Stock car racing: As expected, supermodified steals show
It was one of those things you had to see to believe.
Ever since Albany-Saratoga Speedway promoter Bruce Richards decided to switch the track back to its original asphalt surface, all the talk had been about getting a supermodified on the speedway, because the speed would be unbelievable, supermodified aficionados said.
They were right.
Otto Sitterly of St. Johnsville, a three-time champion at Oswego Speedway, brought his super to the Malta track for a testing session on Thursday, and his performance was impressive.
After working out some kinks during his first trip out onto the track, which was totally resurfaced last week, he went back for another run on a perfect autumn afternoon.
Because of the informality of the practice session, about two dozen spectators stood right at the pit entrance, giving them a perfect view of Sitterly’s blue super coming out of turn 4 and rocketing down the front stretch.
They also watched as a radar gun clocked Sitterly at 114 miles per hour. His 13-plus-second laps were a good two seconds faster than any modified has ever turned.
“This is a good surface, with a lot of grip,” said Sitterly between practice sessions.
Those paying close attention could watch the big wing of Sitterly’s car self-adjusting as he went down the backstretch. On the straights, the wing flattened out; in the turns, the angle increased.
“The back [of the wing] is hooked to the axle, and the front is hooked to the cage, and it uses air cylinders,” said Sitterly, who began his racing career in the old GT division at Albany-Saratoga in the early 1990s. “We also run a torque arm, so [the wing] kind of levels out, and then goes back.”
The only mishap Sitterly had all day was when a passenger car that was trying to push-start his super went over the rear bumper and crimped the sheet metal on the tiny rear section of the car. “That’s more damage than I did to the car all year,” said Sitterly with a smile.
Bruce Richards brought a smorgasbord of cars to his testing session. In addition to Sitterly’s supermodified, Ken Barry and Jack Batemen of the True Value Modified Series brought their asphalt modifieds, Mike Bruno brought the conventional modified that he campaigns on the asphalt at Airborne Park in Plattsburgh and Kim Duell and Mike Paquin were testing in pro-stocks.
Richards had Barry and Batemen, the founder of the True Value Series, there for a reason. The True Value Series will team up with the Race of Champions Dart Asphalt Modified Series for a combined tour race sometime in the spring. ROC series director Andy Harpell was also at the track Thursday, and spent some time talking with Bateman about their joint venture.
While Sitterly was stopping the radar gun at 114 miles per hour, Bruno was topping out at just over 100 in his asphalt modified.
“I was picking lanes, playing around,” said Bruno, who used to campaign a dirt modified on the Champlain Valley Racing Association before going to asphalt. “I felt pretty good out there, even though I didn’t do anything to the car. They needed another groove, and I think they’ve got it. There’s going to be good side-by-side racing.”
While Bruno was testing Hoosier tires, Duell and Paquin were testing Goodyears. After running a 10-lap test session, the pair ran a simulated 20-lap feature, and Duell, the 2008 track champion, was pleased with the way his tires handled the new surface.
“From what we’re seeing today, I could probably get two more race nights out of the right rear, which would give us three weeks,” he said. “You can’t expect much more than that.”
Richards is close to finalizing dates for his three spring tour races, which will include the True Value/ROC modifieds, American-Canadian Tour late models and the ISMA supermodifieds.
“I’m excited,” said Richards. “This is like the rebirth of Albany-Saratoga Speedway. We have the opportunity to host events that no one else can host, and we can do it clean and dust-free.”
“Lost Speedways” Program tweaked
There has been a slight change to the “Lost Speedways” program at the Saratoga Auto Museum on Nov. 28>.
One of the main topics will now be the first asphalt phase of Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
“With the new pavement going in at Albany-Saratoga this month, interest has been especially high in the golden age of NASCAR at Malta,” said “Lost Speedways” coordinator Ron Hedger. “I’ll talk a little about the history of the track, and them I’m going to show a couple of dozen pictures of stars of the day, and have Hall of Fame driver Brian Ross offer his comments on each of them.”
The program will still also include, but will not be limited to, discussions of Lebanon Valley Speedway before the track was banked, the original beach course at Daytona Beach and 500-lap team races at Riverside Park.
Memorabilia displays will open at noon, an autograph session will be held at 12:30 and the program will begin at 1:15.