On Friday evenings throughout the summer the excitement of auto racing fills the air at the Albany Saratoga Speedway on Route 9 in Malta. As you go down Route 9 on race nights, the lawn from the track right up to the road is usually filled with vehicles.
But what happens during the week when there are no races running? Most of the time, like this past Tuesday, you see children from many different school teams practicing. That is just one way that track promoter Bruce Richards is part of the community.
“Most of the schools in the area don’t have enough room for their different sports teams to practice,” Richards said. “So I decided to let them come up here and practice on our lawn. My wife Salina and I live in Malta and are active members of the community, while my children, Evelyn and Connor are enrolled in the Ballston Spa school district. I live very close to work and I don’t have to travel an awful lot.”
For the 2008 racing season at the Albany Saratoga Speedway, the priority once again will be families and the kids.
“We will be doing a lot of fun and different events for the families and the kids such as bicycle giveaways, the Fun Bus, and many other things as well,” Richards said. “We are going to try and expand on the things that we have been doing in past years and also try to find more ways to entertain the families and the kids even more so that they all have fun at the races here at Albany Saratoga.”
The racing season begins tonight at Albany Saratoga with a 50-lap event for the Modified and Sportsman divisions and all other divisions.
Special events will include a 100-lap Modified event on May 9, a gigantic fireworks display on June 29, another 100-lap Modified event in August and an event on Thursday, July 3, which will be announced soon.
Richards said that Donnie Corellis, Dave Camara, Brett Hearn, Jack & Ronnie Johnson, Kenny Tremont Jr. and Matt DeLorenzo will be regulars for the 2008 racing season.
“The cast of characters is going to be better than ever this year,” Richards said. “With the economy the way that it is and people not traveling as much, I think that is going to play right into our hands. If people are looking for bargains, the 2008 season at Albany Saratoga will be the 12th year that the general admission on a regular night will be $10.
“For 2008, we have blown away any records that we had before as far as the driver roster and people wanting to race here at Albany Saratoga in all divisions. It all boils down to affordability, because a driver can race on the same set of tires for four to six weeks. Other tracks, you can burn up two or three tires a night, but we have worked hard and diligently so that we give the drivers a good surface to race on, and that is the key.”
The qualifying procedure in all divisions except for the Modifieds will change at Albany Saratoga this season because of the addition of the Budget Sportsman division to weekly competition.
“The Modifieds will still run their normal heat races and be handicapped for starting position in the feature event,” Richards said. “In all of the other divisions the top 10 finishers in the previous week’s feature events will be guaranteed starters, which will eliminate one heat race per division to help expedite the show.
“Two heat races will be run in each division along with a B-Main to determine the rest of the feature starting positions. The two heat race winners will be added to the top 10 from the week prior and those 12 drivers will draw for their starting positions, while positions 13th on back will be heads up.”
“I am trying to keep the bracketing out for people that need more time on the track. I am also trying to alleviate some of the carnage and wrecked race cars, because that is a big cost for racing.”
Richards got the fans involved by letting them voice their opinions on the Web site www.dirttrackdigest.com on how drivers should qualify for the feature events before coming up with the format.
“I have been told that when I allowed fans to get involved on the forum of the Web site that I had come out and done something that everybody else is so fearful of,” Richards said. “My dad always did a lot of things that were totally different. He was the innovator and I have continued to do that. Allowing fans to get involved in determining our qualifying procedure gave them a little more insight on the political and managerial end of running a business, and I had fun doing it.”
RUMORS OF SALE
Last year, even with all of the great racing that took place at Albany Saratoga, the only thing that people wanted to talk about was the rumor that the track had been sold and what would that mean for the future of the racetrack.
“The racetrack was sold, but the parties that bought the speedway had until a particular date to execute the sale,” Richards said. “They ended up needing some extra time in order to do it because of things that backed up on them, and it didn’t all pan out. Bear in mind that this track has had a lot of people looking at it over the course of time. That wasn’t the first time that someone was here looking to buy the racetrack, and it won’t be the last.”
Richards was happy that the deal to sell the track didn’t come through.
“I said to myself, ‘What am I going to do if it is sold?’” he said. “I have always been involved in racing, and I would have stayed involved in the industry, no doubt about it, but I am happy where I am at and that the sale ended up not going through.”
C.J. Richards started in the racing business 48 years ago, and for Bruce, his brother Jerry, and his sister Sharon it has been a long time as well.
“I can’t even remember how long that it has been for Jerry, Sharon, and I,” Bruce said. “I really enjoy the opportunity that was given to us and it is very rare to have a family of three that are in business together stick together like we have. We are a minority; there is no doubt about that. We stick together for each other and that is the bottom line.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
Tonight at the Glen Ridge Motorsports Park the Modified, Budget Sportsman, Street Stock, and Cruiser divisions will all be in action starting at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at Fonda Speedway, a regular show is on the racing card in all divisions. It will be the first point race of 2008, as drivers in all divisions start their quest toward the 2008 Track Championships.
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