Utica-Rome season preview

VERNON, NY- With winter finally beginning to fade into spring in Central New York, the Utica-Rome Speedway staff is getting ready to put the long winter' s work to the test when the 2004 season kicks off on April 25th. Soon as the 2003 racing ...

VERNON, NY- With winter finally beginning to fade into spring in Central New York, the Utica-Rome Speedway staff is getting ready to put the long winter' s work to the test when the 2004 season kicks off on April 25th.

Soon as the 2003 racing season ended, speedway track crews were busy adding several hundred truckloads of clay down onto the famed oval. The turns were made slightly wider and covered with 2-3 feet of new clay. Also, the infield was landscaped, leveling the dirt mounds that made up the makeshift motocross track.

Former Race Director Chip Burdick was promoted to the position of General Manager, and immediately got to work during the winter months. Burdick's first order of business was to raise the purses of the track's support divisions, raising the Sportsman to $500 to win, Pro Stocks to $300 to win, and Pure Stocks to $250 to win. More money was then distributed throughout the purses. An entry level Four Cylinder Super Stock division was added to the weekly schedule that will pay $150 to win.

Next, an attractive point fund for the headline DIRT 358-Modified class was put together with $8,000(plus $2,000 from DIRT) going to the Utica-Rome Speedway 358-Modified champion. Runner-up will get $6,000, 3rd getting $4,000, 4th netting $2,500, and the 5th place finisher receiving $2,000. The 6th place finisher will take home $1,500, 7th will get $1,300, 8th getting $1,200, 9th getting $1,100, and the 10th taking home $1,000. Not forgetting the support divisions, sponsorship was secured from Tombstone Saloon and Pondra's Home and Hearth Realty that will provide the Sportsman, Pro Stock, Pure Stock, and Four Cylinder Super Stock a $500 bonus for winning the track championship. This bonus will be added to the point fund that is raised by the 50/50 ticket sales throughout the season. As always, the top 10 in the weekly divisions will be paid point money in the season ending banquet held at the Turning Stone Casino Resort in Verona, NY.

A new Back to Back Bonus program for the 358-Modifieds, sponsored by Wilber-Duck Chevy/Buick, will also start this coming season. Starting with the third regular Sunday night program, any eligible driver may pick up a bonus by winning two consecutive feature events during the season. The bonus will begin at $300, and grow by $200 each week that it goes unclaimed. If no driver is able to claim the bonus, the whole amount will carry over to the 2005 season. If the bonus is claimed, it will start again at $200 and again grow by $200 until claimed. To be eligible, a driver must have raced at the speedway at least 3 times (does not have to be consecutive) during the 2004 season. The bonus program will not start until the third regular event of the season, meaning the winner of the second event will be the first driver eligible if they win the third event, provided they competed in all three weeks.

A Halfway Challenge program for all divisions has also been set up for the competitor who leads the most times at the halfway point of their feature events. Wilber-Duck will present the winner of the Halfway Challenge in the 358-Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and Four Cylinder Super Stocks a $500 bonus with Christian Fabrication providing the Sportsman a $500 bonus. Christian Fabrication will also provide the winner of the Pro Stock Halfway Challenge a Five Star Racecar aftermarket body.

And within the past week, Mercer's Ice Cream signed on to sponsor the Heat Race Bonus program, providing $200 to the driver who wins the most qualifying heat race victories in their respective divisions.

A change in starting time was also made for the 2004 season. Race time on a normal Sunday evening show is now 5:30 p.m., a half hour earlier than past seasons. This change was made with fans, drivers, and crews in mind, as Monday is a normal work day for most people. The only exception to this will be when the Empire Super Sprints invade the fast half-mile. On Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day Weekends, the starting time will moved up to 5 p.m.

Much has changed since the gates closed on the 2003 season, and the 2004 race season is one of the most anticipated in the speedway's long history. Join us on April 25th when the "Action Track of the East" begins its 43rd season of operation when Gates-Cole Insurance and Wilber-Duck Chevy/Buick present a 40-lap Sunoco/Aplus 150 358-Modified Championship Qualifier. Also scheduled is a regular show of DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and Four Cylinder Super Stocks. Gates open at 3 p.m. and racing set to begin at 5:30 p.m. One week prior to the season opener, two practice sessions are scheduled for April 17th and 18th. Gates will open at 11 a.m. and practice will run for 1-5 p.m. on bath days. Utica-Rome Speedway is located just a few miles from New York State Thruway Exit 33, on Route 5 in Vernon, NY. Log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com for all the latest news and updates, or call General Manager Chip Burdick at (315) 725-5709 with any concerns or questions.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Christian F