When my tenure at the Times Herald started in 1973, one of the spring and summer duties I inherited was writing both advance stories and roundups of area stock car racing.
But what struck me as odd was that other that Bradford Speedway, in Rew, Pa., the tracks we covered were all out of the area ... including two tandems: Holland and Perry and Stateline (Busti, N.Y.) and Eriez (Waterford, Pa.).
There was also Woodhull, over in Steuben County, and Drum Raceway in Allentown, N.Y.
Only Bradford and Drum were in the Times Herald coverage area back then, so gradually the focus changed with the assumption that stock car fans preferred to attend tracks closer to home.
We dropped Holland and Perry both because of distance and the fact they were the only asphalt tracks among the seven we covered. Stateline and Eriez also became the victims of distance from the paper’s constituency, a fate that eventually befell Woodhull.
Then, in time, Drum closed and our coverage eventually focused on McKean County Raceway (Smethport), Bradford, Freedom/South Arcade, Little Valley and Allegheny Mountain (Kane).
And it would appear that Little Valley has had the best survival plan.
The half-mile track at the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds, in its current incarnation, runs a limited schedule — seven dates on five different days of the week — drawing encouraging crowds and large fields of cars.
McKean — which reopened in 1983 after not hosting auto racing for 30 years — has opted for a similar format with eight dates through late September, after several seasons of enduring unlucky Saturday night weather.
Thus, the only area dirt track that still runs a weekly card — if you count Kane as local — is Allegheny Mountain, which opened its season of Sunday (5 p.m.) racing last night.
Freedom/South Arcade, after struggling for several years with limited fields and low attendance, no longer has car races, but rather has switched to motorcycle racing via a schedule of motocross action.
And Bradford, which has been closed and open a couple of times over the past several decades, will reopen again ... which was the inspiration for this piece.
IN AN E-MAIL this past week, Jeff Andrulonis, chief executive officer of the Colonial Radio Group (seven FM stations in Olean, Smethport and Kane) announced that he is the new owner/promoter of what is being called the “New Bradford Speedway.”
Andrulonis revealed that the track will run regular Friday night cards, but the New Bradford Speedway won’t open until June 22 when it begins 11 straight weeks of crate Late Model, Street Stock and Mini-Stock racing to be followed on Saturday, Sept. 8 by the Stephanie Eckl Memorial 50, a sanctioned United Late Model Series (ULMS) event.
It will be interesting — in light of the recent attendance and car-field woes endured by the other area tracks — to see whether Bradford and Allegheny Mountain can make a go of weekly dirt-track racing.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)