Two Maine stock car racing tracks will take advantage of the relaxed restrictions by Gov. Janet Mills and start their seasons.
Two others are going to wait until fans are allowed in the grandstands.
Oxford Plains Speedway begins its campaign with racing on Saturday and Sunday, while Speedway 95 in Hermon plans to kick off its season with its entry level “Wacky Wednesday” series on July 1.
Fans will not be allowed in the grandstands at Oxford Plains Speedway or Speedway 95.
Wiscasset Speedway and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough have announced they won’t open until spectators are allowed to attend.
Unity Raceway and Spud Speedway in Caribou are closed and haven’t held weekly racing in years.
Speedway 95 owner Del Merritt said he has asked the governor’s office if the state intends to allow a percentage of the maximum number of fans to attend racing July 1 as the state of New Hampshire is doing.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu recently announced that the state’s small racetracks can allow up to 50 percent capacity in its grandstands and New Hampshire Motor Speedway may host 35 percent of its limit for the Aug. 2 NASCAR Cup Series race. That works out to approximately 19,000 spectators.
The Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 originally was scheduled for July 19 at Loudon, New Hampshire, but was pushed back by NASCAR.
Merritt said even if fans aren’t allowed, Speedway 95 will hold Wacky Wednesday race cards on July 1 and July 8 and will begin weekly Saturday night race series on July 11.
“Hopefully, I can get some of our sponsors back,” Merritt said. “Time will tell.”
He hopes Mills will allow fans to return to the grandstands in some capacity to ease the financial burden for the tracks.
“We have 3,000 seats,” Merritt said.
“I’m pretty excited to see the cars come back. I’m nervous. I don’t know how it is all going to play out,” he said.
Speedway 95 will charge drivers, their crews and fans an extra $5 for pit passes to help defray the costs.
Merritt said the track has implemented the guidelines put forth by the governor, including hand sanitizers and properly spaced pit pads where crews work on the cars.
Red Xs have been placed on every other pit pad to give teams a 10-foot buffer in order to adhere to social distancing regulations.
Merritt said if fans aren’t allowed, Speedway 95 will race as long as they can until he feels it is too costly, and then he will shut it down.
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway owner Andy Cusack said he can’t afford to have racing without spectators in the grandstands.
“You can’t take loss after loss after loss every weekend. That’s not a great business model. I don’t need to see the numbers. I’ve been doing this my whole life. It doesn’t work,” Cusack said.
He said he will need to make a decision by July 15.
“That is the turning point. At that point, I’ll assess what the state is allowing and decide what I can do with it,” Cusack said.
He said he will have to be creative if Beech Ridge Speedway opens for racing.
“I’ll have to formulate a program in such a way that it minimizes expenses and consolidates things to make it reasonable,” he said.
Cusack said even limiting the number of fans doesn’t account for others who may not show.
“What percentage are still going to sit out the dance [for fear of the coronavirus]?” he asked.
Ken Minott, promoter, announcer and sales manager at Wiscasset Speedway, said the track is still in talks with state officials.
“[We] remain hopeful that we’ll be able to open with a limited number of fans in a couple of weeks,” he said.
“We should know more by early next week,” he added.
Oxford Plains Speedway is running its Oxford Acceleration Series openers beginning at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, and then its Oxford Championship Series divisions take the track at 5 p.m.
On Sunday, starting at 1 p.m., the facility will host the Coastal Auto Parts 150 Pro All Stars North Super Late Model race, the American-Canadian Tour 150 and a PASS Modifieds feature.
The Saturday and Sunday races will be streamed online on a pay-per-view basis by the Northeast Sports Network [nsnsports.net].