Speedway 95 in Hermon will open for the season on Saturday night at 7 and Del Merritt, who has owned or co-owned the track since 1968, will have the benefit of relaxed COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Last year, no fans were allowed in the grandstands initially, before Gov. Janet Mills and the state allowed up to 200 later in the season.
On March 26, the limit was extended to 75 percent capacity for outdoor venues and, on May 24, full capacity will be allowed.
However, social distancing is still required and those who cannot maintain that space are asked to wear face coverings.
The concessions and souvenir stands and the restrooms in the grandstands will be open. All remained closed last year. There were portable toilets and concessions were sold in the pits but not the grandstands.
Speedway 95 is one of three stock car race tracks in Maine that will hold racing on Saturday.
Wiscasset Speedway began its racing season last weekend, while Oxford Plains Speedway and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough will begin their weekly racing series on Saturday.
Wiscasset Raceway splits its racing divisions into two groups with each racing every other weekend. They drop the green flag at 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Merritt said it is his understanding that members of the same household are allowed to sit together without the six-foot distancing mandate or face coverings, but others must sit apart or wear masks.
He doesn’t believe Speedway 95 can operate safely with 75 percent spectator capacity, but doesn’t anticipate that being an issue this week. The facility seats 3,000 and it is expected to be a chilly, windy Saturday evening.
“If we can get 30 percent, which would be 900, I would be ecstatic,” Merritt said.
Wacky Wednesday racing for entry level divisions will begin at 7 p.m. on June 9.
Merritt has changed his starting times in the past but he said he is sticking with 7 p.m. for Saturday and Wednesday racing this season to avoid any confusion.
Saturday night racing will involve Late Models, Street Stocks, Sport 4s and Cage Runners while Wacky Wednesday will have Roadrunners, Modified Enduros and Stars of Tomorrow.
“We’re going to have one of the strongest fields of Street Stocks in the state,” Merritt said.
The defending points champions are Steuben’s Brenton Parritt (Late Models), Kenduskeag’s Kris Watson (Street Stocks), Frankfort’s Andrew McTague Jr. (Sport-4s), Skowhegan’s Ethann Lyons (Cage Runner), Newburgh’s Jason Trundy (Roadrunners), Norridgewock’s Zach Audet (Modified Enduros) and Dixmont’s Garrit McKee Jr. (Stars of Tomorrow).
The Pro All Stars Series North tour held races last weekend at Oxford Plains Speedway including the Honey Badger Bar and Grill 150 Super Late Model race. It was won by Oxford’s Dave Farrington Jr.
Unity Raceway and Spud Speedway in Caribou are both still up for sale and don’t have any racing dates this season. Unity Raceway owner Ralph Nason and Spud Speedway owner Troy Haney said both have had interest from potential buyers.
The asking price for Spud Speedway is $275,000 while Nason prefers not to list the price of Unity Raceway.
“I think the track will change hands this year,” predicted Nason, who has owned the track since 1980 and has leased it to several individuals over the years.