The state of stock car racing and a slowing economy was evident last weekend at Fonda Speedway.
Attendance and car counts were down on both days, with Saturday's race card featuring a 50-lap, $5,000-to-win feature for modifieds drew a respectable field, which also included sportsman competitors doing double-duty.
Sunday's featured McDonald's 100, which in the past has attracted a solid group of invaders, drew only a couple new invaders to the NMX Go Green Thunder Series race, Billy Decker and Stewart Friesen. Brett Hearn had run the other races in the series, which he eventually won.
It was mentioned that an open tire rule may have helped draw more competitors to the season-ending showcase, but that would not have been appropriate for the feature, since the other series events were already run on American Racers, the Fonda Speedway track tire.
The economy showed in the stands as it has at many of the racetracks around the Northeast this season and it is not the fault of the tracks. Fonda Speedway gave the modifieds a good-paying series and only drew a few outsiders. Race teams are not traveling like they have in the past.
Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley also have drawn only moderate turnouts for specials and series.
Some fans had to choose which day they wanted to attend instead of enjoying two-days of premium racing.
Racing is not the only thing suffering right now as people often have to choose between putting the extra $20 they normally would spend on recreation in their gas tank or having an evening out.
The 2009 season, not only at Fonda but all the local tracks, will be even tougher for the promoters.
I think you will see a lot of creativity from the promoters, like Fonda's Thunder Series or the budget sportsman event run at Albany-Saratoga and Glen Ridge Motorsports Park or even the Harry's Auto street stock series at The Ridge. They were excellent ideas that benefited the local race teams that can not afford or just don't care to travel.
It may be wishful thinking, but I think the promoters of the local tracks need to sit down in the off-season with the reality in mind that they need to work together in a "what's good for my track" business in order to survive.
The fans and drivers also have to remember that racing is a business on both ends. The promoters can't raise the purses if the car and fan counts are down and their costs rise for putting on a show continue to climb. I hope it doesn't go the way DIRTcar did a couple of season's ago when they made across-the-board cuts in purses of its member tracks.
There have already been talks of shorter race seasons and making traditional two-day events a one-day "Super Saturday" for lack of a better term.
Even Super DIRT Week has taken its lumps. The event has been shortened to four days, but fans are opting to show for just one or two days of racing where in the not-so-distant past, some took their vacations from work to camp out basically for a week-long, year-ending party. Granted, part of that is due to a cut back in the amount of camping spaces available at the New York State Fairgrounds and adding a hotel or motel stay to the cost.
Still more racing
Glen Ridge Motorsports Park will open its gates for racing Sunday and Oct. 5 with modifieds, street stocks, budget sportsman and cruisers on the card. Gates will open at 3 p.m. and racing is slated to start at 5 p.m.
Glen Ridge will wrap up its racing season Oct. 25 with a full card of racing featuring its regular classes plus an enduro and the CNY Mini Sprints. The track's awards banquet is slated for Nov. 1 at the Holiday Inn to honor its 2008 track champions, Jeff Brownell Jr. (modified), Jeremiah Munson (budget sportsman), Chuck McSpirit (street stock) and Kerry Hollenbeck (cruiser).
Albany-Saratoga Speedway will run Saturday night with a 35-lap budget sportsman event and a 25-lap pro stock feature along with mini stocks and limited/pure stocks. Racing will start at 4 p.m.
James A. Ellis is a sports reporter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.