2014 Area Racing Preview: A Fresh Start

FONDA Before the opening of its 62nd consecutive season of weekly stock car racing, Fonda Speedway is getting a face lift.

Gone are the walls on the inside of the speedway and back are the champion’s pictures on the front of the fair board building facing Bridge Street.

Gone are the old pit shack, concession stand and bathroom from the former infield pit area. They have been replaced by a new bathroom and scale area so the fans can see one of the first steps of tech inspection.

“I am looking to put an LED board mounted on the bathroom so everybody can see the weight,” new Fonda-Speedway promoter Matt DeLorenzo said. “We are just trying to make it fair for everybody. Some people now say ‘He didn’t make weight.’ Now there will be no question about it and no doubt that we aren’t favoring anybody.”

The cars will then go to a fenced in tech area in the pit area where the driver and two crew members will be allowed in an effort to eliminate confusion.

When fans enter the speedway for the season-opener April 12, one of the first things they will notice is there is now only one entrance to the facility, the front gate.

“We are going to utilize the ticket window that the fair uses at the main gate,” DeLorenzo said. “The other gate and ticket window [at the end of the covered grandstand] is closed. All the fencing you see coming in is new removable chain-link fence. We took down the old fence and scrapped it.”

The first building inside the venerable speedway fans see is the first-turn VIP tower and concession stand.

“The first-turn VIP tower was gutted and we put all new knotty pine in there and got rid of the ‘door to nowhere.’ We also put in new ceilings, carpeting and lights,” DeLorenzo said. “We resided the entire building and replaced all the rotten boards on there probably because of the floods. The concession booth was resided and has new washable walls and ceilings in there and hot water heaters. We have some new kitchen equipment in there as well. You will now get your food from the back side of the building so it is not facing the track.”

A longtime complaint of fans at the speedway has been the outdated bathrooms under the covered grandstand.

“The ladies’ and men’s bathrooms were gutted and have new floors, doors and instant hot water,” DeLorenzo said. “We put in hand dryers trying to eliminate some of the paper towels but we will have a paper towel machine there in case you want to wash your face. We put in new toilets and painted. I am trying to get the kids back and to get the kids back I know you have to get the moms back so that [a clean updated bathroom facility] is important. We also have a baby changing station to go in there.”

The covered grandstand itself received a fresh coat paint and wore out floor boards were replaced.

Fans also will have the convenience of WiFi availability in the grandstand as well as being able to watch instant replays on multiple monitors positioned through the grandstand area.

“We are in the process of putting in a new sound system,” DeLorenzo said. “We have invested a lot of money in it and have rewired the whole thing. We also have an FM transmitter so if you are here, you can listen to the announcer on your radio or head set.”

Souvenirs will be sold from the trailer that debuted at the recent Fonda Speedway Car Show at the Rotterdam Square Mall. Bobco Video and McGaffin Photography will share the space formerly occupied by the souvenir stand.

The concessions will remain under the dollar bill rule and fans will be able to leave and return to the speedway during the program with a hand stamp.

The pit area also underwent changes.

The new fenced-in tech area is located where the old pit shack was and the new pit shack is moved alongside the entrance to the speedway near the Cow Palace.

“I moved the pit shack for the pit steward so he can see down pit road and what is happening on the track,” DeLorenzo said. “Now you can see everything that is going on. We also moved the ambulance so that the cars can move up further and not block them in.”

The way the cars will be parked also has been slightly altered.

“The plan is I would like to have the modifieds on the front row and then fill in with the sportsman,” DeLorenzo said. “There are guys who have had their spots there forever and they will be allowed to have them back, if they want. The back row will be parked at a 45-degree angle, like the late model teams do when they come in, to open up pit road a bit and make it easier to back out.”

The fence separating the pits from the track in turns three and four also has seen an upgrade as another 8 feet of fencing was added to the top of the existing fence.

“It was something I did,” DeLorenzo said. “Not that it would have stopped what happened before but it is just an extra sense of security. It wasn’t cheap, but I think it is worth it.”

When fans look out over the speedway they will see a new Fonda Speedway banner stretching along the banks of the Mohawk River along with billboards promoting the major sponsors of the speedway. The front stretch also will be lined with sponsorship banners and billboards.

“I want to make it as clean looking and neat as possible for the fans when they look out over the infield,” DeLorenzo said.

The racing surface is just starting to get to a point where the track crew can begin working it into race shape.

“Ric [former promoter Ric Lucia] added 30 loads of clay to the turns so I wanted to work that clay in,” DeLorenzo said. “So I am hoping to get on there and start working it in. There was so much frost in the ground and the track, even today we can’t get on it. The new equipment is supposed to be here this week, but we have the grader and the water truck, not that it needs the water truck right now.”

DeLorenzo said that pushing back opening day one week will also help in getting the facility ready.

“There are not enough hours in the day and we are fighting Mother Nature,” he said. “I was hoping March would be like it was Tuesday, sunny and warm. Last Friday, it was sunny but the wind was blowing 40 miles per hour and the wind chill was below zero here. It has just been hard to do all the improvements over the winter.”

DeLorenzo signed a three-year lease with the Montgomery County Fair Board last November.

“I have the option of five one-year deals after that I decide I still want to be a promoter,” he said. “Granted, I don’t do anything the fair board doesn’t like, but I don’t see why they won’t like what I have done.”