New Oswego Speedway Owners Expect Smooth Transition
Oswego, NY - Thursday, April 1, 2004, one book closed and one book started as the Caruso family passed the keys to the historic Oswego Speedway to the new owners. Steve Gioia Jr., an Oswego, NY racer from a racing family himself, and Hannibal, NY businessman Pat Furlong Sr., who has supported his sons in racing since the early 1990's, accepted the keys and with them, the challenge of continuing and building on the 53-year old foundation of the famed Port City oval. At a press conference following the bank closing, some questions were fielded and answered by the new owners and two of the previous owners, George Caruso Jr. and Doug Caruso.
It was unanimously agreed from the onset that a smooth transition was key to this transfer as George Caruso indicated, "We are committed to a smooth transition. We'll help them in any way we are asked to make sure the quality we have established over the years and the great racing will continue. Anything they need or want to ask for, we'll be here for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
The second generation Caruso's both stressed that they had mixed emotions after giving up something that had been part of their lives as long as they could remember. Said George, "I have mixed emotions. This has been our life for as long as I can remember. We've lived it. It's with quite a degree of ambivalence that we make this move. We feel that the timing is right and some new ideas are needed. I think that they have what is necessary to take it to the next level. We're still going to be around to help out. We really want to thank all those workers, competitors and fans who have made this a great speedway all these years."
And Doug Caruso added his feelings, "It's kind of a strange feeling to drive through the gate and know that you don't own it anymore. That is probably going to be the biggest part of the transition. To say that when you come here, it will be maybe as a guest, not as an owner, operator or race coordinator. But, that is both good and bad. It allows us to do some things we haven't been able to do in the past and it allows them to get their feet wet and establish their own brand on their own race track - to give it their own personal stamp."
The idea of buying the speedway was something Gioia began to think of several years ago. It was the persuading of Furlong that took some time. "It's kind of funny. I've been around the speedway for a long time - forever. My dad had racecars here since the early 60's. I remember as a little kid standing on my street watching the cars go up East Albany Street to the track - to my racing her e, but I was never really thinking I could ever own a race track. Now it's happened. For me it's a dream come true. I've always kind of had it in the back of my mind. What could I do if I were ever involved in the actual process? I've known the Furlongs since Greg started racing in '92 or '93 and they've become good friends. In the past three or four years I knew that the Caruso's were getting ready to sell the track. So I would mention in passing to Pat 'We should buy that race track.' And Pat would say 'get away from me. The last thing I want to do is own a race track.' Well, I continued for about two more years on him. About eight months ago, I started laying it on a little bit heavier because I knew it was something I couldn't handle on my own. I would definitely need a partner and someone who I felt comfortable working with. Pat was that person. I didn't think he'd ever buckle, but he did. That's basically how it went and here we are."
Gioia, a very successful racer during his 25-year career, indicated that things will not change much for the fans and competitors in 2004 "The season will pretty much follow the format they've had in the past this year. Pat and I have to get our feet wet. It's pretty involved deal... every aspect of the speedway. There is so much going on behind the scenes that you never realize as we are finding out right now. The schedule is all set for this year. We'll have a few more races than last year. There are a few special events we're going to try this year, but we are basically going to follow the same schedule. Then we'll make our changes in 2005. The fans will hopefully see some changes, but hopefully they'll see the same good racing that they have always seen before. I think that's the key to Oswego - the competitive, quality racing that has occurred in the past and that will hopefully continue into the future."
Pat Furlong wanted to stress that this has been a family affair and will continue as such. "I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our families. It's been rough getting to this point. Our wives and our families have been so involved. Racing is a family business. I have another business, which my two sons are running now. Without them doing that I couldn't dedicate the time to the speedway to make it work. And, it's not just the immediate family. We have others here that have become dedicated to this racetrack. Steve Pryor is aboard and doing many different things, along with his family. And from the bottom of his heart he is dedicated to this sport. And, I think that's what it takes. It's not just a 9 to 5 job. He told me the other day that he is looking at everything from a different point of view today. And that's what it's going to take to make this work. We do have a large family here. Steve has a son who is involved now selling parts with him. My two sons, Greg and Pat, race here. My daughter-in-law will be involved. Steve's daughter Stacy will be involved. This will make it so much easier."
In closing Gioia commented "I think an important part too is that we'd like to make it fun... fun for us and everyone - fun for all the racers and fun for all the fans. We understand the position the Caruso's were in. After a while things become more of a burden after you've done them for over 50 years. It was just time to do something different for all of us. I think this was the perfect opportunity for the change. But, with this change we need the fans and competitors to all continue to support this speedway. Without their help we will all fail. It's time to go racing."
The new chapter on Oswego Speedway opens with a practice day on May 1 and the Coca Cola Kickoff slated for Saturday, May 8. Check oswegospeedway.com for some of the new additions to the 2004 schedules. The phone number 315-342-0646 for information and tickets remains the same, as does the fax number of 315-343-3829.