Speedway 95 owners mull changes as ending looms for difficult season

Posted Sept. 23, 2013, at 6:52 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — Speedway 95 in Hermon will have its final points races this Saturday night and the season will conclude the following weekend with a special Christmas in October card that will feature extended-lap races and higher payouts.

The October races are non-points races.

After that, track owner Del Merritt and office manager/official scorer Kim Baker Allen will assess a trying season and discuss some changes for next season.

“It has been a tough year,” said Merritt. “We’re competing with so much in Bangor … concerts on the waterfront every weekend and the new auditorium [Cross Insurance Center]. It makes things interesting.”

“This past Saturday night, we had the lowest count we’ve had in the grandstand in quite some time, around 240 people. That is really, really low,” said Allen, who felt the grand opening of the Cross Insurance Center, featuring the Harlem Globetrotters on Friday and Saturday nights, and a Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday were the primary reasons for the attendance woes.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on in Bangor now and we have to grow with it. Hopefully, we’ll become the outside venue [of choice],” said Allen.

Merritt and Allen have already decided to ditch the 5 p.m. starting time for racing in September next year. The races began at 6 earlier this season before moving to 5 for September.

They tried it this year so the fans could avoid the cold nights.

“It’s too early,” said Merritt. “Some of the people have jobs and they can’t get out to race or go to the races at 5. We’ll probably race beginning at 6:30 throughout the entire season next year.”

Allen said in addition to trying to prevent the fans from sitting in the cold, “we also wanted people to have a chance to do something after the race.

“But I’ve watched people coming into the track at 7. They don’t want to be here early,” said Allen.

Merritt and Allen will also have to plot the future of Wacky Wednesday, which concluded its 15th season of racing for entry level drivers last month.

They said the crowds have been good but the car counts haven’t, which is the opposite of Saturday night racing, where the car counts have been mostly good but the crowds have been smaller than usual.

The Late Models represent the top class on Saturday nights and it has had the best car counts, between 14-18 most nights.

“I would hate to give up Wacky Wednesdays. I haven’t made up my mind yet,” said Merritt. “Maybe we’ll only run 10 weeks or just in July and August next year.”

Wacky Wednesday ran from June 5 to Aug. 21 this past season.

Saturday night racing began on April 20.

The Ladies Division will be retired since they only attracted four drivers or less this year, Merritt said. That will leave the Big Enduros, Little Enduros, Trucks and Stars of Tomorrow for 10-18-year-olds.

“We’re going to put the Wacky back into Wacky Wednesday,” said Allen, referring to entertaining offbeat races like the ramp races or chain races.

In ramp races, the drivers must negotiate a ramp every lap. They must put at least two tires on the ramp as they drive over it.

In chain races, two cars are chained together. One car has an engine and the other car has the brakes and the drivers must coordinate themselves.

There is another specialty race that involves each car having to circle a skidder tire every lap.

Merritt and Allen said they will evaluate the Big and Little Enduro classes that have been mainstays on Wednesday nights and one of their evaluation tools will be a combined class for four-, six- and eight-cylinder Enduros on Saturday, Oct. 6. The Little Enduros are the four-cylinder cars while the Big Enduros are six- and eight-cylinder cars and they will all run together next month.

“We’ve got to make some changes,” said Merritt, who is contemplating reducing the price of admission for Saturday night’s races.

Points titles wrapping up

Entering Saturday night’s races, one driver has already clinched a points championship and four others appear to be locks.

Carmel’s Ted Ryder has successfully defended his crown in the Sport Fours. He won his first points title a year ago after a previous high of fifth in the Little Enduro points in 2011. Ryder has a 148-point lead over second place Andrew Crosby of Hermon.

Ellsworth’s Andy Saunders will make it two in a row in the Late Models as long as he shows up and completes a lap in the feature. He has a 98-point lead over John Kalel II of Orrington.

In the Street Stocks, Cornville’s Shelby Kimball seeks to become one of the few female champions in a class other than the Ladies Division if she can hold off younger brother Matt, who trails by 78 points.

In the Bombers class, Carmel’s Dennis Burns holds a 90-point lead over Bangor’s Scott Bonney and, in the closest race, Hermon’s Kris Watson leads Skowhegan’s Kris Matchett by 56 points in the Sportsman class.

Final 95 weekend Oct. 4-6

The final weekend of racing at Speedway 95 on Oct. 4-6, will include practice from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday; 50-lap Sport Four and Enduro-Bomber features on Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. and 50-lap Sportsman, 75-lap Street Stocks and 95-lap Late Model features on Sunday beginning at 2 p.m.

The Sport Four winner will pocket $1,000, which is $850 more than a regular Saturday night victory. The Enduro/Bomber winner will pocket $300, which is a $225 increase; the Late Models winner will take home $1,250 compared to the usual $700; the Sportsman victor will earn $750 when they would normally earn $300 and the Street Stock winner will receive $500, which is a $300 pay bump.

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