We are well into our New York visit for the 2011 Tour and we've had what will become the only two missed races on our schedule. The August 6, 2011 race at Shangri-La Speedway was cancelled due to rainout and Devils Bowl Speedway's cancellation was due to tropical storm Irene which brought heavy winds, a lot of rain and, in the process, devastated parts of the northeast including heavy flooding in Devil's Bowl's home of southern Vermont.
So, it was a good move to add a racetrack to our schedule, which is always flexible on these Tours. We visited Spencer Speedway for a Friday night show before traveling to Oswego Speedway for its Saturday night running of the Supers.
Having just been to three of the finest dirt tracks in the Northeast, it was good to see what was happening on the asphalt side of racing in mid-state New York. And neither track disappointed. In fact, I've got a lot of nice things to say about both facilities and their owners. So let's get started.
Spencer Speedway held a three-division...
Spencer Speedway held a three-division youth bike race and it drew lots of competitors, some who could not be contained. These kids will remember how much fun it was to go to the racetrack and talk mom and dad into coming back.
The NASCAR Sunoco Modifieds...
The NASCAR Sunoco Modifieds were the top division at Spencer. This track is very competitive and with the layout, handling is key, as usual.
Spencer also ran a good number...
Spencer also ran a good number of Legends cars. Here we see a familiar scene, lots of great safety equipment. All of our pushing and speaking out on safety might just be making a difference. I see much more use of head-and-neck restraints now than ever before.
As I mentioned, this track runs on Friday night, but on Saturday, it runs an eighth-mile drag show and that helps pay the mortgage so to speak. It's situated in the northern part of New York about 80 miles east of Buffalo and only three and a half miles south of Lake Ontario and the Canadian border.
The owner of Spencer is John White, and if you remember, he is a partner in Chemung Speedway, another asphalt track that also runs on Friday nights. He told us about this speedway when we visited Chemung earlier in the Tour and since we had an opening, we decided to take a look.
Because he is the tech official at Chemung, he has appointed Chuck Deridder as head tech inspector, a position we find very valuable and one that helps maintain legality and attendance at every track. Chuck's wife, Lee, serves as office secretary.
The class structure here includes the NASCAR Sunoco Modifieds as the top division, Super Stocks, Super Sixes, Scorpions, and Legends cars. The track is interesting in that because of the dragstrip running the length of the front stretch, the first and fourth turns must be flat, which pretty much makes the whole track flat. Handling is extremely important here.
In the Modified class we saw many Troyer cars, logical since that business is just down the road in Rochester, New York. There are a few other manufacturers present in Northeast Modified racing like Art and Ken Barry's Spafco Race Cars, who we would interact with later on in the Tour.
You know you’re way up north...
You know you’re way up north when an Alaskan Malamute shows up. This big boy had a huge bone to pick.
The turns at Spencer are wide...
The turns at Spencer are wide and flat with zero banking angle.The runoff area was wide too and several cars took advantage of that during the racing program. I like fewer concrete walls at racetracks. We never like to see cars get torn up by hitting concrete, much less seeing drivers get hurt. In this case, there was plenty of room to place the racetrack inside a large tract of land. Many tracks aren’t so fortunate.
If a car does travel all the...
If a car does travel all the way to the wall, a double row of used race tires is there to cushion the impact and probably save the car from serious damage.
All of the cars were well prepared and looked great. I can say that at some tracks we visited, the teams cared less about the appearance of their cars, but here, the paint was new, the bodies were straight and it just showed us that a lot of time and effort went into these teams racing.
The spectators were taken care of in many ways at Spencer and a large contingent of kid bicycle racers were on hand for a pre-race run down from the drag starting line to the oval finish line. Three age divisions competed for prizes and bragging rights. Talk about creating interest in racing, many of these youths are sure to be building their own race cars when they are old enough.
This half-mile paperclip-shaped track, although flat, was wide and had long runoff areas so that in many cases, the cars that went too wide came to rest before hitting anything hard. That is appreciated by the race teams and lessens the damage caused by losing control in a tight race. Most of the cars in each division finish in one piece.
We came away from Spencer with a feeling that this track served the area well and provided good, clean family fun for all ages. The races were well managed, the program ran smoothly and the tech was top notch.
As Oswego, we were excited...
As Oswego, we were excited to see the Super Modifieds run. On a normal weekend, they run without the top wings, but were nonetheless super fast and competitive. One weekend a year, the Classic Weekend on the weekend before Labor Day, they run the large top wings. Do you think this car need a little more left side weight. Everything that can be mounted far left in the car is.
Attention to safety is most...
Attention to safety is most important with cars that travel this fast. Here a team member is placing a head cushion insert into the car prior to practice. The H&N devices are a must for cars that reach these speeds. Impacts can deliver upwards of 70 g’s of force.
A different feature of this...
A different feature of this track was that the flagman’s stand was placed on the inside of the track. I guess if the cars get together and start flipping, you wouldn’t want to be up above all of that. This also keeps the official working the flags inside the pit area.
We were greeted with open arms at this historic and significant racetrack that runs on Saturday nights. New owners this year are Eric and John Torrese and they have put a significant amount of time and money into restoring this racetrack to a first class facility.
Their father, John Sr., raced at this 3/8-mile track when it first opened in 1951 as a dirt track. After only one race, it was decided to pave the track and in 1961 it was enlarged to its current size of 5/8-mile. The brothers who run the track now also raced here in the past.
We were literally given the key to the track and officials were told we could go where we pleased. The entire staff was just what you would want for both the fans and race teams. One longtime office worker told us in private that she just loved the brothers.
Eric even invited us to watch the races in their family suite, one of several that have been totally refurbished as part of the overall track improvements. And they were in the process of preparing for their biggest weekend the following week with the Budweiser Classic Weekend, a three day event preceeding Labor Day.
There were just two classes running on this weekend, the Super Mods and the SBS, or small block supers. Both would provide great heat races and features and it proves that you can draw large crowds of both competitor and fans running a fairly small show.
Missing were the stock classes, Mini cars, and Late Model stock cars. We counted 20 SBS class cars and 23 Supers. There was no lack of action and the speeds were unbelievable. In the Supers feature, one car hit a top average speed of 135.216 mph.
The photo op was great here...
The photo op was great here and I can’t tell you how it feels to have several of the Supers coming at you at those speeds. No matter the speed, the cars must handle well to get good lap times. It seems more important at elevated speeds to get the car balanced.
Although the large top wings...
Although the large top wings were missing, the cars ran their front wings mounted low and in front of the front axle along with a large rear spoiler. The speeds were very high with a top average run during the feature of 135.216 mph. That’s honking.
The scoreboard at Oswego was...
The scoreboard at Oswego was one of the best we’ve seen at any short track. It’s capable of showing up to 20 positions and was visible to all of the people in the pits or grandstands.
We really enjoyed our stay at Spencer and Oswego. I think it was a combination of the people we met and being right there on the shores of Lake Ontario that made this time so special. It was really good to see these tracks that were run so well and where the teams respected their racing efforts.
After three wonderful dirt track visits and now this two track asphalt stretch with more great things to see, we are off to Mohawk International Raceway, a dirt track located at the very northwesterly part of New York and Thunder Road Speedbowl, a legendary track located in Barre, Vermont. We'll fill you in on how those went in our next issue.