RACING

Motor racing: Unity Raceway reopens with massive turnout and fanfare

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UNIT — On the eve of his most beautiful day of the year, Joey Doyon slept only an hour – in his truck.

Doyon, manager of Unity Raceway, spent countless hours restoring the recently inactive track to its former glory. Ahead of the facility reopening on Sunday after four years without racing, the Frankfurt native didn’t want to fall asleep away from the track as he dealt with his nerves and went through his final preparations.

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“I had big butterflies,” Doyon said Sunday afternoon. “I’m still doing it. We’ve been preparing for this day for a long time and you want everything to go perfectly.

Seeing the crowd in the stands from the pit area across the track, however, was nothing short of perfection for Doyon. Neither he nor his wife, Holly, anticipated the turnout and support Unity Raceway received for his long-awaited return to racing.

It was an afternoon of roaring engines, dusty air and nostalgia as the track staged competitive racing for the first time since 2017. One of the biggest crowds in racetrack history filled every seat, from the covered grandstand to the sunny bleachers, to watch the runners spin in circles Maine’s oldest track.

For several years, Doyon was one of the most prominent riders on Unity’s old asphalt track. Last summer, Doyon decided to take it upon himself to revive the racetrack, and he struck a deal to lease the facility from Ralph Nason, owner of the racetrack for more than four decades.

“It killed me because this track means so much,” Doyon said of the track’s inactivity. “My dad used to work the pit gates here and he worked with Ralph for years. After COVID I reached out to Ralph and kept bugging him about it. I knew I could put in the work; I wanted to relive a day like this.

Although various off-road car drivers tested the new track ahead of Sunday, Unity hadn’t held an official race since 2017 on asphalt. This afternoon in July was therefore a historic day on the track, which allowed fans to race on a different surface.

Some of the track’s asphalt days of old have returned, including Edward Archer of Pittsfield, a former track champion whose Chevy Cobalt was covered in a thick layer of dirt as his race sped up. is finished.

“I have a Cobalt that’s been on asphalt, and this is my third time riding it on dirt, and it was phenomenal,” Archer said. When he first gets it wet, it’s quite slippery with a lot of slipping, but it’s fun. … The biggest problem we have is that we can’t see the windshield, but we’re connected.

The ramping up of the Unity race was highly anticipated on social media. A new Facebook page, ‘Unity Race Way, The Rebuild’, was launched in August 2021, and posts teasing the race’s return have steadily received hundreds of likes, comments and shares.

Although the Doyons knew there was a lot of excitement going into Sunday, they weren’t prepared for the fervor of that excitement.

“We already had to do another food run, and it’s not even race time yet,” said Holly Doyon, who worked in the dealerships while her husband helped tend the pits. “I didn’t expect anything close to this, but it’s great to see people are so excited about it. It’s such a surreal feeling to see how many people are here.

The Doyons received messages throughout the day from racing fans marveling at the vibe and the work that had been put into the track. Such sentiments were prevalent in the pit area, where fans could pay $20 instead of the standard $5 to get a different view of the action.

The current plan, Joey Doyon said, is for Unity to offer races every second Sunday. This will allow the facility to alternate race weeks with Get Er Done Speedway in Skowhegan to maximize fan attendance and rider participation at both racetracks.

On days in between, Doyon is sure to be found somewhere around the Unity track. Even after receiving dozens of rave reviews for the state of the facility, he believes the work to bring back Unity Raceway’s climax has only just begun.

“With the dirt, people didn’t know what to think, and neither did I. I’m still learning it,” Doyon said. “We’re still trying to figure things out, but the support has been amazing. What a day.”


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