DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A revered New York short track will reconnect with NASCAR in 2014.
Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon, N.Y., rejoins the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series next year. Gene Cole has owned and operated the 52-year-old half-mile dirt track since 2002. The announcement was made Saturday night at the track’s annual year-end awards banquet.
“We welcome Gene, Utica-Rome Speedway, its participants and fans to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series,” said Kevin Nevalainen, NASCAR senior manager of racing operations. “NASCAR and Utica-Rome have shared chapters of history together. We look forward to sharing an exciting future.”
The combination of Utica-Rome Speedway and NASCAR has a rich heritage. Over several eras, stars of both pavement and dirt-track NASCAR Modified racing have called the track home.
“We have a pretty well-known track,” Cole said. “It’ll be even better known as a NASCAR track. In my opinion, NASCAR makes a difference.”
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. More than 50 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Cole drove dirt Coupes when he got out of high school and is a long time dirt racing and Utica-Rome Speedway devotee. He sponsored Modifieds driven by Paul Jensen for about 15 years. Jenson won four Utica-Rome track championships in 1989, 1990, and 1992-93.
Under Cole’s leadership, the entire facility has been in constant upgrade and improvement programs.
“We’re fortunate to have tremendous employees and more equipment that most tracks,” Cole said. “We keep the track in shape. We put the fans first. We have fresh flowers and attendants in the restrooms. The first green flag falls at five minutes to six and we’re done by between 9-9:30 p.m.”
Utica-Rome Speedway operates on Sunday evenings and NASCAR Division I will be dirt Modifieds. Other weekly divisions include Sportsman, Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks.