For the third time since it opened in 1965, Albany-Saratoga Speedway is making a major change.
Promoter Bruce Richards has announced that Albany-Saratoga Speedway, as well as Devil’s Bowl, its sister track in the Champlain Valley Racing Association, will make the transformation from dirt to asphalt for the 2010 season.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway has already run two shows on its original asphalt surface, and is scheduled to be resurfaced, beginning Nov. 9. A sub-base has been put down at Devil’s Bowl, and the track will be paved in the spring.
The transformation actually began as an experiment. Richards held a press conference in late August and announced that he was going to take the clay off Albany-Saratoga. At that time, he booked dates with three asphalt touring groups (American Canadian late models, ISMA supermodifieds and True Value/ROC asphalt modifieds) for races in the spring, and the plan was to put the clay back down in May 2010.
But after discussions with his family members and sponsors, the decision was made to make a complete change to asphalt at both tracks.
“This year was really tough,” Richards said. “I can’t tell you the time and effort that was put into track preparation this year, just to have it rain at 5 or 6 p.m. on a Friday night. After many, many years of working with the dirt deal, it’s time to move on.
“I’m really excited about the change. We’re opening up a new world of opportunities, in regard to fans, race teams and sponsorship. By going asphalt, we’re also going to be unique. There are a lot of dirt tracks in this area, but we will have the only show on asphalt, and we’re going to be able to do some things the other tracks can’t do.”
Albany-Saratoga Speedway was opened by Joe Lesik in 1965, and ran as an asphalt track from 1965 until 1976, when it was purchased by CVRA founder C.J. Richards, who switched to a clay surface for the 1977 season, which was the first major change.
The second change came following the 1984 season, when Richards made the switch from big-block modifieds to 358s, which are the lifeblood of the track today.
One of the most challenging issues Bruce Richards will be facing at Albany-Saratoga with the new asphalt surface will be tire wear, as competitors were used to running the same set of Goodyears for weeks on end on the dirt surface.
“I’ve gotten assurances from Goodyear that they are going to take their very best asphalt product and put it on a dirt carcass,” said Richards. “I’ve been told that the asphalt product they’re going to use is a proven repeater, which means it can repeat the same track times for five or six weeks.”
Albany-Saratoga will still be running 358 modifieds, budget sportsman, pro-street stocks, limited and mini/stocks next season. The sportsman class will be absorbed into the modified division, which had previously been announced, giving Albany-Saratoga one 358-modified division.
Jerry Richards will take on the promoter’s responsibilities at Devil’s Bowl in 2010, while Sharon Richards will continue in her role as treasurer of the CVRA.
“We’re been involved in racing our whole lives, and we’re excited about entering a new era,” said Bruce Richards.
The traditional Saturday after Thanksgiving date for the Saratoga Automobile Museum’s popular “Lost Speedways” program is rapidly approaching and with it, the list of speakers continues to grow.
The latest addition to the Nov. 28 program is driver Kenny Meisenhelder of Agawam, Mass., who will describe racing in the last 500-lap team race ever held at Riverside Park. After his short track days, Meisenhelder went on to compete in the NASCAR Grand National ranks before taking up yet another career as a racing videographer. He’ll combine his many talents at “Lost Speedways,” offering historic videos to the public along with the tales he will share during author, publisher and historian Lew Boyd’s Riverside Park presentation.
Meisenhelder will be joined by another Grand National “old timer,” Russ Truelove, who will describe racing on the old Daytona Beach sand and highway course that preceded the superspeedway. He will be partnered with Lime Rock Park announcer and racing historian Greg Rickes.
Presentations on a more local note will include Ed Biittig’s talk on Lebanon Valley Speedway before today’s high banks were installed, Bill Ladabouche’s recollections of New Yorkers racing at Vermont’s Pico Speedway and Mark Supley’s history of Capital District flat track motorcycle racing.
Museum visitors are encouraged to bring their memorabilia to share, beginning at noon, with drivers on hand to participate in an autograph session at 12:30 and the formal presentations to begin in the Racing in New York gallery at 1:15.