FONDA - Matt DeLorenzo has wheeled a modified into Victory Lane 37 times and claimed the 2007 modified track championship at Fonda Speedway.
Now the Cropseyville racer may be facing one of the toughest challenges of his career.
DeLorenzo was notified Wednesday that his proposal to the Montgomery County Fairboard was approved and he would be the promoter at the Track of Champions in 2014.
"They couldn't tell me anything before then," DeLorenzo said. "They had other parties interested and I understand the process and they liked our proposal."
DeLorenzo takes over promotership of the historic half-mile track at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds from Ric and Laura Lucia. The Lucia's won the promotership in 1997 over former speedway promoter Ralph Compani when the fair board opened bidding on the contract.
"My heart is saying stay, but in my mind, it's time to go," Lucia said Thursday. "We have been working on this for about three years, since my last contract extension. I have worked with them as kind of a steering committee so there is a smooth transition instead of what happened before. I am just as excited for them as I was when I took over."
DeLorenzo is anxious to get going on improvements he has planned.
"I kind of wish it had happened a month ago because it would have given us more time to do some things," DeLorenzo said. "But it is what it is and we will do what we can and continue to make improvements as the year goes on."
DeLorenzo said he has a group of investors helping him in the venture.
His decision to make the jump from driver to promoter was spurred by his desire to see Fonda Speedway return to its past glory.
"I have been seeing the attendance and things go down over the years that I have been there," he said. "I knew Ric was getting near the end of the time he was there and was getting tired. I am very aware of the history of Fonda and its potential. I want to try to get the rules on and same page as other tracks."
One move to do that is putting the speedway back under the DIRTcar banner.
"Yes, we are going with DIRT," DeLorenzo said.
Fonda Speedway left the DIRT fold and has operated as an independent speedway since the early 2000s.
The move sets up a three-track circuit for local racers with Albany-Saratoga Speedway running on Friday nights, Fonda on Saturday's and Glen Ridge motorboat Park on Sundays. All three tracks will be sanctioned by DIRT in 2014.
DeLorenzo said he plans to continue racing when possible but, "as racer you probably won't see me often especially at Fonda. I may race there periodically when I can but my focus will be on being the promoter and making sure the track is ready."
DeLorenzo is expected to outline some of his goals for the speedway when he is introduced Sunday night at the season-ending awards banquet for the speedway.
However, he said "I know you can't make everybody happy but my main goal is to make it affordable for everybody and try to get the fans back. Everybody knows it has been going down and I want to try to get it back to what it was years ago. I want to develop the speedway museum more. I didn't really know it was even there [on the fairgrounds] myself."
He does plan to continue the tradition of the Fonda Speedway Car Show just a couple weeks prior to the first race of the season.
Over the next few weeks, DeLorenzo will be working to put a management team together for the speedway, including a new race director to replace Marty Beberwyk who held that position since 1997.
"I have a few people in mind [for race director] and should have people in place in a month or so," DeLorenzo said. "I am really excited and have already received a lot of positive feedback from drivers and fans."