Albany-Saratoga Speedway leased by Commander
MALTA A new management team will be in place when Albany-Saratoga Speedway opens its doors for the 2012 season.
Lebanon Valley Speedway owner Howard Commander has agreed to a two-year lease agreement to take over the operation of the Malta track from the Richards family, which has operated the facility since 1977.
A work crew from Lebanon Valley, led by Lyle DeVore, the general manager of the West Lebanon track, put clay back on Albany-Saratoga Speedway surface earlier this week. Although no official announcement has been made, DeVore said he anticipates that Albany-Saratoga Speedway will continue to operate on Friday nights.
“Our two big concerns right now are getting the clay back on, and then starting to sell sponsorships for next year,” said DeVore, who will handle day-to-day operations of Albany-Saratoga. “Albany-Saratoga has always been a Friday night track, and right now, I don’t see that changing.”
“We will be having meetings soon to make some decisions, but it looks like, the way the town of Malta is, the aren’t a lot of other possibilities [than racing on Friday],” said Commander.
DeVore is no stranger to Albany-Saratoga Speedway, as he worked at the track in a number of different capacities, including a stint during late 1990s when he helped speedway promoter Bruce Richards with the weekly preparation of the racing surface.
“I know a little bit about the facility, and that definitely helps,” DeVore said. “My intent is to control the dust and make the track as racy as possible,”
Decisions to be made
Although Lebanon Valley runs big blocks as its premier division, no decision have been made on next year’s racing program at Albany-Saratoga.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway opened in 1964, and had an asphalt surface until 1977, when Champlain Valley Racing Association founder C.J. Richards purchased the facility and covered the asphalt racing surface with clay.
During its heyday, Albany-Saratoga Speedway was one of the premier racing facilities in the Northeast, and the track’s major events, like its Super Shootout Series, drew fields of all-star-caliber modified drivers.
Two years ago, the Richards family, which operates both Albany-Saratoga and Devil’s Bowl in Fair Haven, Vt., decided to switch both tracks back to asphalt.
Last season, both CVRA tracks ran under a NASCAR sanction, and the CVRA adopted 602 sportsman as its premier division.
But the major changes, combined with an economic downturn, resulted in a decline in both attendance and car counts at the two tracks.
Asphalt a flop
The switch to asphalt can be directly tied to the problems Albany-Saratoga Speedway had during the last two years.
“This business has a niche group of people, and they love their dirt racing,” said Richards. “You can advertise until you’re blue in the face, and it won’t bring in more people.”
Recently, Albany-Saratoga Speedway was listed with a real estate broker, and Devil’s Bowl is also on the market, although the Richards family in working on the sale of the Vermont property to racer Mike Bruno.
“Howard will have a two-year lease, but the speedway is still for sale, and we’re actively seeking buyers,” said Richards.
“My dad has health issues, as everyone knows, and we all decided it was time for a break.”
“It’s just been a pleasure working with C.J. Richards,” said Commander. “I hope he can get his five or six million dollars for the facility. When that day comes, c’est la vie. But right now, our main concern is giving the people a top-notch dirt surface on a short track.”