There was great anticipation for the 2014 racing season with new promoters at Fonda Speedway and Glen Ridge Motorsports Park.
Both tracks looked at the season as a new beginning, a chance to start fresh and build toward the future.
Well, it is just a little past the midway point of the season, and frankly it has been an uphill battle for both Fonda Speedway promoter Matt DeLorenzo and Glen Ridge promoter Mike Sowle.
DeLorenzo has been fighting Mother Nature all season, which has led to consistently inconsistent track conditions.
Sowle has struggled with finding ways to build the car and fan counts by moving start times, adding classes and even changing race nights.
"I was disappointed with the count [Friday night], but I am in this for the long haul," Sowle said of the return to Friday night racing. "I knew last week would be like starting over from scratch. There were threats to people not to come, but when they saw we weren't going to cave in, now the drivers know we are staying and not going anywhere."
Sowle saw a positive sign Saturday afternoon when the Ridge hosted its first weekly test-and-tune session.
"We had 20 cars show up Saturday, including several who ran Malta," he said. "They have indicated that they are going to switch to run here now, so our car counts should be up this week."
The switch from Sunday to Friday also created a problem with the scheduling of a fireworks display.
"It was nobody's fault but ours. We had a show scheduled for Sunday, and when we changed to Friday, we never even gave it a thought that Friday is the Fourth when everybody is booked," Sowle said. "They are trying to work with us."
The fireworks company did free up a technician and the fireworks display will go off as planned.
"Plus it is fireman's day and all firemen will be admitted free," Sowle said.
The first half of the season at Fonda Speedway has been a big learning experience for DeLorenzo.
"Time flies," DeLorenzo said of the first half of the season. "It has been a lot of hard work. We still have bugs to work out and are trying to put people in the right positions. I really haven't been able to get a rhythm going because of the weather, but it looks like we are going to be OK this week. I think once we get into a rhythm and get people in the right spots, we will be OK."
One of the concerns has been the racing surface, which has been been tacky one week and dry and slick the next.
"I probably scared a few people away with what I have done at the track and with the weather too," he said. "Pete and Matt Demitrazek are helping me out now. They have been around the past couple of weeks and brought some equipment down [from Glen Ridge] and helped bail me out that one week when I rained it out on a sunny day. I have kind of let them take over this week so I could do other things."
Frustration also has shown itself for the first-year promoter.
"When they had a state of emercency in Montgomery County and said the river crested and Fonda's underwater, stuff like that really hurts you," he said. "I was here all night and I worked my butt off the next morning pumping the track off and got it ready. But there were pictures and things posted on social media that really hurt. I probably lost 800 people right there. When people saw that they made other plans. It ended up being a really good racing surface and a really good race, but the attendance was way down. I have told people that the social media has its good points, but it can hurt you, too."
Getting people in the right place has led to a new pit steward being put in place.
"Charlie Squires is still the race director," DeLorenzo said. "He wants to be the pit steward too, but right now I have a void I am trying to fill. I may be up in the tower Saturday during the heats and down in the pit shack for the features with Charlie up in the tower. John Tiff has helped out, but he can't commit every week because he has the ESS. It is hard to find someone who is dedicated to every Saturday, who is experienced and understands the position."
Even with the setbacks, DeLorenzo is looking forward to the second half of the season.
"I still have my head down and am moving forward," he said. "Hopefully we won't go too far backwards, but it seems like we take two steps forward and three steps back. I still feel like I am moving in the right direction with the positive comments. It does make you feel good, but I also get the negativity. It is a lot of work and more than I anticipated. I am just looking to get into a rhythm and things will be easier, I hope. June is tough because of the graduations. but after August we will evaluate things and go at it again."
Points battles shaping up
Heading into the pivotal month of July, the points battles at both tracks are really taking shape.
Bobby Varin is the top points getter at both Fonda and Glen Ridge in the modified division.
Varin was 80 points up on Kenny Tremont and Marc Johnson at The Ridge before the switch put Tremont and Johnson back at Malta.
At Fonda, Varin is 29 points up on Jeremy Wilder, with two-time defending track champion Stewart Friesen lurking 32 points back in third.
After a big week with a pair of feature wins at Fonda, Rocky Warner moved to the top of the 602 sportsman division, seven points ahead of Adam McAuliffe and Jeremiah Munson who are tied for second with 348 points.
In the pro stocks, Nick Stone is 10 points up on Pete Broderson with 404 points, with Kenny Gates sitting third with 364 points.
Dave Horning Sr. has parlayed back-to-back feature wins into a six point lead over Neil Cosselman, 424-418, in the street stock division, with John Bradt third with 394.
Warner and Stone also lead their respective divisions at Glen Ridge.