AIS Owner Pulls A Fast One
By DAVE MOODY
Adirondack International Speedway in Beaver Falls, NY, will apparently be open for business Saturday night, despite a bizarre series of events that saw owner Paul Lyndaker first announce that he was shutting down the track’s weekly racing series, then abruptly reverse his decision.
Last weekend’s racing program was unexpectedly cancelled just hours before post time. Monday, the track’s official website posted a statement that read, “the Saturday local racing series at Adirondack International Speedway is canceled until further notice. Owner Paul Lyndaker says he will not continue operations at the track until the political turmoil created by constant negative and misleading statements generated by certain media and political parties subsides. Local racing will resume when this situation is resolved.”
Lyndaker held a press conference Monday to express his displeasure with what he called a rash of negative media publicity, as well as derogatory comments directed at the track by a member of the Lewis County Legislative Board. Those comments concern a $500,000 grant previously awarded to Lyndaker by the New York State Department of Transportation, as well as the approval of an additional $500,000 in June. The most recent grant is to be administered by Lewis County Opportunities, Inc., a non-profit agency in New Bremen, NY, and is earmarked to help Lyndaker pave his new mile track.
“We built a half-mile track, and now we’re building a mile,” said Lyndaker in an exclusive SpeedReading interview Monday night. “(Governor) George Pataki and the State of New York helped us out (with the short track) in the manner of $500,000. Now, we have one person on the Legislative Board, and one person that writes for a small newspaper in town that always try to take jabs at it. They tried it again this week, saying (the State) zigged when they should have zagged. ”
At the time of its opening in August of 2001, the proposed $6.8-million facility was expected to host 32 events annually, and inject more than $60 million into the local economy in its first seven years.
"Today is more than the opening of a new racing facility - it's a green flag for new jobs, increased tourism and more visibility for Lewis County and the entire North Country," said Pataki at the track’s Grand Opening on August 25, 2001. "Thousands of fans from across the Northeast will come here dozens of times each year, not just to witness spectacular auto racing, but also to spend money at local businesses.”
Unfortunately, the track has failed to live up to those expectations. While car counts have reportedly been good this season - averaging more than 20 Late Model Sportsman, 12-18 Modifieds, and support division counts ranging from single digits up to 20 - the track has struggled to build a fan base. Special events like NASCAR’s Featherlite Modified and Busch North Series have drawn well, but sources say attendance at weekly racing events has been disappointing, with less than 300 fans in the stands most nights.
Adirondack’s failure to attract fans is reportedly at the heart of the dispute, prompting calls for a review of the state’s most recent grant to the speedway. At Monday’s press conference, Lyndaker criticized the weekly Adirondack Mountain Sun and editor Anthony “Andy” Burns, who he accused of “bashing the speedway.” He also faulted Lewis County Legislative board member Bruce King; one of two county legislators who voted against the latest $500,000 grant. Faced with constant negative publicity, Lyndaker said he had no choice but to fight back.
“We wanted to make a statement, so we shut down for a week and drew a lot of attention to it,” said the Lewis County trucking company owner. “We’re saying, `Hey guys, we’re doing something very positive here in this area. We don’t know how big it’s going to get (with the addition of the mile track), so let’s step up and be more positive about the thing.’”
Monday night, Lyndaker said he would reopen the track this weekend. In his words, “We made our statement, so we’ll be back racing this weekend. Make sure you tell people we’re racing.” Subsequently, however, he was quoted saying the track’s future depended on the outcome of an “open forum” before the Lewis County Legislative committee Tuesday night. In addition, a press release announcing the track’s closing remained posted on the official AIS website as late as Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning, however, it had been replaced by a new declaration, attributed to Lyndaker.
"After the positive vote by the Lewis County Legislature and the tremendous public support including a packed house at tonight's Legislative meeting in Lowville coupled with the numerous emails and phone calls supporting AIS and it (sic) productive move forward for the people of Lewis County and northern New York, racing will resume this Saturday, August 9th, at 7 p.m. Tickets from 7/12, 8/2 and 8/9 will be honored.”
Lyndaker bristled at the suggestion that his one-week shutdown was nothing but a publicity stunt, designed to turn up the heat on his track’s critics.
