Unity Raceway will undergo a major facelift after the 2017 season.
New track owner George Fernald Jr. said the one-third-mile asphalt oval will be dug up in order to transform it into a dirt track beginning next season.
“The track is in bad shape and needs to be repaved,” explained Fernald. “And after buying the place, I don’t have $200,000 to repave it.”
Fernald estimated that it will cost him “less than $20,000” to turn it into a dirt track.
“All the dirt and clay is right there. I’ll just have to buy a grader, roller and a water truck,” said Fernald. “There is going to be a lot of maintenance. We’re going to have to work on it two or three days a week in order to race on it.”
He also noted that by transforming it into a dirt track, “we’ll also be able to fix the drainage.”
The other major stock-car tracks in the state are asphalt, so Fernald said he wanted to do something different.
“I wanted to come up with ideas that will put crowds in the stands and help me pay for the place. We needed something different,” explained Fernald, who expects to “take a lot of heat” for his decision.
Dirt track racing is extremely popular in other parts of the country with National Speedway Directory reporting that there are over 700 tracks in the United States. However, there aren’t any listed in New England.
Fernald said he would be interested in bringing a regional dirt-track race to Unity.
There were dirt tracks in Greenville, Skowhegan and Unity Plantation but they are no longer in operation.
Fernald has held two 100-lap Enduro races in the snow recently and attracted 44 cars and 73 cars, respectively.
He also said he had approximately 500 fans attend the first race and close to 850 for the second one.
Fernald will have a final 100-lap Enduro race on Sunday, the Austin Grant Mud Bowl, beginning at 1:30 p.m. He said officials will apply some kind of slippery substance to the track to make things interesting.
“The Enduros have pushed my hand. I see how good it has been. The crowd has had a great time. There hasn’t been fighting and arguing,” said Fernald.
He also said he would love to hold rodeos at Unity Raceway as well as snowmobile, four-wheeler and dirt-bike races.
The dirt track will mean an end to the Late Model class with the Street Stocks being elevated to the top class, he said.
Fernald bought the track from Ralph Nason and Nancy Nason in July 2016 after having leased it from them from 2008-2012.
He lost more than $40,000 during those five seasons.
He said he has learned from his mistakes and this year he will hold races just once a month, “because we need to make repairs to the track.
“I want to do something major to the track each month so when the crowd comes, they’ll see that we did something and will stay excited for next year,” Fernald said.
The first racing weekend will be held on Sunday, May 21, at 1:30 p.m. The other dates are: Sunday, June 25; Friday, July 7; Sunday, Aug. 13; Sunday, Sept. 10; Sunday, Sept. 24, and the Long John Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 21 and 22.
All of the racing will begin at 1:30 p.m. with the exception of the July 7 card which starts at 7:30.
The classes include Late Models, Wildcats or Street Stocks, Keystone 6 Shooters (6-cylinder cars), Flyin’ 4’s (four-cylinder cars), Caged Enduros and regular Enduros.
The list of planned improvements to the track include new fencing and restrooms, jacking up the grandstand, building a small drag strip in the center of the infield so they can have lawn mower-tractor races, adding a mud run for trucks in the lower parking lot and providing a campground.