By Ron Hedger
MALTA, N.Y. — Albany-Saratoga Speedway promoter Bruce Richards shocked the eastern New York racing community with the announcement that while the long-rumored removal of the dirt from the three-eighths-mile oval would indeed occur in a few weeks, he’ll be putting the clay back down over the original asphalt surface in mid-May after a series of high profile tour events.
“We toyed with going exclusively asphalt, but there is too much passion associated with the racers and the dirt fans. To them, it’s not racing unless they get dirt in their beer and on their hot dogs,” said Richards, who is at odds with the neighbors and the Town of Malta government over noise and dust issues. “We’ll take the dirt off after the Sept. 18 Northeast Go-Kart Nationals and our Oct. 17 Halloween Havoc Enduro will run on the asphalt. After that, we hope to run a race or two for the 358 dirt modifieds working with Airborne Speedway promoter Mike Perrotte, who has a very successful program featuring dirt cars on asphalt.”
For 2010, Richards has commitments from Tom Curley to run an American-Canadian Tour event to open the season, followed by a highly anticipated program featuring the winged supermodifieds of the International Supermodified Ass’n.
“We’ve also had discussions with Race of Champions tour organizer Andrew Harpell and officials of the True Value Modified Racing Series, and it looks we’ll be hosting the first co-sanctioned event for their asphalt modifieds,” added Richards.
He then shocked the assembled media by announcing that in late May, he’d put the clay back down and run his traditional CVRA schedule through the summer.
“A lot of thought went into that,” said the son of maverick promoter C.J. Richards, who first covered the asphalt with dirt, introduced track tires to the area, made the 358s a headline class in big-block country, and once took the dirt off the oval and ran a single event before laying it back down again.
“We want to introduce our people to asphalt racing and think they’ll be as excited about that as by dirt. And it will be a lot cleaner. With a $4 billion computer-chip fab plant coming to the area, the area will continue to grow and we have to adjust.”
Richards indicated that while the track is grandfathered as an existing use before town zoning laws took effect, he will be making changes to CVRA muffler and cylinder-head rules in an attempt to improve relations with the surrounding community. He also said he believes that the track will not exist in 10 years due to escalating real estate prices induced by the new chip fab plant.
Yet another twist to the saga came when Richards indicated that he has been talking with county officials, through Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville, about finding a more rural area of the county where a speedway would be more welcome.
The bottom line is that he will not be making any more major investments in the Albany-Saratoga facility, despite the recent installation of all-aluminum grandstands.
“If we find the asphalt is not usable when we uncover it, we’ll just cover it up again and race on the dirt,” summed up Richards. “We’re not going to invest in repaving it.”