The stock car racing campaign in the state is taking on a new look this season.
For the first time in 72 years, there won’t be any racing at Scarborough’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway after Andy Cusack sold the track to real estate developers.
That leaves three major racing locations in the state. Oxford Plains Speedway and Wiscasset Speedway opened their seasons last weekend, with eight classes on the card at Oxford Plains Speedway and four at Wiscasset. Both raced on Saturday afternoon. Hermon’s Speedway 95 will have its opening day on May 7.
Racers will be able to practice at Speedway 95 during a Test and Tune session on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.
Spud Speedway in Caribou will have its first race after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 on June 19 when the Pro All-Stars Series tour returns with a four-race card including the third annual Feed the County 150-lap Super Late Model North Series feature.
Spud Speedway hasn’t had weekly racing since 2015 and the PASS race day will be the only one of the season.
And Frankfort’s Joey Doyon continues preparing Unity Raceway’s dirt track surface for racing sometime this season. There hasn’t been weekly racing at Unity since 2016.
Doyon is leasing the track from Ralph Nason and is also going to manage it.
Speedway 95 owner Del Merritt, who has been affiliated with the track since he started as an assistant flagman in 1968, said he is optimistic about the season.
“You never know from one day to the next but it looks like it’s going to be pretty good,” said Merritt. “We had a decent year last year in spite of everything.”
He will have the same classes as a year ago but is adding two divisions to his Wacky Wednesday race cards.
His Saturday night classes, beginning May 7, will include Late Models, Street Stocks, Sport 4s and Cagerunners. Racing will start at 7 p.m.
Wacky Wednesday will kick off on June 15 with Roadrunners, Modified Enduros, Stars of Tomorrow and the two new classes: Trucks and Real Stocks.
The Trucks and Real Stocks will alternate from week to week with one racing one Wednesday and the other racing the following Wednesday.
Merritt explained that they have had Trucks and Real Stocks before but poor car counts led them to drop both classes. The Real Stocks are similar to the Large Enduros, he said.
“I think the trucks will do all right but I don’t know about the Real Stocks,” he said. “We’ll see if it makes it or not.”
He is hoping he will get more cars in his Late Model and Sport 4 classes this season.
They averaged 10-12 per race a year ago and he would like to see that get to at least 12-15.
Merritt said losing a race track like Beech Ridge “hurts all of us.”
Spud Speedway owner Troy Haney agreed.
“It was one of the premier tracks in the state,” Haney said. “It was well-run. It’s unfortunate to see it close.”
Haney and Merritt speculated that Beech Ridge drivers who want to continue racing will probably go to Wiscasset or Oxford.
Oxford is 42 miles from Scarborough, Wiscasset is 54 and Hermon is 130.
Ken Minott, the longtime track promoter and announcer at Wiscasset Speedway, said Beech Ridge’s closing is “bittersweet.”
“As a race fan, it is a gut punch to lose one of the marquee tracks in New England. But as a race track promoter, this is a great opportunity. It will probably be split between us and Oxford but some drivers will also go to New Hampshire and race. Our Super Street class has doubled [in car counts],” Minott said.
Merritt said the track at Speedway 95 is in good shape and that work is currently being done on cosmetic elements such as the billboards and replacing seating planks.
Minott said last Saturday’s turnout for opening day in Wiscasset was the best in the 10 years since the track was bought by Richard and Vanessa Jordan.
“We had around 2,500 in attendance, half in the pits and half in the grandstands,” said Minott, who is very optimistic about the season.
Haney said despite the lack of activity, Spud Speedway is in “great shape” and he is excited about the PASS card on Fathers Day weekend.
They held PASS races in 2018 and 2019 but COVID-19 erased the 2020 and 2021 events.
“PASS always puts on a great show,” Haney said. “And we always get big crowds for it.”
The proceeds will go to Feed the County, a Catholic Charities program that stocks the food pantries in Aroostook County. Haney said anyone wishing to donate can do so by going on the feedthecounty.com website.
Nason said he has been very pleased by the progress Doyon has made preparing the track for dirt track racing.
“Things are coming along very well,” said Nason, who noted that there will be several other activities offered by Doyon on the track in addition to racing.