Points leaders Saunders, McLaughlin like extension of Speedway 95 season

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 24, 2012, at 5:24 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — Two of the points leaders at Speedway 95 have endorsed the decision of the track’s administrative staff to extend the racing season by at least two more weeks.

The final race day for the Saturday night divisions was going to be Sept. 22, but the season has been extended to Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. Office manager and head scorer Kim Baker Allen said, “We’d love to add some more, too.”

Ellsworth’s Andy Saunders, who leads the Late Model division by 89 points over Carmel’s Phil Richardson, and Harrington’s Andrew McLaughlin, who has a 97-point edge over Cornville’s Shelby Kimball in the Street Stocks, said the fall is the best time of year to race.

“The cars seem to respond better to cooler weather,” said McLaughlin. “Everything seems to work better on the cars, including the motors. There’s a lot of wear and tear on the cars in hot weather.”

“It’s easier on everything except the fans,” said Saunders referring to the cooler weather.

To address that issue, track owner Del Merritt and Baker Allen are moving up the starting times from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m.

McLaughlin said a lot of racers “seem to have more time” to devote to racing in the fall and “that makes for a better show.”

“I think you’ll get more [drivers] out. It’s a good move to extend the season as long as the weather cooperates,” added McLaughlin.

Saunders said he has wondered for several years why Speedway 95’s season wasn’t longer than it has been.

“Unity [Raceway] had always gone well into October. The Long John has always been a big deal for as long as I can remember. I wonder why [Merritt] hadn’t done something similar,” said Saunders referring to the Long John Late Model race at Unity Raceway.

Unity Raceway has closed early due to financial issues, but the annual Long John race is still scheduled to be held on Oct. 14.

Unity’s closing was one of the reasons behind the 95 extension.

“It’s a pretty good call. There are plenty of cars out there that will still want to race and some of them have no place to race,” said Saunders.

The final points races at Speedway 95 will be held on Sept. 22, but the drivers will still be racing for purse money and prestige.

McLaughlin said there is a silver lining to not racing for points.

“You’re more relaxed. You can go out and have fun. You don’t have the points in the back of your mind,” said McLaughlin.

Merritt said he feels good about extending the season.

“We’ve had a good field of cars, so we didn’t want to cut the season short,” said Merritt.

Merritt has been particularly pleased with the Late Model class.

In recent weeks, they have been getting 18-25 cars running in the Late Models after having 12-14 a year ago.

“They have come out and supported us pretty well,” said Merritt.

Merritt is excited about Saturday night’s Team Morgan Racing Late Model 75-lap Shootout at 95.

The winner will pocket $1,500, which is $800 more than the usual winning share for the weekly 35-lap races.

Second place will pay $600, third will pay $550, the fourth-place driver will take home $425 and the fifth-place driver will earn $400. Everyone who races will earn at least $115.

In addition, there will also be more than $2,000 in lap money. Leaders of each lap will earn between $25 and $100 based on who is sponsoring that particular lap.

All 75 laps have been sold.

“I’m looking for a big night,” said Merritt. “You’re going to see one of the best races you’ll ever see in a short period of time at 95.”

Merritt has been pleased with the season in general.

This is his first year as the sole owner after he bought out co-owner Alice Baker last fall.

“Things have gone fairly smooth. The employees have been real good. They’ve worked hard, and the drivers have been coming out for us,” said Merritt.

He said the improvements they made in the offseason, including landscaping and putting a dirt bank between turns one and two so cars wouldn’t slide down into the trees and weeds, have been well received.

“We showed [the fans and drivers] that we care about the facility,” said Merritt. “In return, they’ve been giving us the same respect we’ve given them. We’ve tried to stay positive.

“We’ve had some of the best racing I’ve seen in a long time, particularly in the Late Models.”

Merritt said Baker Allen and promoter Chuck Hall have stepped up and played integral roles in the success of the track.

He also noted that the weather has cooperated.

“We’ve had only a few rainouts,” he said.

Racing on Saturday night begins at 7 o’clock.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/24/sports/auto-racing-sports/points-leaders-saunders-mclaughlin-like-extension-of-speedway-95-season/ printed on September 20, 2014