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Utica-Rome Speedway Inks Weekly NASCAR Sanction
By MIKE MALLETT
VERNON, N.Y. - An already busy offseason for the Utica-Rome Speedway got even busier this past week as speedway management was able to reach an agreement to become a weekly NASCAR sanctioned facility. For the first time since 1998, the speedway will fall under the NASCAR.
It is a return to roots so to speak for the speedway as from its inception until the late 90’s the speedway was traditionally sanctioned by NASCAR. Weekly racing sanctioned by NASCAR began on September 10, 1961 with Bill Rafter winning the first event at the speedway under the direction of Joe Lesik with Rene Charland capturing the speedway’s first of two consecutive NASCAR Sportsman titles. Other track champions in the early days included Lou Lazzaro, Ed Flemke and Billy Wimble with the first NASCAR Modified Utica-Rome Speedway title going to Pete Corey in 1965. All of this was just the beginning of the NASCAR relationship with Utica-Rome Speedway.
From 1971 until 1985 the NASCAR Modified title was won by two drivers from the Rome area in Jerry Cook (6) and the driver known as the ‘Rapid Roman’ Richie Evans (9). These two dominated the NASCAR Modified circuit while competing against each other up and down the Northeast, including Utica-Rome Speedway. Cook was the 1970 track champion at the speedway with Evans grabbing championships as part of the NASCAR fold in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1978.
The speedway went through several years of uncertainty during the 1980’s before returning to the NASCAR fold in the early 1990’s setting up a great rivalry between Dale Planck, J.J. Michaels and Mitch Gibbs. These three dominated the early 90’s at the speedway with Planck capturing various regional titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996. He scored a NASCAR Winston Racing New England Championship as well as two NASCAR Winston Racing Mid-American Championships. The NASCAR era came to an end in 1998 when Paul Jensen captured the final sanctioned event on June 21.
With the announcement of the move to NASCAR, Utica-Rome Speedway will feature one of the best point funds for Modified campaigners throughout the Northeast. Not only is the current point fund, which pays out $10,000 to the speedway champion and $34,100 remaining, Modified teams can expect an additional $10,000 in monies to be allotted to the fund in 2014 from the NASCAR sanctioning. Also added to the pot is the opportunity for support divisions to share in the money as they’ll also be offered the opportunity to join NASCAR for a boost in their season ending pay out as well as part of NASCAR’s Finalist Program in Divisions II-V.
Utica-Rome Speedway joins Airborne Park Speedway as new editions to the NASCAR fold in 2014 in New York. They join current NASCAR Whelan All-American Series New York region tracks Spencer Speedway, Chemung Speedrome, Holland International Speedway and Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.
For more be sure to log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com or call the speedway office at (315)725-5709 as this excited off-season continues at the Action Track of the East, the Utica-Rome Speedway.