NY Track Delayed, But Still Alive

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

 

Howard M. "Tim" Fry insists that there will be a superspeedway in Clinton County, NY, someday soon. More than a year ago, Fry announced plans to purchase the Clinton County Airport and build a racetrack there, after the airport relocates to the site of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Since then, however, there has been little or no apparent progress.

"The only delay has been ... moving the aviation activities over to the Air Base," said Fry to Plattsburgh Press-Republican reporter Sue Botsford last week. Despite what he called “diligent efforts” by Clinton County Legislative Chairman Jimmy Langley to expedite the process, New York state law prevents the property from being sold before the County Airport actually moves out.

"I thought we had an agreement,” said Fry. “I thought we had a price. We know the site is unique. It is a superb location, accessible by road, rail and air."

Fry said the airport property is "ideal for a road course,” adding that he is hoping to run SCCA-type Sports Car and motorcycle events there first, before ultimately constructing an oval track to host NASCAR racing.

"The CART series would be a strong possibility," said Fry. "A LeMans series is also a possibility."

Fry claimed that NASCAR has requested that he no longer discuss the possibility of Winston Cup or Busch Series racing there, clinging to the sanctioning body’s long-held philosophy of not negotiating potential dates with tracks that do not exist.

Fry insisted, however, that he has all the financial pieces in place to move quickly when the land eventually goes up for bid. In addition, he said it would take only “a matter of months” for him to begin hosting races once the deal is closed.

Can Fry actually build a superspeedway in Clinton County? Maybe. But can he land a spot on the coveted NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule? Not likely.

Simply put, there are already more first-class race tracks - all built and ready to roll - than there are spaces on the Winston Cup schedule. Write it down: Tim Fry has no connections in NASCAR-land, no big-name backers, and no hope of ever getting a spot on NASCAR’s premiere schedule. We said so 18 months ago when this pipe-dream was first announced, and we’re saying so again today.

No less an expert than New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre - who built his multi-million dollar track with no guarantee that NASCAR would ever give him a date - says not to hold your breath.

"This is my personal opinion,” said Bahre. “They’re not going to get a date."

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Jimmy Spencer has landed on his feet again.

Just weeks after his unceremonious release from Chip Ganassi’s #41 Target Dodge, the Pennsylvania veteran has signed to will drive the Jim Smith’s #7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepids on the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup series. Spencer’s hiring completes a near-total rebuild of Smith’s Ultra Motorsports team, following the hiring of crewchief Tommy Baldwin in November. Casey Atwood drove the team last year, but was removed from the car with a handful of races remaining after a strong of poor finishes.

"We're excited about Jimmy coming on board,” said Smith this week. “He's one of the finest competitors in our sport. The excitement he brings -- on and off the track -- is something our sport thrives on. Spencer and Tommy Baldwin will make a good combination for Ultra Motorsports and Sirius Satellite Radio.”

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The nominees have been announced for the American-Canadian Tour’s Late Model "Most Improved Driver Award,” to be presented at the annual ACT Banquet of Champions on Saturday, January 18. The list includes the last year’s runnerup on the ACT New England Dodge Tour, Patrick Laperle of St Denis, Quebec, and 2002 Vermont Milk Bowl winner Dave Pembroke of Montpelier.

Other nominees include second-generation driver Scott Dragon of South Hero, former Thunder Road Flying Tiger champion Cooper MacRitchie of Williamstown, and former Street Stock king Tim Martin of Roxbury. Dragon won an ACT Dodge Tour event at Star Speedway, and was seventh in the final 2002 standings. MacRitchie was a two-time Thunder Road feature winner, while Martin recorded a career-best Thunder Road season, complete with six top-10 finishes.

The NAPA Sportsman "Most Improved" nominees include 2002 Airborne Raceway champion Craig Bushey, Scott Payea, Jason Bonnett and Pete Ainsworth. Phil Scott will be honored as the 2002 ACT Dodge Tour champion, after sweeping the Dodge Tour, Thunder Road, and Airborne Raceway Late Model track championships.

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Short (Track) Subjects…

…NASCAR finally has a plan to relieve overcrowding in the Winston Cup pit and garage areas. While details of the new policy are still being finalized, our sources say that beginning with Daytona SpeedWeek, only working personnel will be allowed in the pits and garage during practice, qualifying and races. Race teams will be issued 30 passes to use at their discretion, and each track will be allowed to distribute an additional 50 passes.

…NASCAR is reportedly also contemplating changes in rear spoilers and tire compounds, in an attempt to increase the level of competition. The changes, which have long been urged by the drivers, include smaller rear spoilers and softer tires, making cars less dependent on aerodynamics, reducing the dreaded aero-push, and hopefully increasing passing. No time frame has yet been set for the moves.

… Mike Wallace will drive the #09 Winston Cup car for James Finch’s Phoenix Motorsports team in a minimum of five races this season, with sponsorship from the Miccosukee Indian Gaming Commission. The Wallace/Finch tandem will compete in both Daytona races, as well as the two events at Talladega, and season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In addition, GEICO auto insurance will sponsor Wallace in the Biagi Brothers #4 Busch Series in at least 10 races this season, beginning at Daytona. A majority of the team’s starts will reportedly come in the second half of the 2003 campaign.

…Andy Petree now has a driver for the Daytona 500. Christian Fittipaldi, who will run in a variety of series’ for Petty Enterprises this season, will drive Petree’s Chevrolet at Daytona, with sponsorship from Monaco Coach Corporation. "We feel Christian will add a lot to our effort,” said Petree. “He is a rookie at the big ovals, but with his Formula One and Indy car background, he is no stranger to going fast. We’re looking for a very strong Speed Week."

Monaco will also sponsor APR in four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races in 2003, with a driver to be named, and Petree is still seeking a full-season Winston Cup sponsor.

…Travis Carter has announced a new partnership with Sam Belnavis, former Director of Sports
Marketing for Miller Brewing Co., to field a full-season Winston Cup entry for driver Todd Bodine. The team will enjoy sponsorship from the National Guard.

"We got going pretty good at the end of the year with Todd, so I'd like to stay on course," said Carter. "We lost a lot of people at the end of last year, so this will be a rebuilding season for us."

… Just 48 hours after leaving the Bristol Motorsports/Toys “R” Us Busch Series team, Kevin Grubb signed to replace Ron Hornaday at the wheel of the #26 Dr Pepper entry owned by Carroll Racing. In addition to changing drivers, Carroll Racing will convert from Chevrolet to Dodge in 2003.