Drivers, car owners, and fans in the Capital District area were surprised on Friday by rumors that Mike Sowle, promoter of Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, had plans to move his Sunday night DIRTcar sanctioned program to Friday nights—not at the end of the year, but starting this Friday, June 20.
Sowle confirmed those rumors for AARN stating, “…everything is going to stay the same except it will be moved to Friday.”
The change has generated a lot of speculation and a swift re- action by World Racing Group / DIRTcar Northeast.
When contacted by telephone, Joe Skotnicki, Director of Series and Sanctioning for DIRT- car Northeast, stated, “…DIRTcar is removing their sanctioning for the remainder of the 2014 (beginning June 20) season due to the lack of consultation on this change and the DIRTcar Series race will be removed from the calendar.”
The Series race had been slated for Wednesday, July 16. It will not be rescheduled.
Skotnicki went on to state that at no time did Mike Sowle reach out to DIRTcar to discuss his concerns and possible solutions or any consideration of changing the night of operation. DIRTcar points earned at Glen Ridge races through June 15 will still count toward a competitor’s “Best 16” finishes.
However, a Glen Ridge home track bonus will not be awarded.
The 1/4 mile dirt track has undergone a lot of changes in the past few years with the vast majority of changes occurring since Sowle began his tenure this year. The facility improvements have been well documented since the gates opened and have been well received by those in attendance.
Well known for his support of racers and racing, even at other dirt track facilities, Sowle has said from the beginning he wanted to operate as a facility that “…provides the drivers what they’ve said they wanted at a track and no one does— such as an improved track surface, improved purses, free admission for those who put on the show, and bonuses (i.e. free tires and fuel) for consecutive wins.” And, he has done that despite poorer than anticipated car counts in every division.
With an average car count (through June 15) at just over 13 in the Modified class, 15 in the 602 Sportsman classes and just over seven in the Pro Stock class, Sowle has filled in his program with other classes including Vintage, 4-Cylinders, Xcell 600, and Slingshots.
The highest car count the track has seen to date would be the GRIT Sportsman Series race that had 25 cars entered (including track regulars). Those numbers, according to Sowle, do not support the ability of the track to continue operation on Sunday nights.
“We pay three times the purse for 602s, we are no longer have the ‘crash fest’ reputation we use to, we’ve made great facility improvements but we still can’t get the cars or people to come on a Sunday night,” said Sowle. He continued, “…it’s the end of the weekend and there’s no money left or it’s ‘family time’ or I have to be to work on Monday morning” are the reasons I get.”
There are ripple effects and questions being asked by every- one about the decision to change mid-season. Will this change result in a higher car and fan count? What classes will the track run? What drivers who have been supportive throughout the season so far will the track lose? What drivers will they gain? How does this impact personnel? What does this do to the purse for each class? Will track sponsors stay on board? What will be the impact on Albany-Saratoga Speedway, local Friday night DIRTcar track located in Malta, NY, approximately 35 miles east and north?
Sowle states the classes, the purses and the personnel he has been able to reach to date are staying the same.
Track announcer Jim King will make GRMP his Friday night track, giving up his announcing job at Accord Speedway. Pete Demitraszek will continue with track preparation, Joe Kris will continue as flagger, and Don Greco will continue as Pit Steward.
Ken Tremont, Jr., Jeremy Wilder Derrick McGrew and Robbie Speed, who have been weekly regulars, indicated to AARN they will not be returning to GRMP and they are a loss to the track. Other drivers, after hearing the news, commented they had not yet had an opportunity to consider their options. Others, such as Nick Stone and Jim Becker, have announced they plan to run at the track on Friday night.
A key position change will be that Sowle will no longer serve as Race Director.
“There isn’t a part of the job as a track promoter that I don’t like and enjoy, except for that as the race director. I don’t like the arguing with drivers who never seem to be happy,” stated Sowle.
That position will now be done by Ron Smith who has been involved at local tracks for many years. With this change Sowle will be able to be more accessible and give more attention to the many details that have to be addressed at any given time.
Promoter Lyle Devore’s track—Albany-Saratoga Speedway—is the closest Fri- day night dirt track and could be impacted by driver choices. When contacted Devore stated, “We are focused on what we are doing for our drivers and fans. We feel we have the best show in town and welcome the competition. It will make us work harder and better.”
Devore went on to state he had no indication of any possible change in plans for Glen Ridge and was disappointed he had not been contacted by Sowle regarding the switch in nights.
Sowle stated he would like to still be a DIRTcar track but if the sanctioning body was not willing to support the change he was willing to “go outlaw.”
Given the statement by Skot- nicki, it appears the track will be in operation as an independent dirt track beginning June 20th.
“DIRTcar is committed to Albany-Saratoga as the local sanctioned Friday night track in the Capital District area,” stated Skotnicki.
“Fonda and Lebanon Valley co-existed for many years prior and are now doing so again. We feel we (DIRTcar) should have been consulted—there are only so many fans and so many racers available to support a track. We would be remiss if we didn’t support what we have worked so hard to rebuild.”
Skotnicki went on to explain that as has occurred in the past, those drivers who are DIRTcar members in the Modified and Pro Stock classes will keep those points they have earned up to this point in time and their membership will still be valid. If a driver choses to run another DIRTcar track, their points will follow.
The official announcement regarding the change from Sunday to Friday and the loss of DIRTcar sanctioning was made at the Sunday, June 15th driver’s meeting by Pit Steward Greco
Information regarding the schedule for the remainder of 2014 or to contact Mike Sowle should visit the track website at glenridgemotorsportspark.net or the track Facebook page