-by Justin St. Louis
The buzz during the last couple of days has surrounded the Champlain Valley Racing Association and promoter Bruce Richards considering a change from dirt to asphalt racing at both Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven and Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., as soon as 2010.
The reason for the switch at Albany-Saratoga is multifaceted, including sprawling urban development in surrounding areas that are now being affected by dust from the track, and the opening of a microchip manufacturing plant in Malta. The dust clouds kicked up during events at the track have reportedly received complaints from residents and town officials in Malta, and would negatively affect the air quality surrounding the microchip plant, owned by Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., which is said to need a 'clean' environment. The switch from dirt to asphalt at sister track Devil's Bowl would then be a matter of necessity, as the two speedways rely on many of the same racers and cars, and would need to continue with a common rule book for competitors at both tracks.
On a personal level, Todd Stone of Middlebury doesn't like the idea of a changeover.
"I went from racing dirt to asphalt, and then back to dirt, and I don't think I want to race asphalt again on a regular basis," he said. Stone, the defending 358 Modified track champion at Devil's Bowl, had a very successful stint racing asphalt Late Models at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. and with the American-Canadian Tour earlier in the decade, but says he prefers the dirt surfaces.
"Asphalt's not as much work, and I didn't enjoy it as much as dirt," he said. "On asphalt, you can have a phenomenal car, but if you get stuck in traffic, you just wait until you can pass a car, and sometimes you just can't. With dirt, you can try things like different lines -- you can go way up high, or you can go way down low to pass cars -- and it's more exciting."
But thinking beyond just his own preferences, Stone wonders what a change from dirt to asphalt would do to the budgets of his competitors.
"The big class at Malta and The Bowl is the Modifieds. For the rest of the divisions, it wouldn't be that big of a problem [to convert their cars to asphalt setups] -- the Budget Sportsmen, the four-cylinders, and all those guys -- but it would be a major change for the Modifieds," said Stone. He thinks that drivers like Brett Hearn and Kenny Tremont, who have much larger budgets than most teams -- and therefore, much more money invested in equipment for dirt racing at the two CVRA tracks -- would be reluctant to make the change, and would instead find another track to race at with similar rules. "I don't think a lot of the Modified guys would do it, I think they'd go to Fonda or Accord or somewhere else. You know, are they just going to throw away their dirt stuff? I don't think so."
Stone, who already has a Modified car built specifically for a part-time asphalt racing schedule at Airborne Speedway, says he also doubts that many teams from Airborne would support the CVRA tracks.
"[Airborne promoter] Mike Perrotte is getting great car counts, but he's pulling a lot of cars way out of Canada, and they're already hauling a long way to race. I don't think they would come all the way down here to race at Malta or Devil's Bowl."
Stone said he will likely have to make a major decision about the future of his race team, and soon. In theory, Stone said he could stay racing in Vermont at Bradford's Bear Ridge Speedway, "but we'd have to change all of our motors to the (smaller) Budget motor," which would be a major financial setback. "I really don't know what we would do. Maybe it's time to get out. I'm 41 and I've got three kids. I've been racing for 20 years, maybe if they switch I'll just stop racing."
Rest assured, we'll keep our eyes on this story.
Nice article about Barre's Thunder Road on NASCAR.com today. Dave Rodman pretty much nailed it, in our opinion.
Um, we don't mean to alarm you, but it's almost time for that glorious weekend road trip to Oxford, Maine. Early guesses: Joey Polewarczyk, Tim Brackett, Brian Hoar, and John Donahue, plus, oh, 20 others that have a chance. What's the Vegas line on Steven Wallace, 40:1?
Saturday is the opening round for the ACT Tri-State Series for the Tiger Sportsman class at Airborne Speedway. What's the Vegas line on Geoff Bodine, 85:1?
VMM erroneously reported last week that driver Jessica Zemken of Sprakers, N.Y. was in a driver development deal with NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. Our source, who had never steered us wrong before, was misinformed, and therefore, so were we. Shame on us for not doing better homework.
