Car show feeds race fans’ need for speed

Race fans file past Brian Nelson’s modified Saturday at the annual Northeast Auto Racing Expo at the Via Port Rotterdam Mall. The show concludes today at the mall from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

ROTTERDAM — Tuesday’s Nor’easter may have pushed back opening day but it did little to stop race fans from flocking to the Via Port Rotterdam Mall for the annual Northeast Auto Racing Expo on Saturday.

“The storm may have set us back one or two weeks and delayed the schedule a little bit,” Fonda Speedway and Glen Ridge Motorsports promoter Pete Demitraszek said. “But this also helps us fall in line with what the fair board wants us to do anyway. I don’t think April 1 [Fonda Speedway opening day] is going to happen. I would like to move the Ice Jam, but I have to see how many tracks are going to be open before we set a date.”

More than 60 cars representing all divisions from modifieds to street stocks along with go-karts and sling shots were pushed into the mall Thursday night and filled the halls and adjacent rooms.

“Bob James and Bob Lansing did a great job getting people here for the show, and even with the storm we only had three people cancel who couldn’t make it,” Demitraszek said. “It is an awesome turnout for the Mall and for Fonda Speedway and Glen Ridge.”

Defending track champions Ronnie Johnson and Rocky Warner were on hand with their Jake Spraker-owned modified and sportsman cars as was defending pro stock champion Kenny Gates.

“We are going to approaching racing the same way we did last year,” Johnson said. “Jake and Nancy Spraker gave me a positive attitude and probably the best equipment and it showed. We are going to race for them this year at Albany-Saratoga and Fonda. It should be a fun and exciting season. Jake bought a new car to go to Oswego with, which is here at the show, and we have last year’s car which we reconditioned. We are really looking forward to the season.”

Demitraszek said that his first season as promoter for the two local track with his son Matt under the Demitraszek Enterprises banner was a challenge.

“It was a learning experience,” he said. “I had a lot of fun. It may not have looked it, but I had a lot of fun. Fonda is more of a job and is a huge commitment when you are there. It is a whole different world at Fonda than it is at Glen Ridge.”

Demitraszek also listened to the fans and the drivers as to changes that they would like to see in the team’s second season.

“This year at Fonda we have a couple changes we are making to try to streamline the show a little more all in the interest of getting the fans in and out,” he said. “We are going to try moving up the start time a little bit because one of the major complaint was that the 7:30 start time. We are going to try to accommodate the fans and move that up a little bit. We will see how the sun hits the track and how the drivers are affected by the sun, too. because the drivers are what are important. If the drivers say it’s good, we will go with it.”

In an effort to help build a larger driver’s point fund the promoters are “doing a couple things going with the museum, having a couple of raffles during the course of the year to add to the driver’s point fund. We are going to give a fan a chance for them and 20 of their friends to have the VIP tower for one of the major races. Fonda is a historic place and we are looking to keep our drivers happy to keep the racing going at Fonda.”

The IMCA division that raced at Fonda from 2000 to 2010 will now call The Ridge home.

“We are trying to remain positive about Glen Ridge again this year,” Demitraszek said. “IMCA is committed to run up there as a sanctioned event. We are hoping that will draw the IMCA cars. Recently IMCA had a realignment of their sanctioned tracks in New York state and we were fortunate to be one of three that got a sanction. The other two are Outlaw Speedway and Thunder Mountain. After I-88 dropped them we took up the cause for them. We will see how it turns out for them and hopefully it will put fans in the stands and more cars in the pits.”

The car show at Via Port Rotterdam Mall concludes today.

By Paul Wager

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