By DON SIMPSON
The Airborne Speedway in Upstate New York is preparing for an exciting upcoming racing season. Known for its fast-paced action and fierce competition, the return of 358 Division is promising to attract a large number of fans and drivers alike.
For the past few seasons, Mike Perrotte and his team have worked tirelessly to keep the track alive and well, overcoming many challenges.
After seeing a steady rise in car counts, and fans have once again returned after the long battle with COVID restrictions and a struggling economy due to this epidemic the future of the track is looking bright compared to just a few years ago
The potential loss of all weekly divisions following the announcement that the speedway and all lands surrounding the track would be put up for sale was at the time and still a big challenge.
This disappointing news came after the 2019 season was completed. The current track owners announced the property, which housed the speedway, would be put on the market for sale. This left racers and fans scrambling to try and keep the track alive and to continue the operations of the track. The group quickly secured a short-term lease. But then came COVID in 2020, while the land was still up for sale.
Long-time racer and local businessman Mike Perrotte was asked to keep the track alive by forming a partnership with several well-known race entrepreneurs.
Mike said, “Four years ago Howard Commander, Lyle, Marcy Devore, myself, and my wife Betsy decided to lease the track and try to make it thrive as it did several years ago. We knew that it would take three to five years to get it to the point where we would be happy with the fan and car counts. Despite the COVID deal and our unstable economy, we are on track with our projections and are looking forward to growing in the future.”
In trying to keep the long, rich history of the track in Plattsburg, dating back over six decades, alive, the 2020 season saw the new track promoter Mike Perrotte and the team at the speedway work hard to provide a place for local racers to continue to have the speedway hosting weekly events in the summer months. COVID limited this to only a few races in 2020 due to health restrictions.
The challenges of operating the track continued as the pandemic stretched on. With limited sponsorship funds at the time, Mike and his team decided to host classes that were more cost-effective as well as fan-pleasing.
Over the past years, the car count has continued to climb, in the weekly division, plus sponsorships have returned as the pandemic has faded and businesses have rebounded. But there was always that push by fans to bring back the 358 Division as it once was.
This season will see this vision come true and the 358 Modified division will be back, with a limited schedule, but enough to have a track championship crowned at the end of the season
To secure a sponsor needed for the 358 Modified Championship Points Fund, track marketing manager Bob Trombley got to work securing this need by working with Be Cool Heating & Air Conditioning.
Bob said, “Airborne is excited at the opportunity to bring the 358s back to the speedway this coming season. Race fans have approached us over the past couple of years regarding the status of this division. Now that they’re back for a limited schedule, it should be exciting and will bring Airborne back to another level. We had a Big Block/Small Block Challenge that drew a bunch of cars and left the fans talking about it for the remainder of the 2022 season. We’re proud to announce that “Be Cool Heating & Air Conditioning” has stepped up to sponsor the 358s. Matt was someone who we spoke with a couple of years ago, and he asked about the chances of bringing these cars back to Airborne. His company co-sponsored last year’s Big Block/Small Block Challenge, and they were happy to sponsor this division in 2023.”
Perrotte weighs in on securing this great sponsor, “Having Matt St. Clair being involved and supporting this series shows the interest in our area for the 358 events. Matt runs a first-class company and wants to be behind a series that will draw a lot of attention to Airborne and his company as well.”
Key dates for the 358 DIRTcar division track championship schedule:
May 6 – Round One of the 358 championship series
May 27 – Round Two
June 14 – Round Three, show up points SDCS
June 24 – Round Four
July 8 – Round Five
August 5 – Round Six, show up points
August 19 – Round Seven, final points night
The team at Plattsburgh worked this schedule around their closest DIRTcar-sanctioned track at the Autodrome Drummond, offering teams the chance to challenge for both track championships, in addition to Hoosier Tire points.
Mike Perrotte stated, “Our schedule, which coincides with Drummond (our nearest DIRTcar-sanctioned track), makes sense for all involved. I believe that all tracks should try to work together as much as possible in these tough times. But it is not always possible, I know.”
Mike went on to explain that this clearly opens the door for many of the Canadian teams. “It has always been a goal of ours to welcome Canadian racers. As far back as when I was a kid coming to Airborne with my grandfather, the Canadians have always added class to Airborne. We are fortunate to be so close to Canada that we can have them from time to time. I have many Canadian racing friends and look forward to seeing them.”
Perrotte is no stranger to racing, having raced in the Modified division on both asphalt and dirt for many years. He has 18 wins on his belt from Plattsburgh along with a Modified track championship.
But nowadays, you will find Mike and his wife Betsy in the pit office tower running the day-to-day operations as there is more than just the 358 Modified division to deal with. Besides the 358 Modifieds, the track hosts a weekly schedule that has the Sportsman Modifieds, Renegades, Street Stock, and Limited Sport on the card.
This season’s schedule has something for everyone and some great special events such as the Super DIRTcar series on June 14, and the Big Block/Small Block Challenge on August 5, just to mention a few.
But all of this would not be possible without the input and help of many involved. Mike said, “This recent success is a combination of sponsors, racers, fans, and staff. Betsy and I discussed this and realized we couldn’t thank just one person or a group because, without each and every one, this success would not happen. I am a true believer in that.”
To see the entire schedule and up-to-date news, please visit https://airborne-speedway.com/.