BUFFALO, N.Y. — Blog and photo by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens —
I’ve had enough of Andrew Cuomo to fill four lifetimes.
It’s bad enough that New York’s governor has spent his tenure in Albany mocking up ridiculous ways to tax a state of citizens that is already the highest taxed group in the country. (I won’t even get into how Cuomo campaigned on ‘Cleaning Up Albany’ of corruption and creating an ‘Anti-Corruption Panel’ only to systematically stop it from looking under any rugs that had ties to Cuomo himself. These should be enough to speak for themselves.)
You might be saying, “What does Andrew Cuomo have to do with racing, this is Race Chaser Online right?” Well friends, Cuomo had nothing to do with racing or my passion of dirt track racing — until Tuesday. The New York Governor announced a $50 Million plan to expand and upgrade the New York State Fairgrounds, while at the same time tearing down the grandstands and ‘Moody Mile’ racetrack.
113 years of auto racing history and 44 years of that history with big block dirt modifieds — gone, just like that.
2015 will serve as the final Super DIRT Week at the ‘Moody Mile’ with plans for 2016 yet to be announced. Cuomo did, however, announce that New York State has entered a multi-year agreement that will keep Super DIRT Week in the vicinity of Central New York for the next 10 years. He also added that ‘I Love NY’ will pump $250,000 in promotional dollars toward the future expansion and growth of Super DIRT Week over the next five years.
An excerpt from Governor Cuomo’s official release today speaks to the need to demolish the one-mile racetrack that dirt fans have been paying homage to since 1972.
“The motor track is currently only utilized once per year for the annual Super DIRT Week. Like the grandstand, removing the motor track will also create room for crucial enhancements and modern facilities that can be used for a wider variety of events, year-round.”
“To ensure the continued success of Super DIRT Week, the Governor also announced that the state has entered into a 10 year partnership with the event organizers allowing them to remain in Central New York. The State will also invest $250,000 in promotional dollars to assist Super DIRT Week expand and grow over the next five years.”
“Removal of both the grandstand and the motor track is projected to cost $3 million.”
When I first sit back and chew on all of this it’s easy for me to get mad as hell. I’ve been going to Super DIRT Week since I was a young child in the mid 90’s and have made the fairgrounds my home for one week every October since then.
In fact, in 2001 I camped in the back of my uncle’s van on an air mattress heated by a ceramic heater at age 15 by myself just to be at DIRT Week for the races. Of course I was camping with our beloved DIRT Week family, but how many 15 year olds can say they loved something that much to do something THAT crazy? DIRT Week at the fairgrounds has been a way of life and today changed all of that.
I’m really fired up as well because I feel as though the hard work and efforts that was put in by everyone involved with the ‘Save The Moody Mile’ campaign has gone for naught. Initially, I felt like the decisions had already been made when a town hall meeting was called to get fairgrounds organizers, racing folks and equestrian folks together to share thoughts and ideas. Today’s announcement only solidifies my stance that the meeting held months ago was a bit of a charade and was only done to give the impression that the decision makers cared about what the race fans had to say.
What is funny to me though is that when DIRTcar and World Racing Group officials met with the leadership of New York State, the message was basically, ‘We are committed to keeping Super DIRT Week in New York State’. We’re going to tear your racetrack apart that is rich in history but please — keep your event in our state. We want to cash in on the potential tax revenue.’
I actually commend World Racing Group for staying committed and entering a deal with New York State to keep Super DIRT Week in Central New York for years to come. It would have been so incredibly easy for WRG to blend Super DIRT Week and the World Finals together and I don’t think any race fan would have blamed them for doing so. WRG took the beating from NYS and Onondaga County and stayed the course to keep Super DIRT Week where it’s always been successful.
The Future of Super DIRT Week
So now the question that has social media and message boards lit up around New York and Pennsylvania is — where will DIRT Week go now? There are several options still on the table according to Cuomo and WRG officials. Cuomo stopped well-short of giving out where SDW 2016 will be held, saying that it will be announced soon in the future. It makes sense that the media luncheon to kick off this year’s running of SDW would be a likely time to make such a big announcement if all of the pieces are put together by then.
There are several options that have been tossed out there so far and I thought I’d share my opinion on them.
