Mixed emotions among Albany-Saratoga drivers about new surface

Transforming Albany-Saratoga Speedway from a dirt track to a paved oval was relatively easy when compared to transforming dirt racers into blacktop racers.

The 50-year-old Malta racetrack switched to asphalt during the off-season a change that has led to mixed emotions from the racers that frequently compete there.

I like it," said Scotia resident Joe Williams, who is in his first full season of racing in the modified division at Albany-Saratoga. "I've always wanted to race on blacktop, but the closest track to me was in Stamford, Conn. It didn't make sense for me to travel that far."

"It's a whole different ballgame from the way you drive to the way you pass," said Albany-Saratoga veteran Matt Depew of Argyle. "It's very difficult to pass here."

"[It's] not what I expected so far," said Clifton Park driver Don Ronca. "I can't get the car consistent. One week it's fast, and the next it's terrible."

Albany-Saratoga promoter Bruce Richards acknowledged that the change from dirt to asphalt led to the departure of some veteran drivers, but that other drivers have come in.

"We've received a lot of positive comments about it," said Richards. "We've broken the hearts of some of the dirt racers, but we've gotten some new racers in."

Richards said what makes racing on asphalt a viable alternative to racing on dirt is that there is a better chance of running on evenings when rain is in the area. Whereas rain on dirt leads to mud and canceled races, rain on pavement can dry in time to get the races in.

"We schedule only 25 races a year [between April and October], so now this gives you better odds [of getting the races in]," said Richards.

The new surface has also given Richards a chance to bring in other racing events at Albany-Saratoga. There is a monthly autocross event where drivers complete a course in vehicles equipped with an electronic transponder, and he has scheduled a drifting exhibition where drivers slide their racecars around turns.

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