Albany-Saratoga Speedway will be taking a page out of its history book as it embarks on an historic 2011 racing season.
In a joint press conference Saturday morning at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, Albany-Saratoga Speedway promoter Bruce Richards announced that the Malta track will be running under a NASCAR sanction as part of the All-American Series for 2011.
“This will be our 35th season of racing at Albany-Saratoga, and we’re pleased to welcome the NASCAR All-American Series to Albany-Saratoga Speedway,” said Richards. “The branding that NASCAR offers and the notoriety it brings to our pavement racing is great for our drivers and their fans.”
The term Richards should have used is “welcome back.” Albany-Saratoga Speedway ran under a NASCAR sanction during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it attracted the premier drivers from the Northeast, who were competing for NASCAR modified and sportsman national championships.
Albany-Saratoga is also the “home track” for Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. The Pemberton family operated Dunster’s restaurant, which was located down Route 9 from the track, and Pemberton and his brother Randy, now a NASCAR television reporter, were among Albany-Saratoga’s biggest fans.
“We were there when they were bulldozing the track into shape,” said Pemberton in a statement. “We saw guys like Eddie Flemke Sr., Jerry Cook, Pete Hamilton, Richie Evans, Don McTavish and Brian Ross race. I’m really proud NASCAR is again part of my home track.”
Since 1977, the track has operated under the Champlain Valley Racing Association banner, an organization founded by Richards’ father, C.J., who is still active in the operation of both Albany-Saratoga and its sister track, Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vt.
Devil’s Bowl will also be sanctioned by NASCAR for 2011.
“It’s great to bring NASCAR back to this community,” said Bob Duvall, the director of NASCAR’s developmental racing series operations. “And let me tell you, this is the coolest place I’ve ever been to announce a sanctioning agreement.”
The biggest benefit for drivers will be NASCAR’s season-ending point funds. Each track will have a $16,000 point fund, which will be shared by each division, and drivers will also be eligible for NASCAR’s state and national championships in their respective divisions.
“We now have five tracks in New York, so our New York state [modified] champion will receive $10,000,” said Duvall. “And that’s on top of the $16,000 which the best 40 drivers at each track will share. The point fund used to be just for the Division I level, but we’ve pushed our rewards program to the lower levels, too.”
NASCAR will also provide technical support to the two speedways.
Richards also confirmed that the top division at both Albany-Saratoga and Devil’s Bowl will be the 602 modifieds, which will replace the 358 modifieds. The lower-cost GM 602 crate engines were used in the sportsman division the last two seasons, but have been mandated for the premier class this year.
“My dad was the driving force behind keeping the cost of racing down,” said Richards. “He was the first to go with a track tire, and he was the first to switch from big blocks to 358s, and now, we’re going to be the first to elevate the 602s to the premier division.”
Albany-Saratoga’s program for 2011 will consist of 602 modifieds, pro-stock/late models, Renegades, Bomber Warriors and the INEX Legends, which will be making their debut this season. Only the modifieds, pro-stock/late models, Renegades and Bomber Warriors will be eligible for NASCAR