Glen Ridge undergoing transformation

FULTONVILLE – When the drivers and fans returned to Glen Ridge Motorsports Park for the Sept. 27 show, including the conclusion of the Sowle 60, they couldn’t help but notice several changes.

“If they were surprised then, wait until they see the place when they come for the 602 Nationals,” new speedway promoter Mike Sowle said.

Sowle recently signed the lease to take over the promotership of The Ridge for the 2014 season and is already full-throttle upgrading the facility.

“I have already painted everything there and doubled the pits,” Sowle said. “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.”

Sowle has been a longtime supporter of auto racing with sponsorship on several cars and events.

However, making the jump to promoter is a new experience for him.

“I have my business here which is my bread and butter. This is my hobby of mine,” Sowle said. “I want to give the drivers what they want and don’t seem to be getting from the tracks. I have been around since it [Glen Ridge] opened and we had a go-kart there then. I just love the track. The track is becoming just what I envisioned it. That thing is going to be the next Malta and I plan to be there by next spring.”

Having the track in line with Albany-Saratoga Speedway has meant some changes be made, including switching racing from the current Friday night program to Sundays.

The move also has opened up other opportunities, such as Glen Ridge returning to the DIRT motorsports fold.

“We are running only three divisions – modifieds, the 602s and pro stocks,” Sowle said. “The dirt banner will cover the modifieds and the pro stocks. We will run the same rules as Malta with the 602s so they don’t have to buy new wheels and tires and all that. I am trying to make it as easy as possible.”

However, a decision on the street stock division, which has been a standard at the track since it first started running big cars, is on hold.

“I told the street stock drivers I would bring them back if there were 20 cars,” Sowle said. “I don’t want to run for just five or six cars.”

There will be a connection with Malta as Sowle is putting up money for a points series between the two tracks.

“I started my own point fund between Malta and Glen Ridge that will pay $22,000 between the two tracks for all three divisions,” Sowle said. “For a guy not to run on Friday and Sunday for a chance to win $22,000 doesn’t make any sense.”

Sowle said that several race teams have committed to running at Glen Ridge in the 2014 season.

“I already have Matt Sheppard, Peter Britten, Rich Scarlotta among seven teams already signed on to make it their Sunday night track,” Sowle said. “Brett [Hearn] said he will come as soon as he sees there is a change in the car wreckage.”

A less-than-positive past reputation at Glen Ridge is one of the first things Sowle has to address.

“I will be the race director as well. I will be on the radio and I will not put up with it,” he said. “I know it will improve. I ran the drivers meeting [Sept. 27]. I have seven deputies hired full time for the track next year. We are going back to totally family oriented. Anybody who crosses into anybody else’s pit will be escorted out for three weeks. Anybody takes somebody out on the track, they will be waiting in the pits and will be escorted out and have three weeks to think about it.”

Making the facility fan-friendly also is a priority for the new promoter.

“Every other month we are going to have a free clam bake with a band so the drivers can meet the fans and intermix and have a good time,” he said. ” Jim King is already on board as the announcer and I have the 50-50 girls from Malta also on board. Don Greco is going to run both concessions and we are putting barbecue pits in. It is going to be the place to be.”

Drivers will have another incentive to help draw them to the track.

“I am pretty much catering to them,” Sowle said. “Each division that we will run next year, the driver and one crew member will get in for nothing. Every heat race in every division, the winner gets $100. all year long. It will be the best paying track around. Warm ups are at 5 and the first heat race will roll out on the track at 6 and I plan to be out of there by nine.”

The fans and drivers got a sample of things to come on Sept. 27.

“I am giving the drivers what they want,” Sowle said. “They want a great race track – there is no doubt about it that we are going to be one of the best around. We showed that the other night when after all those races, the winner of the last race came around the outside on the last lap to win it. It didn’t tear up and we didn’t crash any cars other than them spinning on their own, which you can’t help anyway. There were no cars taken out and no backlash, nothing.”

Current promoter Pete Demitraszek will continue to prepare the track for the weekly race programs.

Sowle said there will be other changes and special events added for next year.

“The frontstretch will be where the backstretch is now. We had 400 loads of gravel hauled in ,and we still need another 300 loads. There also will also be new bleachers added. We are going to run the Legends cars the first and fourth Sunday of the month,” he said “Malta is going to take them the second and third.”

Glen Ridge will close out the season Oct. 19 with its 602 Nationals.

The day will start at 3 p.m. with a live band playing until race time at 7 p.m.

A drivers’ meeting will be conducted at 6:40 p.m. with warm up set for 7 p.m. and heat races taking to the track at 7:30 p.m.

The winner’s share of the 125-lap Grit Series 602 race is $2,711.00 thanks to the first place sponsorship efforts of Dodson Construction and Sowle Trailer Repair along with lap and place contingencies.

Also on the evening’s card is a 20 lap non-winners modified race open to any modified driver who has not won a feature during the 2013 racing season along with a 40 lap rookie sportsman race and a 30 lap lightning cruiser race.

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