2014 Area Racing Preview: Glen Ridge opener set for April 27

FULTONVILLE Prior to the running of last year’s 602 Nationals event at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, it was announced that long time racing supporter and sponsor Mike Sowle had signed the lease to take over the promotership of The Ridge for the 2014 season.

He immediately began upgrading the facility by expanding the pit area, building a new sponsors tower on the backstretch and making further upgrades to the speedy quarter-mile facility.

“I have already painted everything there and doubled the pits,” Sowle said last October. “We are putting the gravel down in the new pits, have a new road in and the new tower will be done by the end of the month. We have jersey barriered the entire track, painted all the barriers and have taken the rocks and roughness out of the infield.”

Then winter came and has held the area in its grip forcing the new promoter to alter plans slightly until the past couple of weeks.

“We ran out of weather,” Sowle said.

On Wednesday, Sowle was at The Ridge overseeing the installation of new bleachers adjacent to the already existing seats and looking over what needs to be done before the April 27 opener.

The plan initially was to swap the front and back straightaways, but that plan has been put off for at least another season.

“In the years to come we are going to make that the frontstretch on that side,” Sowle said. “This year it will still be on this side. We are putting in two more sets of bleachers so we can seat 1,250 people. We have rewired to entire complex over the winter, fixed the lights and fixed the speakers.”

Last fall it was announced that a points series would be in place for drivers running Fridays at Albany-Saratoga Speedway and Sundays at Glen Ridge.

Since then that deal fell through and Utica-Rome Speedway announced they are running under the NASCAR banner with a big money point fund and Rolling Wheels Speedway also may run big money shows on Sundays.

“We are up to the challenge and are in good shape,” Sowle said. “We have had a great response from the drivers. JaMike Sowle is going to race here. Kenny Tremont is coming back. Jeff Brownell is coming back. Matt Sheppard and Stewart Friesen are committed to Utica-Rome and Bobby Varin and Jeremy Wilder will be here. I don’t want to start more than 22 cars in any of the divisions. Modifieds, I know we have more than 20 and the 602s are going to be way over that. Pro Stocks, we are waiting to see.”

A couple of contingencies have been added for the drivers.

“All the drivers get in free,” Sowle said. “The first driver to win three features in their division gets a free set of tires and the first driver to reach five wins in their division gets a free drum of fuel.”

Sowle will take over as race director with Joe Kriss on the starters stand and Jim King returning to the announcer’s booth. Former promoter Pete Demitraszek will continue to prepare the track for the weekly race programs and Checkers Out Speedway is in charge of the concessions. Sowle said there are special events throughout the race schedule.

“We have Lightning sprints once a month and the 600 Excels once a month,” he said. “The vintage cars are here four times and the CRSA sprinters four times.”

With The Ridge returning to DIRTcar sanctioning for modifieds and pro stocks, a mid-week 100-lap DIRT modified series race will be run July 16.

The sportsman will run a $2,711-to-win Dig Safely New York 602 GRIT Series event on May 11.

“We are trying to be very family oriented,” Sowle said. “We have sponsors in the tower every night and plan to drop the green flag at 6 p.m. and be done around 9:30 p.m.”

The Glen Ridge track crew is working at getting the track and facility up to race-grade and with a little help from Mother Nature will continue to progress toward opening day.

“We are going to start putting up the 82 billboards and signage this weekend,” Sowle said. “We still have a lot of work to finish. We were going to start on the 20th but that is Easter and nobody wants to race then. By the 27th, we should be dried out enough to race.”