Unity Raceway is once again looking for someone to lease the track, putting the track’s upcoming season in jeopardy.
Jere Humphrey, who signed a two-year lease last year to run the track, recently left because of financial concerns.
“I think there is a real concern for Unity Raceway,” said track owner Ralph Nason, 74, of Unity. “If I can’t find someone to lease the track or to run it then it won’t open. It’s too bad because I’d like to see it keep going.”
It’s been a tough last few seasons for Unity Raceway, which opened in the fall of 1948.
George Fernald, who leased the track for five years, walked away in 2012 after saying he lost more than $30,000.
Humphrey, a Washburn native, signed a two-year lease last year at $35,000 per season. However, Nason said Humphrey failed to make the payments.
“It was a tough situation,” Nason said. “He just wasn’t able to make something happen.”
Humphrey could not be reached for comment.
So what happens from here?
The track traditionally opens Memorial Day weekend, which is about two months away.
Nason says he doesn’t have much interest in running the track on a day-to-day basis again, meaning something will have to happen quick in the coming weeks.
“I have a lot of ideas,” Nason said. “I just need to get someone in here who knows what they are doing. I’ve had a few interested people talk to me, but nothing has materialized. If it doesn’t open, I will still mow the grass and keep it up. There’s a chance I could open it for one or two events, too. Hopefully, this will work out because I’d hate to see it closed.”
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Crystal Lancaster first started going to Oxford Dragway as a child to watch her father, Dana, race.
When Lancaster turned 16, it was her time to ride.
“I was very excited,” she said. “My dad had been racing there since it first opened in the summer 1970. I used to go all the time, and then I started racing, too.”
Now, the 21-year-old Lancaster is going to run the dragway for owner Mike Mayberry.
She is charged with the daunting task of revitalizing a track that’s struggled with attendance and driver participation the last few seasons.
“They needed someone to help manage it and it went unclaimed for awhile,” said Lancaster, of Lewiston. “When it got to the point that nobody would do it, I stepped up to take it. I took it upon myself. My goals are to get more sponsors and I would like to see the spectator crowd grow more. We’re going to do some things to see if we can do that.”
The first is dropping the price of admission. Prices fluctuated last season, but adults paid as much as $20 at times during the summer. This year, the admission fee is cut in half, to $10.
“It’s been a very long time since the fee was that low,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster is also switching the schedule back to Friday nights with a later start time.
“It’s been slow because I think some people, in all honesty, don’t even know we’re still open. We’ve gone back to Friday night racing because Oxford is traditionally known as Friday night track. We also have some race tracks we compete with, like the New England Dragway (in Epping, N.H.). Those guys run on Sunday, and we want to set ourselves apart from competition. We’re also going to start our shows at 6 p.m. to help with those people who work Fridays.”
Oxford Dragway, which is adjacent to Oxford Plains Speedway, will feature seven classes, including a bikes and sleds.
There will be weekly payouts, with the modifieds earning the most at $300 to the winner.
The track is hosting a cleanup day on May 23, with opening day a week later.
“We can’t wait,” Lancaster said.