UNITY, Maine — Last year, Dean Fuller and a friend were interested in sponsoring a race at Unity Raceway and discussed it with George Fernald Jr., who leases the track from Ralph and Nancy Nason.
Fuller knew the track wasn’t doing well and wanted to help Fernald out.
“But George told me it would help out a lot more if I came back to race here,” said Fuller, who hasn’t raced full time at Unity Raceway since 2004 but has done a few races here and there.
“So Chad Dow and I took an old Pro Stock car I had built in 1985 and revamped it. It’s a pretty nice car. Chad spent all his spare time working on it,” said Fuller.
Hallowell’s Johnny Clark tried out the car for the first time last month and promptly won the John Phippen Memorial Race at Unity.
Fuller jumped back into the car a few weeks later and the Albion native is a perfect two-for-two in it, driving to a pair of Late Model wins.
Fuller will look to make it three in a row on Saturday night when a full card of racing takes place at Unity beginning at 7 p.m.
“Last weekend, I had a prior commitment and didn’t get to the track until 8:30 or 9,” said Fuller. “But I figured I’d just go out and make an appearance. I started at the rear.”
But the 2002 Unity Raceway Pro Stocks points champion maneuvered his way through the field to take the checkered flag.
“They spent a lot of time working on the car to get it ready and they definitely got it right,” said Fernald.
Fernald said he is indebted to Fuller for his decision to come out of retirement to help him out.
He said they used to be racing rivals but now they’re good friends.
“He loves the place just like I do,” said Fernald.
However, Fernald has decided to turn the reins back over to the Nasons after this season, ending his five-year run leasing it.
Fernald pays the Nasons $35,000 a year to lease the track and he said he lost $10,000 a year ago and is down $20,000 so far this year.
“The car counts have been terrible. We had 49 cars [for seven classes] last weekend. I’ve been taking money out of my pocket and our family’s pockets to keep it open. When you can’t even break even, it’s time to take a step back. We’ve had enough. We’ve missed out on a lot of stuff with the kids,” said Fernald, who has three sons, all auto racers at Unity, with wife Sherry. “We bought a camper two years ago and we haven’t used it yet.”
Fernald feels there have been two reasons for the struggles.
“It’s partially the economy. And there are some people who don’t like me,” said Fernald.
He said he has had to disqualify some racers for violations and they don’t like it.
“It’s a thankless job and very few people appreciate the job you do. Dean Fuller is one of them who does [appreciate it]. He stepped up and said he’ll do whatever he can to make it work for us,” said Fernald.
Fuller praised the effort turned in by Fernald and noted his sincere desire to make it a successful venture that provides enjoyment for the drivers and fans.
“George has tried real hard. He has given 100 percent to make things happen,” said Fuller. “But things just haven’t clicked for him. And he has had health issues the last three or four weeks.”
Fernald, who has diabetes and heart problems, also was arrested last month for failing to sign a summons after a confrontation with a driver whose behavior was deemed unacceptable by Fernald. His court date is next week.
Fuller said despite the low car counts, “the racing has been super. Anybody could win.”
Fuller has strong feelings for his home track and the entertainment value it provides.
“It has always been a nice place to race. It costs you $10 to go to the races and you get three to four hours of entertainment,” said Fuller. “It’s a better deal than going to a movie.”