Twenty-three year-old Zemken is a standout driver in open-wheel dirt-track competition and has made a pair of Modified starts on the asphalt at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. this season behind the wheel of a car usually driven by track promoter Mike Perrotte, who is a competitor at Albany-Saratoga Speedway and Devil's Bowl Speedway. On June 27, Zemken finished 12th in the car and had Stewart in the pits to lend a helping hand. Our source reported that Stewart was there to oversee Zemken, who was understood to have entered into a driver development contract with Stewart.
As VMM was attending the ACT Late Model Tour event at White Mountain Motorsports Park in New Hampshire, we were unable to confirm everything first-hand, and that's where the wires became crossed.
For the record, Zemken is not under a development contract with Tony Stewart, Tony Stewart Racing, or Stewart-Hass Racing. Stewart and Zemken have become friends through racing, and Stewart, in the northeast for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend at Loudon, N.H., flew to Plattsburgh and Airborne Speedway as no more than a crew member for Zemken's efforts. Again, our source reported bad information, and VMM dropped the ball by not confirming what we were told.
Our repeated efforts to contact Zemken since last week have gone fruitless, but Doug Elkins of dougsdirtdiary.com caught up with her at Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday and she cleared up the story.
Our sincere apologies to Jessica Zemken, Tony Stewart, Mike Perrotte, Airborne Speedway, their fans and sponsors, and the readers of Vermont Motorsports Magazine. It is our goal to provide accurate, unbiased, and timely news concerning auto racing in and around Vermont. If VMM doesn't have integrity, it has nothing, so here we are, called on the carpet, admitting our mistake. Consider it an embarrassing lesson learned.
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the top Vermonters from the past weekend...
Airborne Speedway (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): Aaron Bartemy of Sheldon finished eighth in the Modified feature on Saturday night with Don Scarborough of Brandon ninth. Larry Underwood of Milton was fourth in the Sportsman feature, with Richie Turner of Fairfax seventh. Mike Terry of Grand Isle won the Renegade feature, with Swanton's Dave Rabtoy fourth, Lance Rabtoy of Fairfax ninth and Kevin Boutin of Swanton tenth.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Todd Stone of Middlebury finished second in the 358 Modified feature on Friday night, and Frank Hoard, III of Manchester was fourth in the Budget Sportsman race. Fred Little of Salisbury was fourth in the Pro Street Stock race with Londonderry's Lori Langevin eighth.
Bear Ridge Speedway (Bradford): Saturday's races were cancelled due to bad track conditions caused by earlier rains.
Canaan Dirt Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Gene Pierson of East Corinth finished fifth in the Sportsman Modified event on Friday night, while East Thetford's Jason Gray was eighth and Dave Lacasse of Thetford Center was ninth. Dan Eastman of Thetford Center won the Street Stock race, with Ascutney's Cricket Williams fifth, Tyler Stygles of Bradford eighth, and Will Hull of East Montpelier tenth. Josh Sunn of White River Junction was second in the Mini Stock race with Wilder's Andy Johnson third. Alford Manning of Thetford Center was tenth in the Bandit race.
Canaan Fair Speedway (Canaan, N.H.): Saturday night's race card was rained out.
Devil's Bowl Speedway (West Haven): In a weekend doubleheader, Cullen Howe of South Londonderry won the Budget Sportsman "Gold" feature on Saturday as part of the Ridge Runner Series, with Thetford Center's Wayne Stearns fourth and Frank Hoard, III of Manchester fifth. Rob Ketcham of Sudbury was the Limited winner on Saturday over Hydeville's Bill Duprey and Mike Clark of Brandon. Kayla Bryant of Rutland won the Mini Stock race. Tim LaDuc of Orwell was the 358 Modified runner-up on Sunday with Frank Hoard, Sr. of Manchester fourth, Jimmy Ryan of Whiting sixth, Brian Whittemore of Florence seventh, Vince Quenneville, Jr. of Brandon eighth, and Middlebury's Todd Stone beating his father, Gardiner Stone, for ninth place. Frank Hoard, III won the Budget Sportsman feature on Sunday, with Middlebury's Hunter Bates eighth. Carl Vladyka of Fair Haven was third in Sunday's Pro Street Stock feature, while Duprey was again the Limited runner-up.
Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.): On Saturday, Dana Shepard of Putney finished 14th in the Super Stock race with Vernon's Heath Renaud 17th, while Whitingham rookie Ricky Bernard took a career-best fifth in the Mini Stock feature and Joe Rogers of Ludlow was 14th. It was a 1-2-3 Houle family sweep in the four-cylinder Enduro, as Vernon's Adam Houle over Dick Houle of West Brattleboro and Josh Houle of Vernon.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Bob Ailes, Sr. of St. Johnsbury finished tenth in Saturday's Late Model feature, and Concord's Denny Degreenia was the Super Stock runner-up with West Burke's Dilyn Switser fourth. Brendan Hunt of Derby Line was the Street Stock winner over Montpelier's Kyle Pembroke, Jesse Switser of West Burke, and Andrew Fecteau of Hardwick. Andy Simpson of Lyndon Center won the Cyclone race.
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl (Barre): Reno Gervais of Island Pond earned his first career Late Model win on Sunday over Cambridge's Craig Bushey, Jamie Fisher of Shelburne, Matt White of Northfield, and Rich Lowrey of Williston. Washington's Ricky Roberts shrugged off a month of bad luck to win the Tiger Sportsman feature, with Waterbury's Brian Delphia second, Jeff Bousquet of Montpelier third, Brendan Moodie of North Wolcott fourth, and Middlesex's Pete Ainsworth, Jr. fifth. Tim Campbell of West Topsham won the Street Stock feature over North Troy's David Allen, Ron Gabaree of Barre, Danville's Bruce Melendy, and David Greenslit of Waitsfield. Lloyd Blakely of Barre won the Street Stock/Junkyard Warrior 'reserve' feature. Kevin Streeter of Waitsfield took his fourth Warrior win of the year after being his division's top driver -- seventh place -- in the 'reserve' race. Thursday's regular races were rained out.
True Value Modified Racing Series: Dwight Jarvis of Ascutney finished fourth in the Firecracker 100 at Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night, with brother Peter Jarvis, also of Ascutney, in 20th place. Kirk Alexander of West Swanzey, N.H. was the winner.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Chris Riendeau of Ascutney finished tenth in the Late Model feature on Friday as ACT regular Mark Hayward won in his first Twin State start of the season. Joey Jarvis of Ascutney was third in the Modified feature with Robert Hagar of Windsor fifth and Zach Jewett of Perkinsville sixth. Chris Wilk of Mendon won the Super Street race with Russ Davis of Cavendish fifth. Tara Tarbell of Springfield was eighth in the Strictly Stock feature with West Hartford's Jeremy Blood ninth. Jeremiah Losee of North Springfield won the Wildcat race over Cody Small of Hartland and Cavendish driver Rob Leitch.
White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.): Stacy Cahoon of St. Johnsbury finished tenth in the Late Model feature on Saturday night. Stevie Parker of Lyndonville finished fifth in the Strictly Stock race with Milton's Gordie Stone sixth, and Concord's Rubin Call was second in the Strictly Stock Mini feature.
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl in Barre is in action on Thursday night with Kids Rides from 4:00-5:00pm. On Friday, the True Value Modified Racing Series is at Lee USA Speedway, while regular events will be held at Albany-Saratoga, Canaan Dirt, and Twin State. Saturday has the SCONE 360 Sprint Cars and Mid-Season Championships for the weekly divisions at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford, the Full Fendered Frenzy for the PASS North Super Late Models and NASCAR Camping World Series East at Thompson Int'l Speedway in Connecticut, the opening round of the ACT Tiger Sportsman Tri-State Series at Airborne Speedway, and regular events at Canaan Fair, Riverside, and White Mountain. The Ridge Runner Series for Budget Sportsman cars will run on Sunday at Devil's Bowl Speedway, and the ACT Late Model Tour makes the long haul to beautiful Kawartha Speedway in Ontario for the Summer Sizzler 200.