Speedway 95 owner takes soggy start to race season in stride

Posted May 29, 2013, at 1:07 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — The 2013 Maine auto racing season has gotten off to a wet start.

Speedway 95 in Hermon has been able to run four race cards but two have already been rained out.

However, Speedway 95 owner Del Merritt has taken it in stride.

If Saturday night’s racing was rained out, he used to use Sunday as a rain date but, for the third straight season, he won’t push a Saturday race back to Sunday.

“Families have plans on Sunday so, this way, they won’t get disappointed,” Merritt said. “Sunday rain dates haven’t worked for us. Saturday night is race night.

“Sunday isn’t a race day unless it is scheduled as one. Then you can probably get away with it,” said Merritt.

He said he has been fortunate that the two rainouts, May 11 and this past Saturday, haven’t involved a difficult decision.

They were called off on Saturday morning.

He explained if the weather forecast is inconclusive and they try to hold a race only to have it rained out or run under nasty conditions, it can be an expensive proposition.

“You have to pay your employees, the ambulance crews and the wrecker crews and you won’t get many fans in the grandstands or the pits. It’s pretty easy to lose $4,000-$5,000,” he explained. “That really hurts you.”

If the rainout is determined early, Merritt said the only loss is the price of advertising, which is in the $1,000 range.

“You’re a lot better off [canceling it early],” he said.

They try to get as many weather reports as possible in which to make a judgment.

“We used to call the flight service but that’s gone now,” said Merritt.

He said Speedway 95’s refund policy is dictated by the number of heat races that are held before the racing is canceled. If there are at least four heat races, fans won’t receive a rain check.

If there are fewer than four, they will receive a rain check that will allow them to attend another night of racing free of charge. It could be a Saturday night or a Wacky Wednesday card.

Merritt quickly pointed out that they would get shortchanged if they turned in a Saturday night rain check for a Wacky Wednesday date because it costs $10 for adults to attend on Saturday night and only $5 on Wednesday night.

He said they don’t like to refund cash.

“It gets very confusing and messy,” explained Kim Baker Allen, the official scorer and office manager.

Baker Allen said they have a text messaging system that informs drivers, employees and fans when a race card is postponed. It is also put on the track’s Web page, Facebook and its answering machine.

Merritt said since it is still early in the season, it’s no time to panic.

“You normally expect to lose at least a couple of races every year,” said Merritt. “One year we lost six races.”

“We lost six in a row,” noted Baker Allen.

If they lost a significant amount of races, he said they would consider extending the season by a week or two.

Racing is scheduled to return at Speedway 95 at 5 p.m. Saturday with a pair of series races highlighting the card.

Each class has a three-race series over the course of the season and, on Saturday, the second series race will be held in the Late Models, a 50-lap feature, and the Bombers will have a 30-lapper for their first series race.

There will also be 25-lap Sportsman, Street Stocks and Sport Four features.

Sunday, the track will host the second annual car show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is free to the public.

Unity Raceway season underway

Jere Humphrey, who is leasing Unity Raceway, had to bump his Sunday season opener to Memorial Day.

“We had 654 people witness our opening day. The car count [40] was a little low but it was Memorial Day and it was rescheduled,” said Humphrey. “We have been working on the track for a couple of months and everything [money] was outgoing, nothing was coming in. The weather was sunny so we said, ‘Let’s have some races.’

“We wanted to get our feet on the ground and convince people we’re the real deal. We wanted them to see the improvements we’ve made in the track. I figured it would help us get more people and cars in the future,” he said.

They had a prerace parade involving six local fire departments to celebrate Memorial Day.

Ellsworth’s Andy Saunders, who won the Late Model points championship at Speedway 95 last season and is leading the point standings again, won the 67-lap Late Model feature with defending Unity champ Jeff Burgess of Fairfield finishing second and Rowland Robinson Jr. of Steuben, who races on the American-Canadian Tour (ACT), coming across third.

There were 12 cars in the field.

“We had three guys from three different organizations which is good,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey said once Unity makes the full-time switch from Sunday afternoon to Friday night racing, beginning June 14, they will use Sunday afternoon as a rain date.

“We will have a special race every weekend and we have sponsors for the race so we want to have the race on that particular weekend if possible,” explained Humphrey.

Racing will start at 1 p.m. Sunday. In addition to the regular five classes — Late Models, Strictly Streets, Monsta’ Minis, Flyin’ Fours and Enduros — they will debut their Little Rascal class, for youth ages 10-16.

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