Unity Raceway is struggling financially and track operator George Fernald Jr. said Tuesday he may step down if the situation doesn’t improve.
“We’re not making any money, that’s for sure,” said Fernald, who is in his fourth year leasing the track from owner Ralph Nason. “I love the place, and I don’t want to see it close, but on the other hand I don’t think I can continue to do this after this year if things don’t change. I don’t know how long I can keep it and not make anything for my effort.”
Nason said he is aware of the financial difficulties Fernald faces.
“Before we say that’s it and it’s done we need to take a good look at the situation,” he said. “However, if the situation isn’t conducive to being profitable, I certainly wouldn’t keep it open. I really like George a lot; he’s a good friend. He deserves to have one really good year.”
Fernald said it costs about $12,000 a weekend to run the track.
“There’s the insurance, the lease, paying the drivers, lights, propane,” Fernald said. “It’s a lot. It’s tough.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve had to take money out of my home business to cover everything. My love for the place can only run so deep in my pocket. We’re just not getting the crowds we should be getting. Unfortunately, if people don’t start showing we’re going to lose another race track.”
Wiscasset Raceway has remained dark this summer after owner Doug White put the track up for sale. White previously thought he was close to an agreement, but a deal for the track ultimately fell through.
“I’m only here because I love the place,” Fernald said, “and I want the guys to have a track to race at. But I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing it.”
Regular division racing resumes at 6:30 Friday night. There will also be a spectator race in which fans can enter their cars for $10. Only two cars will race at a time. The round-robin format will continue until one car is left. The winner takes the pot.
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Johnny Clark of Farmingdale will race at Oxford Plains Speedway for the first time since 2006 when the Pro All Stars Series North Super Late Model division comes to the track for a Saturday night feature.
Saturday will also mark the return of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch to Oxford. Busch will compete in the PASS North race as well as the annual TD Bank 250 on Sunday. Busch also last raced at Oxford in 2006.
“I’m looking forward to going back,” Clark said. “There will be a lot of people there, a lot of cars there. It’s going to be cool.”
So, too, Clark said, will be the opportunity to race against Busch again.
Clark raced Busch in the 250 at Oxford in 2005 and 2006.
“Any time someone of that caliber wants to race with us, it’s cool,” Clark said. “I love racing against talent. If you didn’t like the challenge, why do it? But you have to step up your game when you race guys like Kyle Busch. It’s cool. I’ve raced him a handful of times. He’s beaten me but I’ve beaten him. It’s cool we are all reuniting Saturday.”
Clark is gunning for his fourth consecutive PASS North points championship. He was trailing Ben Rowe of Turner for much of the season before Rowe was docked 25 points for failing a post-race inspection recently.
Clark now holds a 34-point lead over Rowe.
“It’s not the way we want to jump out to a points lead, but at this point we’ll take it,” Clark said.
PASS North will also race tonight at Thompson International Speedway in Thompson, Conn.
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The Late Model points race at Unity Raceway is now a three-car battle between Jeff Burgess, David Folsom and Dylan Turner.
The three are separated by a mere 16 points, with Burgess leading the way with 673. Folsom is second with 672 while Turner is third with 657.
“We have a three-car battle right now,” Burgess of Fairfield said. “It’s exciting. I know when I get to the races I have to finish ahead of those two guys. Last weekend, I did that. The week before I didn’t.”
Burgess is mired in a semi-slump, going about a month without taking the checkers.
“The summer is here and the track has lost its grip,” he said. “In the beginning the track was cool and had grip and we were right there. Now, we’ve been struggling to get that grip back. We’re getting close. I’m thinking this weekend we’ll get it right back on track.”
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About 10 drivers are racing on the Maine Mod series this season, none older than 15 years of age. The series travels to four New England tracks and will run about 10 races this summer.
And Reid Lanpher, 13 of Manchester, is the current king of the class.
Lanpher leads the Maine Mod series with 101 points, well ahead of Dustin Bisson, who is second with 74.
“He’s had a great year,” said Scott Lanpher, Reid’s father who helped organize the series last year. “It’s a good class because it helps these kids get experience at a lot different tracks.”
Lanpher has three victories in five races this season, including one last weekend at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H. He’s also won at Spud Speedway in Caribou and Speedway 95 in Hermon.
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Nine drivers participated in a news conference Wednesday to promote the 38th annual TD Bank, which Oxford Plains Speedway will host Sunday.
Among the drivers was Lewiston native Corey Morgan, who last season fell a lap down early but climbed back to finish third overall.
This year, Morgan hopes he can sneak up on the field again.
“We worked our way back up to the front, and it wasn’t easy,” he said. “We snuck up on people. We did it quietly. Maybe we can do that again.”
When asked if he thought that would be difficult, considering his surprise run last season, Morgan replied, “People know I’m there, but they don’t really know who I am.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640