Five years ago, the future of Wiscasset Speedway was in doubt. Many, including long-time track announcer Ken Minott, wondered if race cars would ever circle the three-eighths mile oval again. In the blink of an eye, Maine’s fastest oval had become Maine’s slowest oval as it sat dormant for the 2011 and 2012 racing seasons.
Fast forward to this Saturday, April 23, 2016 and the track is ready to open its gates for the fourth straight season under the ownership of Richard and Vanessa Jordan.
After previous track owner Doug White experienced financial woes in 2010, the Jordan’s purchased the facility on July 12, 2012 at auction for the price of $130,000. With a lot of hard work and money invested to improve the race track, Wiscasset Speedway was rejuvenated by its new owners.
“Them stepping up and buying it to begin with was a huge step,” said Ken Minott, current promoter of Wiscasset Speedway. “They’ve gone way over and above what people thought they’d do as far as rehabilitating the track and doing improvements and such.”
Improvements made over the last four seasons include the rehabilitation of concessions buildings, a brand new pit entrance that also serves as the track’s speed shop and a brand new septic system. The track itself has also been improved through the process of grinding and repaving some of the cracked sections of asphalt.
The most recent update to the facility, which fans will see for the first time this Saturday afternoon, is the addition of a new concrete wall in turns one and two. Previously, that section of the race track consisted of only a tire barrier.
In addition to the structural improvement made at the track, the Jordan’s and Minott have created unique programs such as their $5 admission program. Every event at the track cost race fans just $5 regardless of what type of cars may be on the track. Whether it’s a NEMA Midget show, a 200-lap Late Model race or Granite State Pro Stock Series race, a family of four can walk through the gates for just $20.
“The biggest thing that we see is full families coming to the races,” Minott told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It’s no longer just mom and dad going and having to find a sitter. It’s full families, we’re seeing a lot of kids at the track now, which obviously are your future fans and your future drivers. Getting them involved early has been big.”
Critics of the $5 admission program have asked whether or not the track will be able to stay afloat consistently offering admission at that cheap of a price. According to Minott and the Jordans, it most certainly can.
“Richard Jordan’s philosophy on the admission is make it affordable and when the time finally comes where we’re turning people away because the stands are completely full, that’s when we’ll worry about whether or not we need to raise the price,” explained Minott. “Our attendance numbers have grown significantly over the last three years and we expect it to get us near capacity within the next year or two.”
In addition to the unique program for fans, the track has also established a unique program for its racers. Instead of racing every week like many “weekly” racers do throughout the country, Wiscasset Speedway has split their divisions into two groups that each race bi-weekly.
“Basically, we split our divisions into two separate groups and run them on alternating weekends. A driver will race one week and then have the next week off,” said Minott. “Really that has made things much more affordable for the drivers and it gives them a chance to do some things with their family or go race at another track that they have a chance to. We see a lot of them also sitting in the stands watching races, or some of them will work on a pit crew for one of their friends.
“(The program) helps maintain a more level car count throughout the year because a lot of the drivers with deeper pockets can have a quicker turnaround with a rebuild of a motor or re-clip of a car or something. But some of the drivers that don’t have quite the deep pockets, they may need the two weeks to rebuild in order to get back out on the track. It has helped keep our car counts much more consistent and we’ve seen pretty near every one of our divisions grow over the last three years.”
Much of the focus at Wiscasset Speedway has been and will continue to be getting the youth of the sport more involved. While some tracks don’t allow small children in the pit area, Wiscasset has taken a risk by allowing kids of all ages in the pit area.
“We try to keep an eye on making sure everyone is safe, but we have some drivers that specifically have said they race at Wiscasset Speedway because they can have their young son working as part of their pit crew,” Minott explained. “They can learn what is done by seeing it firsthand instead of from the other side of the track in the grandstands.”
As Wiscasset Speedway continues to grow under its new ownership, Minott says that they are very cautious in making sure they don’t grow too fast. The track has a motto that they often refer to as “sustained disciplined growth” and this is something they live by each day.
“Grow in a way that you’re not taking steps back, but do it in a disciplined way. Don’t grow too fast so that we aren’t able to handle those changes.”
Don’t expect any type of dramatic changes at Wiscasset Speedway, though. They’re happy with what they have and who they have become over the past three seasons.
“The one thing Richard Jordan likes to say is that we’re going to do what we do well at Wiscasset Speedway. It may be a little bit out of the box as far as what some other tracks do. They do what’s best for them, we’re doing to do what’s best for us. As long as our drivers and fans are having fun then we’re going to be alright.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Wiscasset Speedway