“It’s not a publicity stunt,” he said. “We just stopped, took a look at everything, and asked everyone to be a little more positive. We had a press conference Monday, and (the reporter in question) blew through the gates, sounded off, and did a little swearing. I stood back and let him do it. One newspaper and one legislator have got a little soap opera going, and they’ve got to stop it.
“It’s a second-rate newspaper, trying to get more people to buy the paper,” claimed the track owner. “We got our message across, though, and I think he is going to be a little more careful about what he writes.”
Interestingly, Lyndaker attempted to distance himself from his initial press release, saying he never threatened to shut down the track.
“The news (media) said that,” claimed Lyndaker. ”They said I was going to stop local racing until this was resolved. That’s not a statement I made.”
Reminded that the statement came directly from his track’s internet website, the AIS owner said, “Well, I don’t know who put that up there.”
After a week of upheaval, Adirondack International Speedway will open its gates Saturday, after all. Perhaps Lyndaker’s “statement” will have its desired effect. Perhaps the track’s critics will slink away into the shadows and cease their calls for a review of the track’s financing. Or perhaps -- more likely -- Lyndaker’s ploy will serve to further alienate his critics, prompting increased political scrutiny for a track that has failed to live up to expectations.
The Thunder Road and ACT Dodge Tour championship chases continue to resemble a summer long game of “hot potato,” with nobody able to hold onto the top spot for long. In the Thunder Road weekly wars, defending Late Model champion Phil Scott leads the way in his quest for a record-tying fourth “King of the Road” crown. Scott’s 617-point total is just 18 better than Jamie Fisher, and 31 better than Tracie Bellerose, who claimed her third checkered flag in eight starts last Thursday night.
On the ACT Tour, Scott Dragon leapfrogged back to the top of the heap with a win at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway last Saturday night, bouncing cousin Brent Dragon from the point lead. Scott (Dragon) leads Scott (Phil) by only 33 points, with the top eight drivers separated by just 57 markers.
“We‘re going to try to hang on to the lead, but I wouldn’t bet on it,” said Dragon this week. “So many guys are in the hunt, and it’s awfully tough to finish up front every week. I think this deal’s going to go right down to the wire.”
Bellerose, meanwhile, said she is considering changing her approach for the remainder of the season, concentrating more on consistency and less on pure speed.
“I have wrecked out of the top three twice this year, going for the win,” she said. “If I was a little smarter, I would have taken a second or third-place finish, and probably had a nice little point lead right now. The car’s fast every night, though, and it’s tough to play it safe when you think you’ve got a shot at the win.”
This week is a big one for the Thunder Road title contenders, with point-counting events both tonight and Sunday.
There’s more to report this week on the ongoing courtship of Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart by car owner Chip Ganassi. A month ago, we were the first to tell you that Ganassi was attempting to woo Stewart away from Joe Gibbs Racing and into Ganassi’s Target-sponsored # 41 Dodge next season, with a reported offer of more than $5-million per year.
While Stewart continues to deny the story, many of the other involved parties are now speaking openly about it. Last week, Ganassi admitted speaking to Stewart about teaming up at some point in the future. "Tony drove (an IRL car) for us a couple years ago, and we've had an ongoing rapport since then," said Ganassi. "We have talked about the possibility of him driving a Winston Cup car for us someday, if he ever became available. Any car owner would be remiss not to try to talk to him. There's a big difference between a guy who can win races and a guy who can win championships, and Tony can win championships."
Stewart has a year remaining on his current contract with Gibbs, but contracts are easily bought out, especially when a partnership with Ganassi would allow Stewart to return to the Indianapolis 500; a race the former IRL champion readily admits is at the top of his wish list. Stewart’s crewchief, Greg Zipadelli, said the timing of the deal makes him angry.
“I get a little burned up about (Ganassi) starting this a year-and-a-half before it’s time,” he said. “It looks like they're doing it to tick everybody off, so he can get out of his contract and go drive for them next year. That fires me up. As far as I'm concerned, if he does decide to go, he'll still have to be here next year, and we'll all be miserable together, because I'm not giving in that easy.
In the next breath, however, Zipadelli said that if Stewart decides to leave, he might go with him. “If we don't get Tony signed, I'd be a little ticked-off that we didn't figure out a way to get it done,” he said. “I might take my option and get out. I can do whatever I want when that happens, because I wouldn't be under contract any more.”
