of Tomorrow, joining the card on July 4.
Merritt will again move two of his Saturday night racing programs back to Thursday nights on July 12 and 19 so fans and drivers can spend the ensuing weekends at the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15 and the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on July 22.
The second annual Good News Center John Phippen Jr./Allen Fletcher Memorial Late Model 100 will be held 7 p.m. Thursday, July 19. The race commemorates the two local drivers who died at Speedway 95 and Unity Raceway, respectively.
Speedway 95 will be the second track to open this season.
Unity Raceway will open at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 21.
Unity drivers can practice at the track from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Scarborough’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway will open for the Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Models, Modifieds and Sportsman at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 5, and will open its weekly series racing at 6:30 p.m. May 26.
Oxford Plains Speedway will kick off its racing season at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 20 with the American-Canadian Tour 150 as well as its own weekly classes.
Spud Speedway in Caribou will open at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 27. It will have a practice session from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 12, and its third annual motorsports show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the following Saturday.
Wiscasset Raceway is still up for sale.
Theriault opens ACT season
Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault will kick off the ACT season at the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H., at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Theriault, who will graduate from Fort Kent High School in June, finished third in points in the series last season and finished seventh in this race last April.
Theriault will be driving his No. 57 Pelletier Ford/Varney Insurance Ford Fusion after notching top-five finishes in his last six ACT Late Model races a year ago.
He has already run two Super Late Model races for Brad Keselowski Racing earlier this year, finishing seventh in the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway last month.
Theriault, who tested his car at Oxford Plains Speedway Friday, said he is looking forward to the season and is “cautiously optimistic” about it.
“We’ve added a couple of guys to our team and this is the best team I’ve ever had,” said the 18-year-old Theriault. “In the off-season, we targeted our weak points and improved on them a lot. We’re capable of a top-five finish every week. But I’m still learning. We’re running against some (veteran) drivers whose notebooks (pertaining to each track) are five times as big as ours.”
He said the track at Lee USA Speedway “doesn’t have a lot of grip but that’s conducive to side-by-side racing. You struggle to get off the corners because there isn’t a lot of bite. The guy who can get off the corners the best will go to Victory Lane. You also have to be consistent on the long runs.”