50 years after being constructed, the future of Caribou, Maine’s Spud Speedway is uncertain. In a phone interview with Speed51.com on Friday afternoon, track owner Troy Haney confirmed a report from the Bangor Daily News that the Aroostook County track is for lease and, as of right now, will not be in operation for the 2015 racing season.
According to Haney, the track is not for sale and will not be put up for sale any time in the near future.
“It’s just a lease option,” Haney told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It’s not a financial issue as far as me with the track or any hardships in that regard. Over the last five years, after investing about a quarter of a million dollars in the facility, we’ve put another $400,000 in keeping it running in operational expenses.
“We’ve been losing $40,000-$50,000 a year just to keep the track open. It doesn’t take a very good business man to know that that is not sustainable for a long period of time.”
As it has been from day one, his goal is to keep the speedway alive and well. As a result of a recently signed contract with a cell phone company to construct a cell phone tower on track property, Haney believe he can lease the track out to potential lessees at an affordable price of $12,000 per year.
“We’ve had a few people step up and show interest in potentially leasing the track for next year,” said Haney. “If nothing else, at the very bare minimum, we will operate our race kart track that we put in. Our goal since day one, and it actually hasn’t changed, has always been to make sure the speedway stayed open.
“I grew up three miles from the race track and I grew up going there my whole life. I think it’s a good place for young people to go enjoy themselves and have a good time. We didn’t want to see that go away.”
Haney never expected to profit from his purchase of the facility, but the amount of money he was investing into the track forced him to search for another job in order to pay the bills.
“The difference now after buying the track and making that financial investment and having that type of end result losing $40,000-$50,000 a year, I personally had to go take another job to raise money to pay the bills. With this new job I’ve been travelling all around the country.”
Just this week Haney took a flight to St. Louis on Monday for a business trip, will return to Spud Speedway on Saturday, and then take another flight to Nashville for another business trip on Monday morning. He said he’s been doing that for five years now.
“For family reasons and just plain sanity, that is not feasible to continue for multiple years,” said Haney.
Fort Kent, Maine native Austin Theriault, who has made it all the way up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series ranks after beginning his racing career at Spud Speedway, was sad to hear about his home track potentially closing.
“It’s very sad to hear about the potential closure of any short track,” Theriault said in a text message to Speed51.com on Friday. “But this hits particularly close to my heart. Spud Speedway was a big part of where I am today.
“It should really remind all of us racers that at the short track level having fun should be the first priority. I hope that solution can be found so that Northern Maine racers and fans can continue to have a place to enjoy short track racing.”
Nestled in the most northern part of Maine and with the population of just under 71,000 citizens, according to the United States Census Bureau, the track has fought a never ending battle trying to get fans, cars, and sponsors to the race track.
Haney believes the closing of the Loring Air Force Base, which was located right down the road from the facility, was the beginning of the tracks downwards spiral.
“The short answer is yes, the economy has everything to do with it,” said Haney. “But the reality of it is that originally this track was built right across the street from Loring Air Force Base and there were 10,000 people that lived within two miles of the facility. 20 years ago, that went away when the base closed.”
One of the biggest challenges for Haney and the future lessee will be attracting sponsors to support the short track racing program. Due to the track’s geographical location, Haney found it difficult to bring in the sponsorship money needed to keep the track operational.
“We have limited amounts of businesses in Aroostook County to begin with,” Haney said on Friday afternoon. “You look at that as a challenge. The national-type sponsors even in Bangor they’ll pay $5,000 to put a banner up and support the track, where as in Aroostook County they may give you $500. So I have to go find 10 sponsors to make up what they get in one. That makes a huge difference in our ability to do things.”
Although he doesn’t have plans to host weekly racing at the track in 2015, Haney does believe that there may be an option to run a few special events throughout the season to keep the track alive. He plans to sit down with management from a few different regional touring series to discuss the possibility of that option.
“It will be our preference to do so,” Haney said of running special events in 2014. “We have to sit down and talk to these tours. We’ll sit down with all options. If we can coordinate so we can get a bunch of tours up here on one weekend and make a big event out of it, that’s what we’ll do.”
Regardless of what happens with the 1/3-mile oval track, Haney has full intentions to continue operating the 1/5-mile go-kart track located within the infield of the big track. His hopes are that a successful go-kart program will help lead to a successful short track program down the road.
“I’m working with the kids because they’re the future of the sport. We want to keep that alive. We have kids coming in there that are five to twelve years old. In four or five years, those will be the ones wanting to build a racecar.
“If we can build a stock of guys like that, there will be a time when the race track will be reopened and has the potential to be successful. It just takes time to rebuild it.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Spud Speedway Facebook