Short (Track) Subjects…
…After two years of disappointing performances, Ward Burton and car owner Bill Davis appear to be tiring of each other.
"It's no secret that we have had two very unproductive
years,” said Davis last week. “We haven't
raced to our potential in a long time. We haven't put up the numbers that we need to. Nobody's job is secure right now, because we need to make some changes and get some fresh blood and fresh ideas in here. (Ward Burton and I) have been together a long time, and these things don't usually go on forever. We just haven't been happy with what we've had going on, and it may well be time for a change and a fresh start for both of us.
Burton, meanwhile, is openly shopping for a new ride, possibly in the AOL-sponsored #30 Chevrolet at Richard Childress Racing. Our sources in the Winston Cup garage say AOL is tired of backing young, inexperienced drivers, and wants a veteran behind the wheel next season. Unlike Stewart and Jarrett, Burton wasted no time attempting to deny the reports last week, admitting that he and Davis are "looking at other options" for next season.
"I would love to get our differences straightened out, but I don't know if it's possible,” he said. “It's just lack of respect and lack of communication.
When Burton leaves - and he will leave, sooner than later - look for Busch Series wunderkind Scott Wimmer to fill the seat in the Caterpillar Dodge.
…Dale Jarrett spoke to the media Friday, tersely denying reports that he is looking to leave Robert Yates Racing in favor of either the Dale Earnhardt Inc. #1 Chevrolet, or Gibbs’ #20 Home Depot Chevrolet, should Stewart move on.
…The United Auto Workers will not return as the sponsor of Joe Nemechek’s #25 Chevrolet next year. The team’s other sponsor, Delphi, will be back. Kellogg's is expected to return for another season on the quarterpanels of Terry Labonte’s #5 Chevrolet.
…Effective next weekend, all vehicles in the NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series must carry an additional fire-extinguishing cylinder solely dedicated to the fuel cell area. The system must include an automatic, thermally activated discharge nozzle, and may also have a manual override for driver use. The move comes in response to a series of serious blazes in recent months.
…The week’s racing agenda kicks off in its tradition spot tonight, as Thunder Road plays host to “Calkins/Windshield World Night.” The Late Models, Tiger/Sportsmen, Streets and Warriors will all do battle, along with the annual Porta-Potty Grand Prix, with a post time of 7 p.m.
After last weekend’s rain-induced postponement, the Canaan Fair Speedway dirt track will try again tomorrow night with a full card of racing hosted by Eastman’s Automotive of Lebanon NH. The Granite State Mini Sprints join the regular program, along with a V-8 Enduro.
Saturday afternoon, the NEKC go-karts return to Thunder Road for the Perfection Motorsports and Trailer Sales/McLeod’s Spring and Chassis Special. Post time is 4:00 p.m., and admission is free.
Saturday night, the ACT New England Dodge Tour moves to Riverside Speedway in Groveton, NH, for the “Central Asphalt Paving 100.” All the Riverside weekly divisions will also be in action, beginning at 6:35 p.m. Also Saturday, the Busch North Series moves to Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y. for the “Mohegan Sun 150 presented by Pepsi,” as part of the Sirius at the Glen NASCAR Winston Cup weekend. At Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh, NY, Beverage Mart presents a full weekly race program, plus the Tim Chitwood Auto Thrill Show. Post time is 6:30 PM.
The Canaan Fair Speedway asphalt track returns to action Saturday night with a full card of racing presented by the Miller Auto Group and Mansur & Sons Trucking & Excavating. Four weekly divisions will be in action, plus an enduro and Spectator Drags, beginning at 6:00pm. At White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH, Saturday night, all six divisions will be back in action, beginning at 6 p.m. At Bradford’s Bear Ridge Speedway, Interstate Battery of Newmont hosts a full card of racing plus a Twin State Coupe event and a 4 Cylinder Enduro show.
Sunday night, Thunder Road returns to action with “Parts Plus Night,” which includes the legendary Chitwood Auto Thrill Show, with an early, twilight post time of 4 p.m. At 7 p.m., Devil's Bowl Speedway in West Haven hosts its annual “Armed Services Night,” with events scheduled for all their weekly racing divisions.