Speedway 95 owner Del Merritt (center)participates in a retirement ceremony for former co-owner, Alice Baker, at the track in Hermon in 2011. Courtesy Photo Credit: Courtesy photo

Speedway 95 owner Del Merritt said that being inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame this Saturday is kind of scary.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve that,” said Merritt, who has been one of the track’s owners since 1977 and became the sole owner in 2011.

“Would anyone else be crazy enough to do this for 45 years? But I’m still there, hanging on,” he added.

Merritt is joined in the induction class by Harvey Sprague, Kelly Moore, Pete Labonte, Dick Glines, Kennison “Chummy” Brown and the late John Phippen. The ceremony will be held at the Augusta Civic Center beginning at 4 p.m.

Merritt’s affiliation with the Hermon track began in 1968 when his friend, Dana Crockett, asked him if he would be his assistant flagman at the races.

Even though he had never been to the track, he took Crockett up on his offer.

Nine years later, Merritt, Red and Alice Baker, John Michaels and some minor investors bought the track for $200,000.

Michaels sold his share to the Bakers and Merritt, and when Red Baker died in 1991, Merritt and Alice Baker co-owned it until she sold her share to him in 2011.

Red Baker had managed the track and Merritt took over running it after Baker died.

Ralph Nason, Unity Raceway owner and the only driver to win the Oxford 250 three years in a row (1998-2000), said Merritt is richly deserving of his inclusion in the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame.

He said Merritt has overcome adversity and difficult situations that go with running a track.

“He has worked his butt off and, to my knowledge, he has always done everything he said he was going to do,” Nason said. “He could have sold the track many times over but he never did because he wants it to always be a race track, not something else.”

Kim Baker Allen called the track Merritt’s “baby.”

“He has such a soft heart for racing but a strong hand when it comes to running the place,” said the Speedway 95 office manager and scorer.

“He really cares about everything, not just one part of it. He has unconditional support for his staff and the track.”

Baker Allen said Merritt has taken his share of abuse from the drivers but he doesn’t hold a grudge and he will always welcome them back if they leave.

“If we don’t have employees and drivers, we’re nobody,” said the 77-year-old Merritt, a 1964 graduate of Bangor High School. “You have to have thick skin. Everybody loses their temper once in a while.”

The late Phippen, a native of Town Hill, was endeared by the racing community.

The Wiscasset Speedway Hall of Famer, who won countless Pro Stock and Late Model races and seven points championships between three tracks (Unity Raceway, Speedway 95 and Wiscasset Speedway) during his 31-year career, died of a heart attack following a 100-lap race at Speedway 95 in 2010.

“I thought the world of John,” Merritt said. “He was always a good sport. I never had a sour word with him.”

At a luncheon to celebrate Phippen’s inclusion into the Wiscasset Speedway Hall of Fame, Wiscasset Speedway track announcer Ken Minot read a statement that said, “Big John was a larger-than-life character and one of the sport’s most genuinely nicest people to ever strap into a race car.”

Phippen used to take the checkered flag after he won the race and instead of doing burnouts in his car, he would run around his car and other cars while waving the flag.

“He was an entertainer. He liked to have a good time and also wanted other people to have a good time,” said Nason.

Moore was the winningest driver in the Busch North series with 27 victories and won the points championship in 1995. Glines was a well-respected racer who served as a crew chief in a number of NASCAR series from 1983-2001, while Labonte was a very successful drag racer. Sprague had an impressive stock car career primarily at Speedway 95 and Brown was involved in racing for more than 60 years in a variety of capacities, including car builder and crew chief.