WEST HAVEN -- Race fans might recognize the name and the logo at Devil's Bowl Speedway next year, but they surely won't be at the same race track. Vermont's biggest and fastest raceway is already undergoing major renovations in preparation for the 2010 season, shedding its clay surface in favor of a new coat of asphalt.
Promoter Jerry L. Richards confirmed Monday morning that the 4/10-mile speedplant has already begun the transition to blacktop, and that along with its sister track, Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., the Champlain Valley Racing Association -- a sanctioning body founded by family patriarch C.J. Richards in the 1960s, now run by his three children -- will take a big step into the future.
After the completion of its regular season as a clay track in September, Albany-Saratoga Speedway was converted to an asphalt track, using blacktop that had been lying under clay since 1977. Two race events have been run on the asphalt this month, including Sunday, which ran in conjunction with Airborne Speedway rules. (Airborne is a 4/10-mile asphalt oval in Plattsburgh, N.Y. that races with the same dirt-style Modifieds used weekly at the CVRA tracks.) It was announced on Sunday during the drivers meeting that Devil's Bowl Speedway would be also be paved, also harkening back to its asphalt days in the 1970s.
According to Bruce Richards, promoter of Albany-Saratoga Speedway, the races were successful. "I'm very pleased with how everything went on Sunday. It was very positive," he said.
Jerry Richards said that the reasons for the changeover are many, not the least of which was the passage of time. "We're looking into the future, far down the road, for the betterment of our company," he said. "My sister Sharon, my brother Bruce, and I are all getting older. We're in our late 40s, and we need to start planning years down the road. God forbid one of us gets sick, we need to have plans in place to be able to keep the race tracks open. That's the reality of life. Changing to asphalt will make things less strenuous and easier to manage for the whole staff.
"But I also feel that there's so much more that Devil's Bowl can offer to the community besides being a race track, and the change to asphalt will help with that. We would like to do special events with things like motocross, ATV, and snowmobile racing in the winter, but we'd also like to get involved with the local schools and towns, host things like 4H Clubs, muscle car shows, things we couldn't do [with the clay surface]. A clay track takes a countless amount of hours to prepare during the week, and everything depends on the weather. If Albany-Saratoga still had the clay on it, we wouldn't have been racing [on Sunday]."
Richards confirmed that, in spite of the switch from clay to asphalt, the rulebooks in place for all divisions at the two CVRA facilities will remain intact, likely with only minor changes after meetings with competitors during the off-season. All current officials will be kept on CVRA staff, as well. The competitors themselves, Richards said, seemed to take the news of the changeover well. "From what I could see, the drivers felt a lot of relief. Everyone has been wondering what will happen next year, and there is a rumor going that Albany-Saratoga may be sold. It may be sold in the future, it may not be sold ever. But I can say that we will definitely be operating both tracks full-time in 2010 as asphalt venues.
"This is the best avenue for both tracks to head down for the future. It's long been known that Lebanon Valley and Fonda (two dirt tracks in upstate New York) aren't interested in cooperating with CVRA rules, but already with the asphalt we have Mike Perrotte from Airborne working with us, and Tom Curley has already made a deal to have [an ACT Late Model Tour race] at Albany-Saratoga in 2010. [Curley] was at Albany-Saratoga on Sunday and he was excited when we told him about the news at Devil's Bowl. We're hoping to keep working in conjunction with them and other promoters in the northeast. I really think that Devil's Bowl will flourish as an asphalt track and offer more opportunities for family entertainment for the whole community."