After more than 50 years as an asphalt track for stock car racing, Unity Raceway will return to its roots in 2018.

Track owner George Fernald of Benton, who purchased the track from longtime owner Ralph Nason last summer, confirmed his plans to turn the facility into a dirt track beginning next spring.

“I’m going to do what I think is best for this place to pay for it,” Fernald said. “I really feel that’s the ticket. There’s no other good dirt track around here.”

Fernald estimated that it would cost a minimum of $200,000 to repave the current facility, which is badly in need of resurfacing. It would cost less than a quarter of that, he believes, to turn it into a dirt track.

There are no dirt tracks currently holding competition in Maine. Bear Ridge Speedway in Vermont is the only weekly dirt track operating in New England, while Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vermont, runs special select events on a dirt track constructed along the infield of its half-mile asphalt track.

Unity Raceway became Maine’s first speedway when it opened as a dirt track in 1948 for auto racing, utilizing an existing harness racing track for horses at the time. The track remained a dirt track until the completion of the 1964 season.

Below the current asphalt is 18 inches of blue clay, according to Nason. Clay is the surface dirt tracks use across the country for their racing events.

Nason has offered his full support to Fernald’s plan.

“I’ve been an advocate of it from the beginning,” Nason said. “I hope I’m right. I think I am.”

Fernald will hold all of the races currently scheduled for this season and begin construction of the dirt track immediately following the annual Long John weekend October 21-22.

This story will be updated.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC