During the 2017 racing season, N.J.’s Bridgeport Speedway management will be able to offer auto racing on three differently sized dirt ovals. Ongoing work to build a new 3/8-mile track between the current outside, long-established 5/8-mile and the inner 1/4-mile ovals, is expected to be completed at some point next racing season. It’s believed that Bridgeport will be the only facility in the country to offer fans racing competition on three different sized dirt tracks from the same seat in the main grandstand.
“We are in the process of building a third track at the facility,” confirmed speedway General Manager Danny Serrano.
“It will literally sit between the 5/8 and the 1/4 mile while sharing the front stretch,” said Serrano. “The new track’s size will be 3/8-mile. We’ve already had several meetings with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP, which regulates auto racing in New Jersey). They are on board and have been helping us make any of the changes and requirements needed to see this become a reality.”
Fans and racers attending events at Bridgeport late this season have seen construction crews cutting out the 3/8-mile speedway. Fill dirt is already in place which shows the shape of the new speedway. Like the 1/4-mile, there will be no outside barrier around the new track’s perimeter.
“The base has been laid out and the clay has been ordered,” said Serrano. “It’s going to happen, but we wanted to stress that there is no timetable as to when the new track will be complete or see its first race. Our goal is to have a race or two by the end of summer in 2017. It could be sooner than that or later. We don’t want to lead anyone on by announcing a date because simply there isn’t one at this time.”
The possiblity of a fourth track appears to have been shelved for now. In an attempt to help the South Jersey Quarter-Midget Club, track owner Brian Ramey had agreed to help them build a 1/20-mile dirt track on his grounds for their young racers. Increasing cost and date limitations at their current speedway location on the grounds of N.J.’s Atco Dragway had produced discussion with Bridgeport about it being their new home.
Ramey had agreed to give them space and help them build a new facility at Bridgeport in the parking lot behind the main grandstands. That idea went to the vote of SJQM membership this past week and was narrowly defeated. Thus the club will remain as they have been for many years in Atco, N.J.
Bridgeport’s 2017 race schedule is expected to mirror that of 2016. The focus will remain on the 5/8-mile that opened in 1972 and the 1/4-mile which was added later for Micro-Sprints.
“We’ve built a strong foundation over the past four years that has proven to be successful in almost all aspects,” said Serrano. “For the most part Bridgeport (5/8) and Spirit (recently renamed 1/4 mile) speedways will see minimal change heading into the 2017 campaign. We wanted to get that out to everyone before even more rumors starting flying around in the industry.”
Many loyal Bridgeport supporters don’t want to see weekly racing taken from the 5/8-mile. Others, however, would love to see the smaller 3/8 track run weekly in future years, with only big, special events held on the 5/8-mile.
“While we are continuously striving on bettering our product for our racers and fans alike we also know that change is not always the answer,” said Serrano.
“We all know Bridgeport is a big track, one of the biggest around. That in itself is unique and attractive. The drivers that race with us like that about Bridgeport. However, their are many drivers that shy away from Bridgeport because of the size and speeds. The new track will give us options.”
Events that are held on the 3/8-mile in 2017 will be used as a test balloon for scheduling in future years.
“Our plan is to have a race or two and get feedback from the drivers and fans,” said Serrano. “Our main objectives for 2017 are to continue the progress with what we’ve created for the 5/8 and the 1/4 mile. The third track will not take away from the people that support what we have now.”
Serrano told AARN there has been a great interest in the new track by open-wheel racers. The return of the 410 Sprints, felt by many to be too fast on the 5/8-mile, is a strong possibility. While URC’s 360 winged Sprint Cars will continue to race on the big-track, events on the 3/8-mile track are a consideration as well.
The 3/8-mile track would be great for URC’s new wingless division (that debuts in 2017), 305 Sprints, SpeedSTRs and Midgets where the 5/8-mile oval is considered too big and too fast; and the 1/4-mile too small.
Running double features for any division, one on each size track, could be a huge fan draw.
Despite the noticeable work on the 3/8-mile layout this fall, Bridgeport track owner Brian Ramey would not comment on the progress of the third track until he found just the right clay for the surface.
The clay has been secured and it’s already begun to arrive at the South Jersey facility.
“We have just added new clay to the 1/4-mile and the 5/8 will see new clay this week,” said Serrano. “We won’t put the clay on the new track until the Spring.”
New black clay, added two years ago at Bridgeport, improved the racing. This new load is expected to be even better.
“The lab tests that were returned to us couldn’t have read any better,” said Serrano. “The clay we put down two years ago was good stuff with the exception of the rocks. With our new clay, we won’t have that problem again!”
Serrano admits Bridgeport isn’t perfect, but they are trying to solve all past issues. One main complaint they are trying to silence is a lack of race car tech.
While there are few if any issues with its big-block Modified division, the track’s Sportsman and Outlaw Stock racers have filed complaints of an unfair playing field.
“We know it’s a problem and we’ve certainly tried to address it in the past two years,” said Serrano. “Drivers want tech, and they want it fair.”
Serrano said he knows there is room for improvement in the Sportsman division where the rules juggle the allowance of both open and crate engines. There is also an issue in the rules of the Outlaw Stocks, where a new invader in that division won 13 straight events.
“Our Saturday night program is where we really need to step up in tech,” said Serrano. “A big- block is a big-block, but there should still be tech. The small- blocks and the Outlaw Stocks are where there’s all sorts of room for post-race issues.”
Tommy Ballard, who handled tech for the big track in 2016, can not return next year because of his own business commitments. That leaves a big hole for the management to fill.
“So we’re back to square one in search of a tech man or team,” said Serrano.
When long-time 1/4-mile tech man George Nardelli stepped down before the 2016 season, he was replaced by a committee.
“We decided to try a three-man committee, where they all perform the technical inspections throughout the night. For the most part, it worked out well,” said Serrano.
“We are convinced that our tech program is the only remaining piece of the puzzle keeping us from being the premier facility that we are striving to be,” added Serrano. “If there’s anyone out there that wants to be involved in the tech program we ask that you please reach out to us.”
Those interested are urged to drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at (609) 433-4487.