Story By: CAROL HOUSSOCK / CHEMUNG SPEEDROME – CHEMUNG, NY – A packed house of racers, car owners and other supporters of racing at Chemung Speedrome met on Sunday to hear the ambitious plans put together by Ray and Ellen Hodge, the new lease-holders at the track. Ray had served for the past five seasons as Race Director.
When the season ended in September Ray and Ellen were walking away because Saturday nights no longer worked for them. That all changed when track owner, John White, also said he was walking away from running Chemung and his other NY track, Spencer Speedway in Williamson, NY. Hodge, after hearing this news, set out to lease the track to keep racing alive at the southern tier NY oval. He also knew that he could move the race night back to Friday, which would work for them.
On Sunday Hodge and the other key members of his team, Race Director Jerry Sinsabaugh, and Tech Director Ray Marshall, outlined their plans for 2019. “Ellen and I will run the place, do all the upkeep, work on sponsorships and take care of the business side,” Hodge stated. “When the gates open up on race days it’s up to Jerry, who’s taking over a job that’s not a lot of fun.” Sinsabaugh is well known in the southern tier racing community and steps into the role keenly aware of its challenges.
Hodge mentioned that many employees will be returning for another year, others are returning after an absence, and others will be coming on board for the first time. “I always felt that we didn’t have enough manpower so we’re taking care of that,” Hodge stated. Those additional employees will help keep everything consistent the track, which is high on his list of priorities.
Regarding racing operations, Sinsabaugh said he wants to keep the show moving but is introducing several special events that will appeal to fans. “We’ll have driver and fan appreciation nights, Jerry’s cone races, a unique version of hot dog races, kids’ poster contests and other events for fans during intermission,” Sinsabaugh explained. “While all that will keep people interested and wanting to come back, some of that is based on what they see in the pits. We’re going to be on top of things in the pits and we expect people in there to abide by our rules.”
Hoosiers will be the track tire, and Hodge will honor White’s remaining contract with Insinger Fuels for Sunoco race fuel. Pit licenses, pit stalls, pit passes, and other race day items were also discussed, with full details to be available on the track’s website (www.chemungspeedrome.net).
Marshall distributed a handout listing what he will be looking to check in the tech. “After each race the top finishers and one chosen at random will go right to the tech barn,” he explained. “Everyone will know what two things we’re checking, and it’s basically all black and white. You’re either legal or you’re not. If you’re not, we’ll disqualify you right then,” he added.
While Chemung will still run five weekly divisions there will be no NASCAR sanction this year. INEX will, however, remain for the Legends and Bandoleros. The only other change is that the 4 Cylinder division will now be limited to Front Wheel Drive cars.
Hodge, Sinsabaugh and Marshall fielded questions, some of which may lead to a tweak here or there. “We’re doing this for you, the racers, and if we all do our part then we’ll have something really nice. And I will promise you that 2019 is going to be all about consistency,” Hodge added.
Several local businesses have already come on board to sponsor race nights and to help in other ways. Hodge encouraged everyone to refer any business to him (607-483-3468) that may want to become involved. Hope Miller will return as track photographer and Hodge announced that the award-winning Thomas Video Productions will return this year. Race teams should also contact him to rent pit stalls and to reserve car numbers.
Chemung’s 17-race 2019 season kicks off with the first event for the Race of Champions Modifieds, which will also visit the track during Watkins Glen weekend. Those two events will be held on Saturday nights, but regular shows will be held on Friday nights beginning at 7 PM. The green flag drops on the season on Saturday, May 18th.