Merritt, Humphrey collaborating with Nason on October Long John race at Unity

Posted Sept. 14, 2012, at 8:35 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 14, 2012, at 11:35 p.m.

UNITY, Maine — There is a cooperative effort under way as Unity Raceway owner Ralph Nason prepares for the annual Long John Late Model race on Oct. 14.

Speedway 95 owner Del Merritt and Jere Humphrey of Last Chance Motorsports Racing Supplies and Race Fuel in Washburn are teaming up with Nason for the 100-lap feature as well as the supplemental races.

“I bought [Unity Raceway] in 1980 and this is the first time Del and I have ever worked together on a project,” said Nason. “Del will take care of the tire deal. Jere will help out with promotions, gas and auto parts.

“It’s going to be a business venture between the three of us,” added Nason. “I love it. I think it’s great.”

Nason resumed control of the track after George Fernald Jr. decided to end his arrangement with Nason after five years of leasing the track.

Fernald lost more than $30,000 and the stress of running the track affected his health. He is diabetic.

Nason considers the Long John the second-most prominent race in Maine behind the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, which has been held the past 39 years.

The Long John, won by Liberty’s Josh St. Clair a year ago, was a 111-lap event in 2011 but Nason prefers a shorter 100-lap race.

He explained that in longer races, the drivers “ride” for the majority of the race to save their tires and equipment before making a dash for the win late in the race.

“They’ll have to run flat out if it’s a 100-lapper. This race will be a barn-burner,” predicted Nason.

The winner will pocket $1,500.

He won’t offer any lap money, observing that when “lap money is involved, they tend to crash each other.”

Merritt said he had originally dealt with Fernald pertaining to the tire deal but is following up with Nason.

“I know Unity has been hurt with different things that have gone on and I want to help out,” said Merritt, who sold tires at the Last Chance Motorsports 150 at Caribou’s Spud Speedway last weekend. “I hate to see any racetrack struggle. It’s not much benefit to us.”

Fernald had to suspend payouts to the drivers due to lack of funds and end the season prematurely.

Nason said he has three parties interested in leasing Unity Raceway next season.

He also said he would like to collaborate with Merritt next season and put some deals together between the two tracks.

“One of us could run one night and the other could run the next night,” said Nason.

“I’m always open to anything. I don’t shut my mind off,” said Merritt. “Taking care of Speedway 95 is my main goal, but it’s no different than the bar business. There’s room for everyone.”

He said one thing that would be imperative if the two tracks were to collaborate is “we would need to have the same set of rules [for the cars].”

PASS North chase tight

Morrill’s Travis Benjamin is one of six drivers in a logjam at the top of the points standings in the Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North tour as they head to Scarborough’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway this weekend.

The 300-lap PASS SLM North feature will be held Sunday.

Racing begins at 12:15 p.m. with several divisions holding heats and features leading up to the PASS SLM race.

Farmington’s Cassius Clark is leading the points with 2,552, followed by D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, N.H., ( 2,543), Benjamin (2,542), four-time defending points champ Johnny Clark of Farmingdale (2,507), New Brunswick’s Lonnie Somerville (2,497) and Derek Ramstrom of Worcester, Mass. (2,495).

There will be two more races after Beech Ridge: Sept. 22 at White Mountain Motorsports Park (N.H.) and Sept. 30 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

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