Stock car racing: Demitraszek taking a cautious approach
Pete Demitraszek obviously doesn’t want his promoting debut to be anything but perfect.
Rather than take a chance with weather and a racing surface that could use another week of preparation, Demitraszek quickly pulled the plug earlier this week and postponed tonight’s season opener at Glens Ridge Motorsports Park.
Opening night has been pushed back to April 26, which will give Demitraszek another week to get things shipshape up on the hill outside Fultonville overlooking the Mohawk Valley.
“Everyone is in a big rush to get going, but nothing is drying out when it’s 22 degrees at night,” said Demitraszek earlier this week when assessing his chances of racing
tonight. “We were on the track all day [Monday]. About three-quarters of it is good enough to race, but the quarter on the bottom just isn’t dry yet.”
So Demitraszek, who took over the promoting reins when Mike Romano and Jake Spraker left at the end of the 2012 season, will take another week to tweak the racing surface.
“Once you tear up the track, you’re screwed,” he said. “We learned that last year. It took until July to get it straightened out.”
Demitraszek, who has been in charge of track preparation, has acted as pit stewart and done just about everything else at Glen Ridge, has seen the good times and the bad. The good times came two years ago, when Albany-Saratoga’s asphalt experiment sent many drivers scrambling for a new Friday night home, and the pits at Glen Ridge were packed. But the bad times came last year, when Lebanon Valley promoter Howie Commander took over Albany-Saratoga, put the clay back down and the pits at Glen Ridge became a ghost town. Car counts got so bad that Romano and Spraker switched to Sunday night racing to try to salvage the season.
Demitrasek has switched Glen Ridge back to Friday night racing, but he’s still not sure how well drivers will support his track.
“Honestly, I’d say it‘s up in the air,” he said. “I know a lot of sportsman guys will come. We’re letting guys use any American Racer tire, which means Fonda and Utica-Rome guys can run here, and I even told a couple of guys they could run alcohol. We’re also going to let the modifieds run sail panels, which will make them different from the sportsman.”
But Demitraszek was quick to point out that he’s not going to give away the house.
“We’ve restructed the purses to make sure we don’t lose a lot of money,” he said. “We’re not going to pay a full purse if we’re only getting 10 cars. If we get 22 [modifieds], we’ll pay a full purse. If we get 15-20, we’ll play this much. If we get less then 15, we’ll pay this much. That goes for sportsman, too.
“This is a business. If you’re not taking it in, you can’t pay it out.”
Demitraszek is hoping the switch back to Friday nights will draw more fans.
“A lot of people work on Mondays, and that’s the hard part,” he said. “If you don’t get out of here until 10:30 or 11, if you have to be up at 4:30 to go to work, that doesn’t leave much time for sleep. Besides, we raced on Friday for all those years. If it worked then, we can make it work now.”
Glen Ridge will be running sprint cars and midgets on a regular basis this season, another change that should put more fans in the seats.
“We need to entertain the fans,” he said. “We’ve got to put the interest back in racing.”
Demitraszek will be assisted by his son, Matt, who recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
“Having him around will take a load off me,” said Demitraszek.
Malta ready to roll
Although Glen Ridge canceled early, Albany-Saratoga Speedway is still scheduled to open tonight.
The track held a testing session last Sunday, and the new clay that was put down last fall started to tear up when cars got up speed.
General manager Lyle Devore said that 135 cars were in the pits for inspection, and that each driver was informed about the wet conditions on the track.
“We wanted to give the drivers a chance to get out, make sure the car turned left, the brakes worked and the throttle didn’t stick,” said DeVore. “But when you get a dozen guys out there together, they all think it’s opening night and start racing, and that’s when the track started to break up.”
Rain on Tuesday afternoon didn’t help matters, but DeVore thinks the surface wil be race-ready tonight. “We just have to get through the next couple of weeks and get the clay dried out,” he said.
On April 19, 1986, both Fonda and Albany-Saratoga ran 50-lap features on a Saturday night.
C.D. Coville was victorious at Fonda, outrunning Jeff Trombley and Jack Johnson.
Gibby Fountain was the winner at Albany-Saratoga, in its second season of running 358 modifieds. Bob Savoie was second, with Matt Waite third. The 1986 campaign would turn out to be the best of Fountain’s career, as he finished with four wins, more than half of is career total (seven) at the Malta track.
Around the tracks
u The racing community lost a dear friend when Ed Keyser died on Monday. Keyser, the father of Carole Palmer, was a huge supporter of racing, especially at Fonda, the home track of his son-in-law Alton Palmer, and Keyser also had a strong friendship with Jack and Ronnie Johnson.
Keyser and his wife, June, were also instrumental in the success of the Kids’ Club at Fonda. The New York State Stock Car Association will be raffling off two bicycles in Keyser’s memory on Saturday night.
u Joe Williams of Scotia made his debut in the Sunoco/SK asphalt modified series last weekend at the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway, finishing 10th after starting 17th. Besides following the SK series, Williams will also compete at Devil’s Bowl on a limited basis for Sargen Racing.
u Matt DeLorenzo was at Albany-Saratoga Wednesday, overseeing the pouring on a concrete slab in his pit area.
u Defending Fonda Speedway champion Stewart Friesen won Sunday’s RoC Tour race at Five Mile Point. Bobby Varin finished third, after starting 14th.
u A little rain didn’t prevent Lebanon Valley from starting its 61st season of racing last Saturday. Brett Hearn won the opening-night feature, which paid $3,000 to win.