“I’m gone.”

Dick Therrien didn’t feel a need to elaborate late Tuesday afternoon in a text message. He was general manager of Oxford Plains Speedway for the 41st running of the Oxford 250 stock car race won by Travis Benjamin two weeks ago and now he’s not. Someone else will oversee day-to-day operations of this country short track until the season ends on Oct. 11 with the Armageddon of Destruction race program.

So, someone’s guilty of hyperbole. Or could there be an end-of-world uneasiness for those who believe racing is much more than a sport? These are worrisome times from the top down in stock car racing.

Television ratings are down for Sprint Cup events, NASCAR’s elite racing series. More damning are all the empty seats. Speedways, beginning with Daytona, are dismantling whole grandstands but not quick enough. Million-dollar sponsors, with memories of the Great Recession still vivid, are hard to find.

Even worse, some are calling the racing on NASCAR’s speedways boring.

The men and women who race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough or Oxford Plains or Wiscasset race on a fraction of the multimillion dollar budgets of their Sprint Cup cousins see vanishing sponsors, too. They run on short, one-third mile oval tracks. The action, when it involves a couple of dozen cars, is not boring.

Nine Sprint Cup team owners have joined together to form an association. They want the sport to become more cost-efficient after years of waste. They want a form of partnership with NASCAR. Let’s talk.

That’s poison to the ruling France family, now in its third generation. NASCAR’s response? Our lawyers will talk to your lawyers.

That’s not good. During tough times you want friends or at the least, partners. You don’t want adversaries. But that’s not the culture of stock car racing. Independence is prized.

Or is it really intransigence? From top to bottom in this sport it’s been my way or the highway.

Which brings us back to Therrien and Tom Mayberry, owner of Oxford Plains and the head of the Pro All Star Series tour. Therrien managed short tracks in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. After less than a full season, he and Mayberry had differences.

An association that began with a handshake, ended with a handshake, Therrien told the Lewiston Sun Journal on Monday. Perhaps their differences were over marketing strategies. Differences over style, maybe. Mayberry is said to be very loyal to his drivers but wary of outsiders. Therrien is the extrovert.

Did he talk his way out of a job or simply decide his talents were best suited elsewhere?

Mayberry is the fourth steward of the Oxford 250, a legendary stock car race that was a staple of Maine summers and a magnet to drivers and fans from Quebec and Atlantic Canada to Florida. Some years, about 120 cars came to the race attempting to earn one of 44 qualifying spots.

This year there were a bit more than 60 cars in the pits. The race action was good, the attendance was OK. Some races have drawn more than 10,000. The 41st Oxford 250 was short of that by a few thousand or more depending who did the counting. There have been crowds closer to 5,000 in bad years.

From 2007 through 2012, previous owner Bill Ryan Jr. worked with Tom Curley, the promoter of the American-Canadian Tour, to recapture some of the race’s pizazz. When this alliance changed rules to go to a less powerful, less costly stock car, some drivers and car owners thought the race went pffft. Some boycotted.

But car counts went up and more fans came back. Then Mayberry bought the track, restored the more powerful Pro Stocks or Super Late Models as they’re also called and Curley went away.

In fact, ACT had its own, rival big weekend this summer on the same date as the Oxford 250. Pretty much the same purse with more than $25,000 going to his winner.

Yes, ACT cars didn’t conform to the rules change. But by running his race on the same weekend, Curley was sending the message that the Oxford 250 was no longer significant.

The Cusack family knows how to play nice. Two generations of Cusacks have owned and managed Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. It has a NASCAR affiliation. It hosts races from Mayberry’s tour and Curley’s tour. It has a loyal staff.

The Beech Ridge model works. Too bad others aren’t paying attention.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at [email protected]

Twitter: SteveSolloway

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