July 22, 2011

Steve Solloway: Running through a few items as racing rolls onto center stage

While waiting to see who drops the green flag to start Sunday's TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. ...

First impressions of Dave Leitao? Articulate and focused. How he motivates this year's version of the Maine Red Claws won't be known for another four or five months. That's how it should be. Today he's the blank sheet of paper, the empty screen.

Leitao was introduced Thursday as the new head coach of the Red Claws and certainly Jon Jennings has the book on Leitao, knows his strengths and flaws and offered him the job. The new coach talked more about how to achieve success rather than vague promises of leading a contender into the playoffs.

Leitao talked about identifying the players who will become leaders, knowing he only has profiles of the type of players Jennings and he will go after. This isn't Doc Rivers taking the head coaching job with the Celtics years ago and explaining how he's going to use Paul Pierce. This is the NBA Development League, where lots of pieces have to come together, starting with the coach. ...

By the way, when teams call press conferences to announce new head coaches, they want to break the news rather than let the media do it. How could Jennings know that Leitao and my colleague Mike Lowe not only grew up in New Bedford, Mass., about the same time, they saw each other at pick-up games on the basketball courts at Buttonwood Park. Lowe got some information, connected the dots by making phone calls and identified Leitao the day before the official announcement. ...

My uninformed pick in the office pool for the new coach was Jim Boylen, the former University of Maine star from the mid 1980s who's had a rather lengthy coaching career in college and as an NBA assistant. Boylen was fired from the head coaching job at Utah in March. Less than a week ago, he took the last assistant coach opening on the Indiana Pacers staff. Boylen was runner-up to Reggie Lewis of Northeastern in North Atlantic Conference Player of the Year voting. ...

Bill Ryan Jr., one of the principal owners of the Red Claws, also owns Oxford Plains Speedway. He invited Austin Ainge, Leitao's predecessor, to watch the TD Bank 250 as his guest and Ainge accepted. Ryan then asked if Ainge would like to start the race by waving the green flag. Ainge declined. ...

From Bill Ryan back to Bob Bahre, Oxford Plains Speedway owners have tweaked the 250, which is in its 37th year and one of the iconic sporting events of Maine summers. This year, the Pro All-Star Series returns to the speedway for a Saturday night 150-lap race to kick off the race weekend. That's a good business move for Ryan. PASS features the big horsepower, more expensive Pro Stock or Super Late Models as they're called now. The same cars and drivers that ran the TD Bank 250 until Ryan changed the rules to bar the Pro Stocks in favor of the less costly Late Models class.

Ryan believed his decision would keep the TD Bank 250 financially viable for everyone. Pro Stock drivers and their fans disagreed, some rather loudly. This weekend, short-track race fans get the best of both worlds. But here's a risk: Will the PASS race overshadow the TD Bank 250 in terms of attendance or excitement? Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch plans to race in both events.

The TD Bank 250 is backed by Tom Curley and his American-Canadian Tour. Curley is the consummate promoter and has brought parity to his racing. Maybe 90 percent of the drivers starting the TD Bank 250 will believe they can win and that's exciting. Maybe 20 percent of the PASS starters will believe they can win Saturday's race but that doesn't remove the drama. As NFL fans have discovered, parity isn't always a good thing.

Many of the PASS drivers from that 20 percent are known to even the more casual race fans in Maine. ACT drivers may be big names in Vermont but that recognition doesn't travel to Maine. At least not yet. ...

Applaud Matt MacMillan when he's introduced Saturday at the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, even if he's an unknown. He's a Freeport High football player and three years ago that school didn't field a varsity football team. MacMillan is a defensive back and generously listed at 155 pounds on the roster. He went to the week-long training camp at Hebron Academy packing some anxiety. Did he belong with the stars from established programs like Bonny Eagle and Deering, Mountain Valley and Winthrop?

He does, as does Jack Horton from Falmouth, Spencer McCormick from Calais and the others from schools that introduced football to communities more in tune to soccer. "This has exceeded my expectations," said MacMillan. "Everyone is so open to being nice to you."

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:


Twitter: SteveSolloway


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)



Clearing the Bases - Friday
Pitching, pitching, pitching

More PPH Blogs

Winter sports 2013-2014

High School Football 2013

Fall sports photos