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Speedway 95 ready to salute fans

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 164, No. 28, July 17, 2002

By Ben Bragdon
Staff Writer

Contributed Photo
VROOM VROOM Mike Beland of Milo kneels in front of his Number 87 truck. Beland has won the full-size truck series two years running at Speedway 95. The track is getting ready for its Fan Appreciation Night on July 20.

HERMON Race fans, get ready.

On July 20, as part of its Saturday Night Racing program. Speedway 95 will salute those who come to watch the oval action during its Fan Appreciation Night. One of two fan nights planned for the year, a certain degree of silliness takes over the track as fans and drivers alike celebrate their sport with fun and exciting races.

The races will include a 35-lap big enduro event, which includes larger-size street cars outfitted with safety equipment, a 50-lap small enduro using 4-cylinder street cars, a 25-lap ladies event, and a 25-lap full-size pick-up race.

But the real excitement lies in two of the more slapstick racing categories. Testing the hearts and guts of the drivers will be a small enduro double-0 race in which a car must complete a circle around an outer and then inner track to record a lap, creating some pretty hairy situations.

"After a lap or two, they are intercepting each other on a pretty regular basis," says veteran driver Mike Beland of Milo.

"That's sort of exciting...It's quite a riot," says track owner Del Merritt.

There is also a backwards race scheduled to include all divisions, promising some more bumper-rubbing and spin-outs.

One person looking forward to the night is Beland, who has been racing since 1963. He started to hang-out with an older crowd as a youngster. They were into racing, so he was into racing. After helping as a crewmember for a while, Beland was asked to take the wheel after the driver rolled his midget, breaking the driver's arm and earning him a plate in the head.

"He put me in the car under an assumed name because I wasn't old enough to drive," says Beland.

He became a stand-out driver and was encouraged to move south and turn pro when he hit 18. He decided instead to stick around here, get married, and raise a family He did, however, get a taste of the big time, working on the crew of NASCAR elder Dave Marcis, the last of the owner-drivers in Winston Cup competition.

He now races full-size trucks during the summer season, and has won the championship last two seasons. He spends his winters teach automotive maintanence at Eastern Maine Technical College where the students work on his truck, even take it for practice runs around the track. Belaud and his students form a lasting bond while working under the hood.

"I've got kids that come back to the track that graduated 10 years ago that come once or twice a year to see how the truck is doing and to see if I'm still doing it," says Beland.

He is still doing it, but not for long, he says. He thought he'd be done racing by now, but he keeps finding an excuse to strap himself in his number 87 truck.

"I said that when they started the trucks that I'd let the young guys come in after a couple years," says Beland, "but we keep winning, its hard to come out when you are winning."

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.