If you thought Unity’s Ralph Nason hadn’t been paying much attention to short track racing in the region as he stepped away from week-to-week operations of Unity Raceway over the last decade, you’d be wrong.

Even at 76 years old, and having been content to lease Unity to several different people over recent years, the Maine racing Hall of Fame member has plenty of insights to offer.

“You look at what (Richard Jordan) is doing over at Wiscasset. He’s keeping it cheap, and he’s having success with that,” Nason said last week after confirming he’d reached agreement to sell Unity Raceway to George Fernald of Benton.

“These days, that’s what you have to do. The wife doesn’t want to go to the track all day every week, and the kids have other things they want to do, too,” Nason said of the challenges a promoter faces in attracting both cars and fans to the track in 2016. “Well, the old man wants to race a little bit, but you can’t charge them all $100 to do it, they can’t afford it. There is a magical thing in there somewhere. You’ve got to find it.”

It was clear that Nason, who owned Unity for 36 years, wanted to sell to someone who would keep stock car racing going there. But while that was a driving factor, another factor was that his family was less and less enchanted with the endeavor for themselves.

“The deal is: My kids don’t want it,” Nason said. “They don’t want to run it. … My kids grew up in it and they know what it is. My wife doesn’t want to run it. My wife used to love doing it because she loved doing the concessions. That was always her pride. My pride was I’d get the show moving, keep it moving, that was my pride. I don’t want to do that anymore. She doesn’t want to do that anymore, I don’t want to do that anymore and my kids don’t want to do that anymore.”

Nason isn’t selling a promise with Unity, either. Both he and Fernald, who leased the track from Nason from 2008-2012, know that pit area politics can be more difficult to navigate than bad weather, aging facilities or getting families to spend their entertainment dollars on racing.

“It’s a hassle,” Nason said. “There’s a lot of BS that goes with anything like that. When you’ve got 600 people in your pits, you can’t keep them all happy. Every time you make a call, it’s good for some and not good for others, no matter what. It’s an ongoing battle.”

Fernald spoke of starting a driver’s association, a group of three to four drivers from every division to help police themselves. He believes that will serve two purposes — it will keep competitors invested in the success of Unity Raceway and keep him from having to be heavy-handed himself too often.

“I take things right to heart. (Criticism) bothers me, it always has,” said Fernald, who spent virtually the entirety of his 26-year racing career at Unity. “This way, I’ll be there to assist if we have to do something, but I want the drivers to work things out for themselves when they can.

“I take a lot of things to heart. When I first started racing, I wanted everybody to like me. It can’t be done. You’re racing.”

FORGING AHEAD: Though he was originally surprised to learn the track he’d been leasing had been sold, Nick Huff not only plans to keep holding races at the track for the remainder of the season, he also thinks his short time left can help improve things.

As soon as he heard Fernald planned to assume control on January 1, Huff immediately began rethinking his plans for this fall’s Long John 150 — the speedway’s annual end-of-season special event.

“I brainstormed a little bit about Long John weekend,” Huff said. “I feel like now that I don’t have to have money set up for next year, I can go in with a bit of a gamble for the Long John. If anything, that’s going to make it better.”

Huff, who began leasing the track late in 2014, said that he’s now free from worrying about whether he’ll profit enough this season to enter another lease agreement for 2017.

He believes that he might now be able to provide more incentive for Super Late Model and Pro Stock drivers to make the Long John 150 their final race of the season at the state’s oldest race track.

“Theoretically, this could be the last race ever at Unity,” Huff said. “It’s the last race before George does what he wants to do with it, and, of course, there’s no guarantee George will get to reopen if he goes bankrupt with his renovations or something like that before he can reopen it.

“So, to me, it’s let me go into it putting more money on the line, more money in the purses for the drivers and give them the chance to race one last time at Unity.”

Fernald said last week that he’s already reached out to Huff and told him that he’d be happy to keep him involved in the speedway in the future.

FINAL TUNEUP: It typically flies under the radar, but Sunday’s Pro All Stars Series HP Hood 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway is significant. The event is the final extra-distance Super Late Model at Oxford before the Oxford 250 on August 28.

With the race falling in the middle of the summer heat, the track will provide a true test of what teams will face next month. With the race falling on a Sunday, it should also provide a true taste of just how many teams will attempt to qualify for the 250.

Expect a number of Oxford Plains and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway teams in the field on Sunday, including recent Beech Ridge feature winners Dan McKeage of Gorham and Dave Farrington Jr. of Jay. Both McKeage and Farrington are former Beech Ridge track champions.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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