Central New York Raceway Park
While most that pass by Glenn Donnelly’s site for the new CNYRP racing complex say that all they see is dirt being pushed around, Donnelly has said steadfastly that CNYRP will be ready for racing around the Fall of 2016. He spoke out in Area Auto Racing News months ago, saying that he already had plans of hosting a major Fall dirt race in 2016, and said that at least the dirt track would be operational by then.
The one major challenge for any racing facility to host SDW is that the facility needs to be able to handle the hundreds of race cars that participate in the racing events and ever more so the thousands of race fans that attend SDW on a yearly basis. It seems that if CNYRP is ready to go that this would be a good fit. Not only would it ring in a new facility with a bang, it would keep SDW in Central New York — where the heart of big block dirt modified racing is located.
The big question is whether or not the facility will be ready as has been stated the last few months. Not only does the track have to be built and facilities built, there are some major road construction and traffic patterning that Donnelly is leaning on the state to partner with him on. Can all of that happen in 12 months to be able to host SDW in 2016?
Before all of that even happens, you also have to question whether Donnelly and WRG could even join forces to co-promote this event? Remember that Donnelly originally sold Dirt Motorsports to the group that has evolved into WRG today. Donnelly has said that he didn’t need, or particularly want, to take on SDW at CNYRP.
However, we have also seen Donnelly take on managing Rolling Wheels Raceway Park and sign on to make the Rolling Wheels race this Thursday night a Super DIRTcar Series race. So maybe there is more to this idea than originally thought.
Laying Down The Dirt at Oswego Speedway
WRG has had several meetings and visits with the brass at Oswego Speedway about their track being a potential site for Super DIRT Week. They would have to lay down the dirt to make it happen, but it’s not like it couldn’t be done or hasn’t successfully been done. Refer to Berlin Raceway, a Michigan track that will be hosting three events with both the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and Late Models in September.
I know our senior editor Tom Baker will start spinning around in his chair if I carry this thought out, so I think I’ll toy with it a little.
If the laying down of the dirt is done right and works, I for one would be totally on board with the idea. Although the space might be on the borderline of having enough, I think ‘The Steel Palace’ offers the space needed to host the fans, cars and campers to make the event successful.
I’ve already heard rumblings from Oswego asphalt fans that more improvements to the backstretch grandstands are coming in the very near future — a task that would have to be completed in order to host the crowd Super DIRT Week will bring in. What a huge victory this would be for the city of Oswego as another major week(end) event would further boost the local economy.
Meanwhile for New York State and WRG, the agreement to keep SDW in Central New York would remain intact. Satellite shows at local tracks like Weedsport, Rolling Wheels, Brewerton, Utica-Rome are all still within an hour of the racing ‘hub’ for SDW.
Rolling Wheels Raceway Park
Although this track is in Central New York and within a short drive to most of the satellite shows during SDW, I think this is a stretch. The seating would need to be expanded, I don’t think there’s nearly enough pit or camper parking available on site so I would avoid even expanding on this thought without a solution to those problems.
A lot of people point to Rolling Wheels as a possible SDW re-location site but a lot would have to happen to move it there. Laying down dirt at an asphalt track doesn’t seem that hard when you consider how much would go into making RWR ready for the monster that is SDW.
Regardless of where DIRT Week goes to, it will never be the same. I’m excited to think about the potential of where DIRT Week could go in the future, but as I sit here now reflecting on all the madness that has taken place in the infield of the New York State Fairgrounds over the course of my 29 years on this earth, I’m sad to see that go and angry with those that made it happen.
Wherever they take DIRT Week, thousands of our dirt brethren and I will g,o because that’s who we are and what we do. We will take all of the memories with us that we made at ‘The Moody Mile’ and make new memories starting in 2016.
What this has for sure set up is a historic event in Syracuse that will see fields of cars like we have not seen in years. If you were ever on the fence about going to DIRT Week, as a driver or as a fan, you have one chance left at doing so while it’s at the ‘Moody Mile.’ I hope the guys and gals in Charlotte at the ticket office are ready, as the phones are sure to be lit up like Christmas trees.
But make no mistake about it — $250,000 in ‘promotional dollars’ over the next five years will never replace a tradition that has been 113 years in the making.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.